Thought this was a great paragraph in an article by our friend Tullian Tchividjian on “Contextualization w/o Compromise.” Tullian, who is named for Tertullian, is speaking at our Advance The Church 2010 conference in April. Have you seen the list of speakers for this thing? I can’t think of a better group (present company excluded) to discuss “Contextualizing the Gospel in the New South!” It should be a great mix between the practical and the theological, which, unfortunately, is pretty unique among pastoral conferences. Pardon my enthusiasm, obviously I am excited about it…
For (some) Christians, contextualization means the same thing as compromise. They believe it means giving people what they want and telling people what they want to hear. What they misunderstand, however, is that contextualization means giving people God’s answers (which they may not want) to the questions they’re really asking and in ways they can understand.
This misunderstanding of contextualization has led these people to argue that cultural reflection and contextualization are at best distractions, at worst sinful. They admonish us to abandon these things and focus simply on the Bible. While this sounds virtuous, it ends up being foolish for two reasons. First, as we’ve already seen, the Bible itself exhorts us to understand our times so that we can reach our changing world with God’s eternal truth. To not contextualize, therefore, is a sin. And second, we all live inescapably within a particular cultural framework that shapes the way we think about everything. So if we don’t work hard to understand our context, we’ll not only fail in our task to effectively communicate the gospel but we’ll also find it impossible to avoid being negatively shaped by a world we don’t understand.
In a recent interview, pastor Tim Keller put it this way: “to over-contextualize to a new generation means you can make an idol out of their culture, but to under-contextualize to a new generation means you can make an idol out of the culture you come from. So there’s no avoiding it.”
Sign up for the conference today!