Why Heart Language Matters

During my one-year term in a small village in North Africa, my teammates and I attended a church with the believers from the south of the country. They are a gathering of various diverse people groups, but they all worship unitedly in French, one of the country’s official languages. Every week, however, one of the people groups would share a praise song in their own tribe’s language. When the leaders started singing, various people from the congregation would stand up and begin to clap, sing, dance, or move up to the front to join them. As I watched them, it was evident that they belonged to the same language group. I wept because it was beautiful. And I prayed that this would be the response in the unreached people group that I was working with, that once they hear His Word in their heart language, they would rise to praise Christ. 

This is a picture of the importance of having the Word of God and the worship of His church in the heart language. Heart language is their mother tongue—the language spoken in their home since they were children.  

  1. Heart Language for Conversion

First, heart language matters for the conversion of an unreached people group. While some educated individuals have come to faith through Bible stories or Scripture that is not in the heart language, such resources exclude the majority of the population, such as women, who only have a market-level vocabulary in Arabic, the other official language of the country, and cannot understand the translation of the Arabic Bible.

That’s why my teammates are learning the tribal language of the people group they are with, which is an incredibly challenging, tonal, unwritten language. Articulating the gospel in the heart language of the people is a strategic part of this tribe believing in Jesus. 

Also, Romans 10:14-15 describes the clear chain that must happen for the lost to believe in Jesus. The preachers must be sent, and the lost must hear the preaching, so then they can believe.

Romans 10:9-10 clarifies that we must believe in our heart: “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” In order for the message of justification through faith in Jesus to be preached to the lost unreached people groups, it must be preached to their heart, because it is at the heart level that transformation happens.

        2. Heart Language for Sanctification 

The Lamb not only redeemed a people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation but He is also making them a kingdom and priests to our God to reign on the earth (Rev 5:9-10). His church is being washed with the water of the Word, so that it might be more and more blameless (Eph 5:27). His people are His workmanship, created in Christ for good works (Eph 2:10). The work does not stop at conversion, it has only begun! This deep, inner sanctification must be ministered through the gospel message in the heart language. He wants His bride to shine with ever brighter glory and be transformed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18). This is why heart language is important, because the glory of God is important.  

       3. Heart Language for Glorification

When the congregation of southern believers sang the more traditional French songs, they stayed in their pews, but the song in their heart language moved them to respond, and their worship was God-glorifying. As John Piper preaches often, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

So, pray earnestly for Scriptures to be translated into their heart language. Pray for laborers to receive training in linguistics and join church-planting teams. Pray for missionaries to have a deep understanding of Scripture and a deep understanding of culture. Pray for the few believers among unreached people groups to be sanctified in their faith and willing to come alongside the translation work. Pray for the people groups throughout the world to glorify God from their heart!

As Psalm 33:3-4 says, “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.”

Written by Ellie Brooker – a student at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS and recently returned missionary among an unreached people group in West Africa