Missions

Contextualization in Missions Today

From Faith Pulpit, Summer 2016. Used by permission.

The very mention of the word “contextualization” in evangelical circles has engendered a variety of reactions. For some, contextualization is absolutely indispensable in cross-cultural ministry. For others, it is a word fraught with compromise that diminishes the purity and clarity of the gospel message. What accounts for these two opposite reactions? In this edition of the Faith Pulpit, Professor Mark Lounsbrough, chair of the Missions and Evangelism Department at Faith Baptist Bible College, examines the issue and gives clarity in this important debate.

By definition contextualization is putting a word, a thought, or a concept in its proper context. That concept seems innocent enough, so why do some object to its use? Part of the reason for the objection is that the word was popularized in an ecumenical context and so broadly applied that essential elements of the gospel were altered or omitted for the sake of making the message of Jesus more palatable to unwelcoming people groups.

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The Early Expansion of the Church

What common feature do you find in these excerpts from Acts?

“And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7)

“But the word of God grew and multiplied.” (Acts 12:24)

“And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 19:10)

“So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” (Acts 19:20)

These verses highlight a noteworthy phenomenon that Luke recorded about the first century church. Like the ripples from a pebble tossed into a pond, the influence of the Word of God moved out into the world. Luke traces this noteworthy expansion from Jerusalem to as far west as Rome.

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