There are several buzz words that have emerged in recent years within the Christian community. Emerging, emergent, relative, missional, postmodern…all words that will commonly be mentioned in conversations about ministry in the 21st century. Frequent many Christian blogs and you will find several occurrences of these words. Another such word is contextualization. This word is born out of a particular question. How do we effectively communicate the gospel within the context of our communities, cultures, and lives? It is an extremely valid question that has been asked by missionaries for many years. It has often been ignored by the church within the American culture. The assumption has been made that American culture is homogeneous. It is all the same. If this is true, then a canned product can be used by every American church to reach its community.
However, this is a grave error. American culture is extremely diverse. Smalltown Indiana is very different than inner city New York. This means that a canned product will not be sufficient. In fact, a canned product may prove to be harmful. Each church, each believer needs to thoughtfully consider the make up of its surrounding community and find ways of communicating the gospel in a way that connects with people within that context. So we must be open to people using different methods in different locations. But can there be a danger to such openness, critical evaluation, and willingness to change? So here’s what I’m getting at:
At what point does contextualization cross the line into compromise?