Contextualizing The Gospel

(part 2 of a series on being a missional church)

In part 1, we saw the necessity that the church in Canada adopt a missional identity. Canadian Churches and individual Christians need to live and act like missionaries to Canada. Spurgeon once said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”

In a cross-cultural context, missionaries have to assess the situation and ask, “how can we best communicate the essential gospel message to this different culture?” A faithful missionary speaks the language of the culture, understands its beliefs, dresses in its style and adopts its customs. A faithful missionary speaks the never-changing essential message of the gospel in different forms, styles, languages and mediums to reach an unreached audience in a way they can understand, unleashing the power of the gospel in a new culture.

In the 21st century, the same must be done in Canada. We’re not in Christendom anymore. Not too long ago Canadian culture was morally and tempermentally traditional and conservative. But now the culture of our city and nation are very different from the culture of Canadian churches. We are not called to sit back and bemoan how the world has changed, but like Jesus did, we are called to faithfully bring the gospel to our changing culture. The church is not a fortress to protect a Christian subculture, but a beachhead to advance the gospel into new cultures.

We need to continually communicate the same essential message of the gospel in culturally sensitive and appropriate ways. This can be hard for some as they see changes to the church they were familiar with. The key is that we need to recognize the difference between the essential gospel message and the variety of cultural forms. We often confuse worship with a musical style, the gospel with a speaking style, the church with an architectural style, and Christian maturity with “christianese”. As these cultural forms change, we may feel like we are losing the church. We need to cling to the gospel and be a faithful church, whether we meet in a building with a cross on it, a pub, an apartment in Beijing, or under a tree in a Kenyan desert.

Like good missionaries we need to communicate the never-changing gospel of Jesus to our ever-changing culture. The message remains constant across cultures, continents and centuries, but the forms must change with culture. Sometimes this means we’ll have to let go of our personal preferences out of love for the unchurched who desperately need Jesus. Hudson Taylor changed his clothing, his language and his culture to reach China, and is viewed as one of greatest missionaries of all time. Are we willing to be faithful missionaries and sacrifice our preferences out of love for our neighbors? This is missional ministry.

(originally written for Delve on November 21, 2010)


2 thoughts on “Contextualizing The Gospel

  1. Pingback: Embodying A Radical Counterculture « Steve Kroeker

  2. Pingback: Mission and the Heart of the Alliance « Steve Kroeker

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