Wednesday, November 01, 2006


In my message last weekend, one of the application points highlighted our need to contextualize faith for the sake of sharing the good news of Christ with our culture. Revelation 4 and 5 gives us some excellent examples of how God used visual representations that were highly contextual to the Jewish culture of that day. Throughout the scriptures, the cultures influence upon ministry is quite evident. Jesus considered cultural context in his teaching of parables and in Old Testament temple worship, pagan cultures influence can be seen in the use of certain musical instruments.

Our passion for relevancy must be great and must influence our strategy; however, we must also take care that our efforts don’t begin to erode our fundamental doctrinal convictions. Some may think, oh surely this could never happen! Think again, it is happening all over the U.S. in certain branches of the “emerging church.” To me this issue is the tight rope we must walk. To fall one way is to risk becoming fortressed and ineffective at reaching the lost and to fall the other way is to loose those distinctives that make us the Church. The following is a quote by Philip Graham Ryken on this very issue of contextualization.
"I do not think for a moment that the church should aspire to become irrelevant. There is always a need for Christians to speak the gospel into their own context. Rather, my concern is with the ever present danger of over-contextualizing. Consider what happens to a church that is always trying to appeal to an increasingly post-Christian culture. Almost inevitably, the church itself becomes post- Christian. This is what happened to the liberal church during the twentieth century, and it is what is happening to the evangelical church right now. As James Montgomery Boice has argued, evangelicals are accepting the world’s wisdom, embracing the world’s theology, adopting the world’s agenda, and employing the world’s methods. In theology a revision of evangelical doctrine is now underway that seeks to bring Christianity more in line with postmodern thought. The obvious difficulty is that in a post-Christian culture, a church that tries too hard to be relevant may in the process lose its very identity as the church. Rather than confronting the world the church gets co-opted by. It no longer stands a city on a hill, but sinks to the level of the surrounding culture."
Philip Graham Ryken, City on a Hill: Reclaiming the Biblical Pattern for the Church in the 21st Century (Moody Press, 2003), 22.

(HT: Together for the Gospel)

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