Speaking Mysteries to the Culture

Is Christianity really all that confusing? Contextualization is about making Christianity understandable to the culture. In Christianity Today, Ed Stetzer addresses the aim of contextualization regarding the way we do church:

So in kind of a popular sense, I’m calling for and encouraging a consideration of contextualization in the way that we do ministry. This isn’t about preaching a new Gospel, or adapting the Gospel to the culture. It is about sharing God’s truth in the culture using its own language.

The point is simple: whatever forms we use must be understandable. The issue of contextualization is not about being hip and cool in the eyes of the culture. It isn’t an issue over traditional versus contemporary worship. It isn’t that the culture dictates the terms by which the church functions; and it isn’t that the audience is sovereign over the message.

Contextualization in ministry is about making sure that the way we deliver the message of Christ crucified is understandable to the culture in which we speak.

I will not get into the debates and try to advocate one particular form of contextualization. What Stetzer says is helpful. Instead, I want to make a simple point worth remembering, a point that may help people who desire to see Christ’s kingdom extended: the gospel isn’t easy to understand. It takes a long time to understand the gospel, which is that Jesus Christ, true God and true man, died on a cross for the sins of the world.

This basic truth will take a lot of explaining. It will take time to show why this matters. It will take time for listeners to learn.

We speak of mysteries, and it is a bit absurd to think that a person can enter into the church and immediately understand everything that is happening. Being Christ’s disciple is a lifelong calling. Christians speak mysteries to the culture. The time spent learning is well worth the effort.

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Silverio Gonzalez

Silverio Gonzalez is a husband, father, and staff writer at Core Christianity. He earned his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his Master of Divinity from Westminster Seminary California. 

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