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Posts Tagged: contextualization

Face Painting in Western Africa

Nov. 11, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

There are always pitfalls to cross-cultural engagement.  Well-meaning people, wishing to serve Christ, travel on short-term trips every year hoping God will use them to serve believers around the world. However, without a lot of thought to how other cultures view certain activities, some trips can harm the local churches we desire to serve.

Fanciful-Faces-Chicago-Face-Painter-FP-Web-BBTake for example a recent trip to West Africa where one of the tasks was the face-painting of children. Go to any fair in the US and you will see children begging their parents to have someone paint their face.  However, in the region of the country this short-term team was visiting, face painting was associated with witchcraft.  The team could not figure out why the children were crying while they painted their face.  Later that night the children were beat by their parents.  

How would a short-term team avoid such a situation? It is simple.  Instead of telling missionaries what you intend to do when you go to partner with them, ask them what would be best.  

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Two Kinds of Contextualization and Syncretism

Oct. 28, 2015By: Jackson WuAuthor Bio

What we don't know about contextualization CAN hurt our gospel ministry. Typically, people regard contextualization as a form of communication or application. This is not mistaken; but it is critically incomplete.blur-old-antique-book

Contextualization most basically is an act of interpretation. Only then can it be understood as communication or application. Contextualization is not primarily something we do to the gospel; rather, it is the mind’s perception of and/or response to the gospel. This is a broad description.

 

In actual fact, we can further subdivide contextualization into two kinds. The first is exegetical contextualization; the second is cultural contextualization.

 

Exegetical Contextualization

 

Exegetical contextualization refers to one’s interpreting Scripture from a cultural perspective.

 

It means locating the cultural context within the biblical text. Accordingly, someone with an East Asian worldview will more naturally see a number of concepts within the Bible that reflect the distinctives of his or her culture.

For example, one might more easily see themes like honor, shame, and collective identity. Exegetical contextualization means seeing what is true of our cultural context within the biblical text itself. I am not referring to eisegesis, whereby one forces foreign ideas into Scripture. Rather "exegetical contextualization" refers to a form of contextualization where one sees what actually is already in the text.

In short, we interpret Scripture through a cultural lens.

What might this look like in practice? In an East Asian context, an exegetically contextualized theology would take seriously language about God’s people not being “put to shame,” frequently used by biblical authors. Also, one could highlight instances of collectivism in both the Old and New Testament, such as when individuals are able to represent entire groups.

 

Cultural contextualization

 

Cultural contextualization refers to one’s interpreting culture from a biblical perspective.

 

camera-vintage-lens-design

Hence, one looks at a culture and identifies various concepts that can already found in the Bible. It situates the biblical text within the cultural context.

When examining a culture like China, the contextualizer might notice that God is called Father and the church is a family. Likewise, one might observe common features within the histories of Israel and China. These may include each people’s suffering from imperialism and demonstrating strong degrees of ethnocentric/nationalistic prejudice against outsiders.

Cultural contextualization means seeing what is true about a culture as a result of one’s having a biblical lens. In this way, the Bible provides new and true ways of assessing a cultural context.

What might this look like in a particular social setting? One could think of rampant consumerism and the fear people have of losing face. In light of Romans 6, we might say that people have become slaves to their homes, cars, or even to their own families. They need God to free them.

Why does this matter?

 

1. Protecting Theology

First, recognizing these two forms of contextualization can protect us from other mistaken or distorted views. For example, when interpreting Scripture, one should never use contemporary culture as a function replacement of the biblical context. In effect, this is the problem with the work of K. K. Yeo, who seems consistently to collapse Chinese culture into Paul’s letters, as if Paul were actually writing to modern Chinese people.[1]

Contextualization that is faithful to Scripture will clearly differentiate two locations––that of the reader and that which is being studied. That is, we must distinguish between the things we are interpreting and the perspective we use.

Breakthroughs in contextualization happen where there is overlap between these two locations. Overlap of course does not mean equivalence. No ancient biblical culture can be equated with any modern culture. In addition, one should not deny the importance of biblical ideas that are not inherent to a particular culture. In time, contrasting ideas can complement areas of overlap. After all, no culture is complete in itself.

Two Types of Syncretism

 

People use the term “syncretism” to refer to one’s confusing culture and Scripture. Most often, people think of “cultural syncretism,” wherein one reads his or her own contemporary culture into the ancient world.

However, there is a subtler example of syncretism called “theological syncretism.” In this this kind of syncretism, people restrict Scriptural truth to their own theological traditions dressed in various cultural expressions.

Accordingly, the metaphors and explanations that make the most sense to one group of people becomes the standard to which people from other cultures are supposed to conform. Western theologians and missionaries, for example, run the risk of “theological contextualization” when law-guilt metaphors are so emphasized that they functionally exclude other images and themes, like honor and shame.

