Contextualization

Contextualization refers taking the gospel and sharing it in a way that is relevant to a particular culture. Both Jesus and the apostle Paul were masters at proper biblical contextualization, sharing the Good News in a way that was culturally relevant to their audiences.

These days, however, proper biblical contextualization has often been replaced with an extreme “seeker friendly” contextualization that minimizes the true gospel message. Proper biblical contextualization says “God will meet you where you are, but His calling to Jesus Christ will change you in a profound, everlasting way.”. Seeker friendly contextualization reaches out to people where they are but often fails to call for a life-changing experience that insists on Jesus Christ becoming Savior AND LORD in a person’s life. It can often be summarized as “Come as you are, and it is just fine to stay that way.”

Jesus Christ calls us to Him as the only path to the Father and eternal salvation. With that calling, we are required to submit to His teachings and pursue a life of holiness. Seeker friendly contextualization often falls short of this biblical mandate.

You’ll often hear how far Christian missionaries go to make the Gospel relevant in terns of the six levels (C1, C2, etc.) These are six levels of Contextualization:

C1 Christian churches in Muslim countries that exist as “islands”, removed from the culture.  Christians exist as an ethnic/religious minority.

C2 Church uses indigenous language, but in all its culture forms is far removed from the broader Islamic culture

C3 Style of worship, dress, etc. are loosely from the indigenous culture.  Local rituals and traditions, if used, are purged of religious elements.  May meet in a church or a more neutral location.  Majority of congregation is of Muslim background and call themselves Christians.

C4 Similar to C3 believers worship looks like Muslim worship.  They keep the Muslim fast, avoid pork and alcohol and use Islamic terms and attire.  Community is almost entirely of Muslim background.  Though highly contextualized, believers are not seen as Muslims by the Muslim community.  Believers call themselves “followers of Isa Al-Misah” (Jesus the Messiah).

C5 Believers remain legally and socially within Islamic community.  Aspects of Islam incompatible with the Bible are rejected or if possible reinterpretated.  Believers may remain active in the Mosque.  Unsaved Muslims may view C5 believers as deviant and may expel them from the Islamic community.  If sufficient numbers permit, a C5 “Messianic Mosque” may be established.

C6 Isolated by extreme hostility, usually individual believers but sometimes in small groups.  Believers typically do not attempt to share their faith; others suffer imprisonment or martyrdom.


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Recommended Podcast: An Introduction to Contextualization

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