Tongue-Tied – Sara Shenk

Tongue-Tied Sara Wenger Shenk
Tongue-Tied: Learning the Lost Art of Talking About Faith by Sara Wenger Shenk
Published by Herald Press on April 6, 2021
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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Are you tongue-tied about faith?
Many Christians easily and eagerly talk about movies, sports, politics, jobs, and emotions. So why are we tongue-tied when it comes to talking about our faith—even with each other? Even with our kids? What renders us incapable, embarrassed, or hesitant to talk about God?
In Tongue-tied, theologian and former seminary president Sara Wenger Shenk investigates the reasons that people who claim the name of Christ are so reluctant to talk about him. Recovering an authentic vocabulary of faith—and learning to speak in trustworthy, captivating ways—is an urgent task for followers of Jesus today. In an era of dying churches, polarizing cultural arguments, and environmental and humanitarian crises, many people are longing for deep conversations about things that matter. We are longing for genuine spiritual connection with a just and loving God. By reflecting theologically on biblical wisdom and our shared humanness, Wenger Shenk calls readers to recover the winsome language of Christian faith.
We don’t need to re-learn Christianese or brush up on churchy clichés. We need a language of faith that is authentic, candid, and robust enough to last.  

Evangelism has kind of gotten a bad reputation. First, you have the connection to evangelicalism—which is increasingly seen as a polarizing political identity more than a theological one. Then you have all the ways in which evangelism is either done incorrectly or culturally inappropriately. I go back to my mandatory evangelism class at a Christian university and the techniques that were taught, I’ve found through actually talking to non-Christians, are major turn-offs to the Gospel. When the world thinks of evangelism, they either think of a Billy Graham crusade or a guy knocking on your door who just wants to have a conversation.

In Tongue-Tied, Sara Wenger Shenk proposes a new way. It’s a revolutionary way. Simply care for and be friends with and have good conversations with those around you. It’s a simple as that. And as scary. Shenk writes about the need to recover an authentic vocabulary of faith, one not scripted and laden with “Christianese.”

Her prose is both poetic and prophetic, drawing readers deeper into Christ as a mystery to explore with others, not a pre-packaged product to consume and disseminate. She writes about the need to do the hard work of addressing felt needs and caring for the issues the world cares about. The first part of the book explores why we have lost the language to communicate our faith, focusing on the us-versus-them dynamic that that has made segments of Christianity so polarizing. She opines that maybe our unease with evangelism comes with the fact that aren’t really comfortable talking about our faith “off-script.” We aren’t comfortable with mystery or uncertainty, so we narrow our definitions and conversational opportunities and restrict faith-talk to something so narrow as to have almost no meaning outside our pre-determined communities.

The second part is about regaining our fluency and relearning the language of faith that is accessible to all people. And it’s about incorporating the needs of this world—our social justice imperatives—into what salvation and faith are all about. Tongue-Tied is about evangelism, but you can’t lead where you haven’t been—and I might even say that you often do not understand what you cannot explain. Shenk portrays conversations about faith as an ordinary holiness that we must pursue. This isn’t another evangelism method, it’s sanctification. It’s helping others understand their faith enough to talk about it casually and extemporaneously. It’s a beautiful, challenging book that will not reframe how we share our faith, but how we live it out as well.