2. Contextualizing Assumptions

If we assume that contextualization is mainly about communication or application, then we inevitably assume the thing (e.g. the gospel) that we want to contextualize. However, any theological truth we claim to know is an interpreted truth.

To put it another way, our conceptions of the gospel are always contextualized. Bevins rightly says, “There is no such thing as ‘theology’; there is only contextualized theology.”[2] Consequently, we at best end up contextualizing a contextualization. We simply provide wording or illustrations as a bridge by which the listener can understand the cultural perspective from which we are communicating the gospel. Our presentations are always culture laden.

3. Developing Contextualizations

The distinction between exegetical and cultural contextualization can help people actually develop biblical faithful and culturally understandable contextualizations. The difficulty of relating text and context can result in paralysis.

Not knowing how to “balance” the two, people fear compromising Scripture and thus do little to nothing by way of contextualization. By recognizing these two orientations, one then must consider how they relate to one another.

Interpretation precedes application. In the same way, exegetical contextualization is the foundation for cultural contextualization. Order matters. If the order gets reversed, unclear or problematic notions from a culture could be forced into one’s exegesis of the biblical text.

Naturally, hermeneutics (i.e. interpretation method) is a central component to any contextualization.[3] This single observation has great significance for missionary training and strategy. Missionaries should be sound exegetes, proficient in their ability to interpret the Bible.

This kind of skill is something quite distinct from simply being well versed in systematic theology and various biblical doctrines. When a missionary teaches the Bible to locals, he aims to demonstrate how his conclusions are reached.

Otherwise, what are the consequences? First of all, local Christians cannot reproduce the given interpretation. Second and more serious, they essentially grant greater authority to the foreign teacher above the Bible itself.

For a more extensive discussion on contextualization, see One Gospel for All Nations: A Practical Approach to Biblical Contextualization.

 For a more rigorous demonstration of this approach, see Saving God's Face: A Chinese Contextualization of Salvation through Honor and Shame.

 

_________________________

 

[1] For examples of his work, see K. K. Yeo, Musing with Confucius and Paul: Toward a Chinese Christian Theology (Eugene, Ore.: Cascade, 2008); K. K. Yeo, What Has Jerusalem to do with Beijing: Biblical Interpretation from a Chinese Perspective (Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity Press, 1998).

[2] Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology, 3. Emphasis in original.

[3] David Clark, To Know and Love God, 104–10.

Photo Credit: Plexels

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Was Christ’s Death an “Honor Killing”?

Jul. 17, 2015By: Jackson WuAuthor Bio

Few things perplex and upset Westerners more than “honor killings.” Of course, there are good reasons people find the practice deplorable.

In recent years, reports of honor killings have become far more common. For examples, you can click here, here, and here. An honor killing occurs when a person does something deemedScreen_Shot_2015-07-17_at_9.25.05_AM shameful by one’s family or village. Typically, they involve a woman who is accused of illicit sexual relations with someone with whom she is not married. In order to restore honor to the community, a relative––often a brother or uncle–––will then murder the woman. Only then will their wrath be appeased.

So, it’s not surprising how people respond when they hear me and others talk about the importance of honor and shame in the Bible. They ask a very natural question, “Was Jesus’ death an honor killing?”

Unreasonable question?

The very idea of explaining the cross with something so heinous as honor killings is revolting to most people. Yet, I have heard some even suggest the possibility that we could explain penal substitution in terms of an honor killing. Before dismissing the question entirely, we ought first to consider how people might potentially link these ideas.

What similarities might they share? In each . . .

  1. A father is dishonored by the shameful behavior.
  2. The offense evokes his wrath.
  3. To appease his wrath, the father seeks to avenge the affront on his honor.
  4. Consequently, the father punishes his child, upon guilt has been imputed.

The above four statements generally reflect traditional accounts of penal substitution. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to understand why some people reject this theory of atonement. They think of it in the same way that people think of modern day honor killings.

How does God judge the cross?

To the relief of many readers, I do not recommend we call Christ’s death an “honor killing.” However, the entire question does reveal quite clearly the significant questions at stake when it comes to the matter of contextualization. I don’t commend it as good contextualization.

To begin, the association between the cross and honor killings would cause more harm than good. Due to confusion of concepts, using terms like “honor killing” is not helpful. For one thing, people do not associate honor killings with love, but rather with vengeance alone.

Let’s be clear––the biblical writers pinpoint those responsible for his murder.

Peter says to those in Jerusalem, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. [Yet] God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, . . . ” (Acts 2:23; cf. 2:36; 5:30; 10:39; Luke 24:20).

An “honor death”

It would be better to speak of Christ’s work on the cross as an “honor death”, not a “killing.” As such, he willingly sacrificed himself for the sake of God’s honor (and ours). I’ve argued the latter idea more thoroughly in my first book Saving God’s Face: A Chinese Contextualization of Salvation through Honor and Shame.

