The word Contextualization will get you shot in some areas. “The gospel doesn’t need to be contextualized” is the mantra. I definitely recognize the inherent feeling of uneasiness about it because it sure does seem like the gospel itself is somehow being modified to suit a particular audience. But that is not the heart behind proper contextualization. To be simple and to the point: contextualization is best positioning the proclamation of Christ to gain a favorable reception without adding to or taking away from the basic content of it. Here’s the kicker: everybody has a context. This is so obvious that its easy to overlook. Here are some traits of the modern evangelical context, and a brief challenge for each.
The Parchment and Pen blog has an exceptional post about the emerging church and the effects of postmodernism on Christianity. He distinguishes between ‘hard’ postmodernism and ‘soft’ postmodernism. The hard variety is more nihilistic and by definition cannot be Christian because of its denial of absolutes. The soft variety is skeptical of truth claims because there is so little that we can know for certain, which isn’t to say that there are no truth claims. You can read the entire post here.
The Republican Party needs a savior. And I’m not talking about Fred Thompson. The internet has been abuzz lately about the long overdue announcement of Fred Thompson for president. At the very least, he is a solid, Reagenite conservative who actually has a chance of winning. Guiliani is too liberal. Romney is too Mormon. McCain is too McCain. Then there’s all the other guys who may have some merits but no recognizable name or legacy. Enter Fred Thompson. On the issues, he looks like a good guy and only a well fought campaign will reveal if he has the stomach for the job. I think he does, and I look forward to seeing his campaign. But I don’t think he’s the savior of the Republican Party.
Matt Harmon has some excellent insights on the doctrine of work in commemoration of labor day. His post is noteworthy so I’m quoting it at length here. Here in the United States many people regard work as something to be avoided or endured until the next opportunity for recreation. This attitude has resulted in an unbiblical view of retirement as a time to indulge oneself with a life of comfort and leisure. Sadly, such flawed views of work have infiltrated the church, where many have the same view of work that our culture does. So what then does a biblical understanding of work entail? A blog entry is no place for a fully developed treatment, so all I can offer here are a series of claims about the biblical nature of work that I regard as essential. 1. God created Adam and Eve to work in the Garden (Gen 2:15).…
5. Pentecost triggers the redemption of language. In Acts 2, we witness the great redemption of speech. The effects of Babylon are unraveled: what was scattered speech at Babel became unified speech in Acts. The Pentecost event signals that the Kingdom of God is advancing on enemy territory and the Gentiles will now be invited into the people of God. The final revelation of God, His highest form of communication has come in Jesus Christ. Thus, Pentecost triggers the Great Commission.
After a few days of reflection regarding the 1o myths of communication, here are some of my conclusions. Language is a vehicle for the transfer of information and meaning, but it does not act alone, hence the term “non-verbal” communication. This present sentence, which you are currently reading, is actually the third draft of this sentence because carefully chosen words are essential for meaning to be conveyed. Let me propose a few Communication Truths that I think are relevant to the discussion. 10. We are accountable for our words.
Ah, I know you’ve been waiting ever so impatiently for the next five myths. Your patience will be rewarded. 6. The key to effective communication is the precise formulation of the message. Get this quote: “Many would-be communicators pay primary attention to the technical preciseness, accuracy, and truthfulness of the words and phrases they use to construct their messages. Yet the choice to use precise, technical language, especially with popular audiences, usually increases rather than decreases the possibility of misinterpretation. The drive towards preciseness does not take account of the fact that much of what goes into effective communication is outside the control of the communicator,” (32).
Charles H. Kraft’s book, Communication Theory for Christian Witness, has a chapter of ten myths in communication. These are quite helpful and challenging because there are several sacred cows in American Evangelicalism that he debunks. For example, I had a friend once who was offended that a church service did not conclude with an altar call. Although this was at one point a very effective tool for communication and calling people to respond, it has descended into emotive pleas with little substance (actually, I may be giving the altar call a little more credit than it actually deserves here). At any rate, see how many of these you can agree with: 1. Hearing the gospel with one’s ears is equivalent to “being reached” with the gospel.
This is a bit of a manifesto, but something that I have been giving a lot of thought to lately. The questions that I have pertain to calling, gifting, and suffering. I am in the season of life where I am trying to determine specifically where God has called me to plant a church. I am seeking some bedrock principles that have thus far eluded me because I seem to be stuck with a contradiction. I will tread cautiously, because I’m about to disagree with one of my heroes.
Timmy Brister posted a quote on his blog from David Alan Black about the benefits of blogging. Black makes some very helpful comments and encourages blogging because of the potential to disseminate information very quickly. Frequent posting sometimes can lead to quick, unreflected and unthoughtful remarks, which are posted to the world. But this need not be. The greatest power of blogging is also its greatest vulnerability, but rather than avoiding it, we should embrace it with wisdom. The potential for sin does not make something inherently problematic. This is the same old protectionist philosophy applied to new mediums. So, blog on, bloggers! But be careful, too.