Tue May 21, 2013
by Amanda Edmondson
From prison to ReTrain: Russell’s story
Mon May 20, 2013
9 types of leaders in Scripture
Mon May 20, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
5 bits of wisdom for the professional Christian woman
Sun May 19, 2013
by Shandel Slaten
Sat May 18, 2013
by Hugh Whelchel
Get Better at Contextualization
Contextualization and church planting aren't anything new. These have been practices of the missional church for centuries, and in comparison to what is passed off as contextualization today, our early planting fathers put us to shame. Consider Gregory the Great and his partner Augustine of Canterbury (not St. Augustine of Hippo).
Gregory & Augustine
Gregory the Great (540-604) was the perhaps the most influential bishop of the 6th century. Some have argued he was the first pope, in which case he would not have been the best bishop. All this is debated. Nevertheless, Gregory would have made a great church planter, but instead, he was a kind of church planting coach. Gregory sent missionaries to Britain to “make the Angles into Angels". His choice emissary was Augustine of Canterbury, who, with 40 monks, set up mission base at in England. Like many of his Celtic predecessors, Augustine realized the strategic value of having a mission training and sending center among his target people. I'm willing to bet it was much better than most "church planting residencies" we have today. Why? He had better missiology, better contextualization.
Principles for Better Contextualization
Augustine implemented the great missiology he received from Gregory. That missiology, as Tim Tennent has pointed out, can be summarized with three words: Adaptation, Gradualism, and Exchange.
- Adaptation - Adopting a cultural form for Christian purposes. In Augustine's case, he adopted heathen temples and turned them into church buildings. Gregory wrote to him: "Detach them from the service of the devil and adapt them for the worship of the true God." Many Christian leaders and Christians would frown on using a Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall for a church building because their conception of church is so narrowly conceived. Since my first day in Austin, I began praying that God would give us the abandoned male strip joint called La Bare for our church. We are currently meeting in a downtown theatre where we frequently pick up beer bottles off the floor before people arrive. The bathrooms are covered in graffiti and smell terrible, but the aroma of Christ fills the Hideout Theatre every week and is slowly changing that part of the city. Not only have we detached the theatre from less than admirable ends, we have also boosted sales in the adjoining coffee shop, ministered to the homeless outside, and adapted the space for the worship of the true God. Adaptation isn’t about being cool; it’s about adopting cultural forms, creating common cultural space for mission, and using these forms for Christ-honoring purposes.
- Gradualism - Implementing Christian ideals slowly, recognizing that individuals are undergoing an entire worldview shift. Don't expect radical holiness from your new converts. If they have embraced Christ but still smoke pot or occasionally drink too much, don't beat them up for their behaviors. Instead, shepherd their hearts, lead them into the gospel, and allow their inner joy to transform their outer joys. Gregory wrote: "If we allow them these outward joys, then we are more likely to find their way to the true inner joy... It is doubtless impossible to cut off all abuses at once from rough hearts, just as a man who sets out to climb a high mountain does not advance by leaps and bounds, but goes upward step by step and pace by pace." Allow for the gradual transformation of the gospel, especially in post-Christian contexts. What you think is normative holiness, probably isn’t the norm. It’s not about leaps and bounds, but steady advance in grace.
- Exchange - Creating an entirely new cultural form in exchange for an existing idolatrous one. It is one thing to use pagan temples for church buildings, it is quite another to participate in pagan sacrifices. For example, if your people consistently go to happy hours to get wasted and have a social life, create a more God-honoring context for socializing. Gregory wrote: "People must learn to slay their cattle not in honour of the devil, but in honour of God and for their own food..." Acts 29 and The Resurgence have done a really good job of stimulating community through media. Just consider The City, Mars Hill Church's networking site, and The Resurgence’s videos and blogs. Create new cultural forms and exchange them for sinful ones for the sake of the gospel.