Saturday, August 14, 2010

Theories-more specific

Sometimes I grumble about overanalyzing and then go and....analyze something. :) Sorry!

A visitor left a comment which let me to an article which was not only insightful, but hit on the word I was looking for:

I was thinking about this question today, with regards to both domestic and overseas ministry:

In preaching the Gospel, should we try to put the message in a specific cultural context? continue/-

Sermons and marketing

A tough point in cross-cultural preaching is that the Gospel must be presented as relevant to everyday life, yet lifestyle among the congregants is more likely to be a variable and not a constant. The biggest worry on a listener's mind might be a completely strange notion to the minister if he is from another country or even a different generation.

Admittedly, I'm more conservative when it comes to using a lot of "modern" examples in sermons. I don't know if illustrations ought to include references to current TV shows, politicians, or sports events.Why? I think Dr. Sills offers a good explanation in his article, Reclaiming Contextualization:

"..much of what many call contextualization is simply an effort to be trendy and edgy. It may be effective, it may attract a hearing, it may not be offensive to the hearers, but that is not contextualization; that is marketing."

So while anyone trying to explain the Gospel must try to understand the specific trials and questions of those he is ministering to, using those interests to make the Gospel more attractive may lead to false conversions. Does that make sense at all?

Discipling new Christians

I'm going to avoid questions of Bible translation and skip to the issues of Christian conduct that sometimes come up.

One thing Christians and especially missionaries argue about is whether it is necessary to allow certain cultural practices to continue once Christianity has taken root. For example, polygamy, use of narcotics, etc.

One problem I see with this question is that in discussing what will be "allowed," the authority is often on the missionary or whomever's shoulders. How about involving the new believers, asking them what their temptations are, and considering that when making church guidelines?

Some say that we shouldn't mess with culture, such as gender roles (Dr. Sills touches on this as well).

But consider the opposite: restrictions may need to be greater because of the temptations that arise for new Christians as they continue to live, surrounded by these practices. For example, a new church community with recovering alcoholics may completely outlaw alcohol, even wine for communion. No compromise.

What about my culture?

To be honest, I don't see these questions as ones that only missionaries deal with. It is more a question of conversion and raising disciples in general. How should Russians minister to Russians, or Americans to Americans? How should anyone witness to his neighbor?

Are we trying too hard to control young believers, depriving them of a chance to discern for themselves?

Or are we afraid to condemn certain sinful behavior, not wanting to seem prejudiced or old-fashioned?

Are we being too general or too specific when putting the Gospel into context as we witness? Too general meaning lacking in examples from everyday life; too specific meaning using plenty of examples, but without relevancy.

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