Something that most Christians don’t consider is that they have access to cross-cultural ministry opportunities all around them. As America becomes more diverse we are surrounded by a variety of cultures and subcultures that need a relevant voice to their culture for Christ.
For example, Grand Rapids, Michigan, the headquarters of Grace Ministries International, has a population consisting of black/African American, white/Caucasian, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Hispanic, and Arab, along with others, not to mention countless subcultures created by various common interests, lifestyles and hobbies, and varying classes. Cross-cultural interaction has also become much more of a reality and possibility for the average person because of the process of globalization through technological advances such as the Internet.
In light of all this, contextualization of the gospel and cultural (or subcultural) sensitivity and outreach is vital in communicating with and reaching those around us effectively about the good news of Jesus Christ, and the promotion of God’s Kingdom.
Contextualization is not the changing or watering down of the gospel to make it appealing to certain others, but rather finding appropriate ways of communicating the gospel so that it is most understandable to those in that particular context. This includes methods, means, theology, and even culturally appropriate church life.
GMI’s missionaries deal with the challenge of effective and biblical contextualization every day, and it is an important part of their ministry. I challenge you that it is an important part of everyone’s ministry/witness though it may be only within subcultures and an issue that does not stare us in the face. Nonetheless, we must be aware of the importance of contextualization in our personal lives, church, and community, to bring the gospel to people in a way they can actually hear and understand, in a way that speaks best to their needs and views yet has the transforming power of unchangeable truth.
Let us be challenged to consider the role of contextualization (or its potential) in our witness and ministry and challenged in prayer life for our missionaries–that they would have wisdom and be effective and biblical in contextualization so that they may reach the lost!
In Christ, Britalia Slater