Book Review: 1000 Cups of Tea: Gospel Fluency Across Cultures by Preston Fidler

28 Oct 2020

As a keen observer of the language learning experience and a missionary at heart, it was a pleasant surprise to come across this challenging, encouraging book that intersects over missions and language learning. Preston Fidler resides in South East Asia as a missionary and his wealth of experience and interactions is so very evident in his book, 1000 Cups of Tea. In a recent interview he mentioned that his frequent answer to the question, “How do you share the gospel?” is the very title of his book, “over one thousand cups of tea”. It is a beautiful indication of his relational, hospitable heart in examining the language learning journey through the lens of gospel fluency – the ultimate goal of every sent field worker.

The book is continually pulling the readers’ eyes heavenward, recalibrating the language learner toward the gospel, “It is God’s word that is powerful, not ours. God works through our imperfect speech as we proclaim the gospel, whether in our mother tongue or in our new language, in miraculous and redemptive ways we cannot begin to comprehend”. I imagine for the learner that is knee deep in grammar tables or struggling through those early days where connections are hard to make, it offers deep, gracious encouragement and brilliant perspective on the long term, honourable goals of why you are in this pursuit to learn a language.

1000 Cups of Tea is full of golden nuggets, “…if your goal is to learn a language, you’ll probably fail…if your goal is to know people – to deeply love people, to be involved in their lives – then success in language learning is predictable. If your goal is to be deeply involved in a network of relationships with people, then language learning will almost be spontaneous. It will not be a goal in itself – it will rather be a means to an end”, as well as research-supported truths, “Personal responsibility is also the most important component to intelligent and faithful language learning”, that will provide the reader with further inspiration along their journey.

There is a lot to glean from this book, Preston fills it with gospel truths, sprinkled with helpful anecdotes, linguistic research, and frameworks for learning language. I imagine it could be read in a group of language learners with its helpful discussion questions at the end of each chapter. It can feel slow at times and would be timed well if read by a learner that has already started language learning.

I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend this rare book that encourages the reader to continually lift their gaze heavenward on their pursuit of language with the goal of gospel fluency. It has timely, holy reminders and offers insight and education on the long road ahead. “Let’s get this right. We want to learn the language well, but for the right reasons and with the right conviction. Our focus is not on learning the language; our focus is on becoming fluent in the gospel”.

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-Kimberley Chan Forney, Language Coach and Consultant (North Central Europe)

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