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What is Contextualization Presenting the Gospel in Culturally Relevant Ways

Written by Ed Stetzer Feed on . Posted in Ed Stetzer

Contextualization involves an attempt to present the Gospel in a culturally relevant way.

The topic of contextualization arises frequently in contemporary discussions on missiology and ecclesiology. Although it is sometimes controversial, contextualization remains a critical component of effective Gospel communication.[1] The New Testament models the importance of healthy contextualization, and the history of Christian missions displays the need for contextualization.

In this research brief, I will discuss the process of contextualization.[2] I will explain the nature of human culture, the definition of contextualization, contextualization’s final goal, and cautions that we should consider before we start contextualization.

Culture

Contextualization involves an attempt to present the Gospel in a culturally relevant way. For this reason, discussions about contextualization are connected to discussions about the nature of human culture; we cannot separate the two.

Defining Culture

When describing culture, I like the definition offered by Harvie M. Conn in TheEvangelical Dictionary of Missions. Conn writes,

We use the term ‘culture’ to refer to the common ideas, feelings, and values that guide community and personal behavior, that organize and regulate what the group thinks, feels, and does about God, the world, and humanity. It explains why the Sawi people of Irian Jaya regard betrayal as a virtue, while the American sees it as a vice. It undergirds the Korean horror at the idea of Westerners' placing their elderly parents in retirement homes, and Western horror at the idea of the Korean veneration of their ancestors. It is the climate of opinion that encourages an Eskimo to share his wife with a guest and hides the wife of an Iranian fundamentalist Muslim in a body-length veil. ...

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