This is a far more faithful depiction of the cross. Among the many passages we could choose from, consider these two:

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Gal  5:2)

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. (2 Cor 5:18–19)

Christ was certainly killed, . . . by murderous sinners. Through Jesus’ death, God indeed vindicated His honor (as he foreshadowed in Ezek 36:22, 32). Nevertheless, Christ gave himself.

The shift in perspective has significance practical implications. In fact, seeing Christ’s work as an “honor death” actually undermines the type of thinking that fuels so-called “honor killings.” From the perspective I’ve suggested, people can’t mistakenly think they imitate God by murdering a relative who has publicly shamed them.

On the one hand, God does not in fact smite humanity in vengeance; he instead took on flesh. That is, he “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8-9).

On the other hand, Christ's death spurs his followers to do the opposite of anything that might be called an “honor killing.” Consider how the cross-shaped Paul’s approach to ministry.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. (2 Cor 4:7–12)

In effect, Christ’s death redirects our path to glory. He overturns conventional notions of honor and shame. Accordingly, the writer of Hebrews exhorts his readers to look to

Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:2)

In the same way, we Christians need to rethink our conceptions of honor and the way we seek honor. I particularly have in mind passages in 2 Corinthians, Hebrews, and 1 Peter. I'd urge people to reflect on the way each letter reorients honor and shame in light of the cross.

When we present Christ’s death in this way, we magnify the glory of God. Without calling the cross an “honor killing”, we contextualize the gospel message in a way that is biblically faithful and culturally meaningful.

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A Plea For Gospel Sanity in Missions – From East to West (Part 3).

Mar. 6, 2015By: Aubrey SequeiraAuthor Bio


The scene was so disorienting, it felt like it must be from a Hollywood (or Bollywood) movie. We are in a bustling bazaar in a large city in Northern India. A white dude in skinny jeans rides up on a mini-motorcycle to meet us. He guides us through narrow “gullies” (alleyways) into the small and crowded neighborhood in which he lives and works. We hear about the ministry that he and his friend are engaged in here.

contextualization-meaning

Their goal—to win a particular people group to Christ. But they don’t want to work alongside the established national church. They want to win people groups to Christ, but they don’t want to teach these people what it looks like to be followers of Christ. Rather, they want people to be able to follow Christ “from within their own cultures.” Yet in many cases, what results is a hodge-podge mix of religion that has virtually no resemblance to biblical Christianity.

There are more than a few such foreign workers laboring in India.

In previous posts, I addressed two major issues plaguing missions work in India: the craze for numbers and the West’s fascination with “supernatural” testimonies. Here, I wish to address another issue that is quickly gaining traction and causing problems in India, much like it has in the Muslim world: extreme forms of “contextualization.”

What Do I Mean By Contextualization?

 “Contextualization” is the word used in mission’s scholarship to describe how the gospel should be fleshed out in varying cultures. Am I opposed to contextualization? Of course not! In my years of ministry in India, I’ve never worn a tie to preach. I often preach barefoot, and the congregations are dressed in Indian attire and seated on the floor. When I preach in the West, I am almost always in suit and tie. The tone of my preaching is different, the illustrations I use are different, and the matters to which I apply the Scriptures are different, all depending on context…and yes, my wife wore a saree (and not a dress) on our wedding day. And certainly, I am thankful for the many Western missionaries who contextualize the Bible’s message in ways that are biblically warranted, helpful, and appropriate to the culture.    

My purpose here is not to criticize contextualization. Neither do I wish to get into nuanced discussions about the spectrum of contextualization and how much contextualization is legitimate. Rather, I wish to raise awareness about certain illegitimate forms of contextualization that are taking root in missions in India. These forms of contextualization receive their impetus from Western missionaries who refuse to cooperate with the established national churches, believing that they understand more about Indian culture than anyone else. And much like the “Insider Movements” of the Islamic world,[1] most of these teachings result in false and heretical movements in India, far removed from biblical Christianity. It is my prayer that what I share here would challenge brothers and sisters in the West to cease supporting missionaries who propagate false teachings and practice harmful methods of ministry.

“Hindu Followers of Christ”?

Some of my encounters with Western Christian workers in India leave me feeling deeply disturbed. Last summer, I was visiting India when my ministry team bumped into one of these guys—an American who has spent almost the last decade in India. He considers us Indian Christians too “Westernized.” He thinks that he’s more attuned to Indian culture, for he celebrates Indian festivals and practices several Indian / Hindu customs—customs that Indian believers such as myself have rejected. This Westerner believes that the things he does will help remove barriers to belief among the high caste Hindus he’s seeking to reach.

There are others like him who dot the missions landscape in India…They come from many varied backgrounds in the West, but a lot of them are latte-sipping, skinny-jeans-wearing Christian Hipsters from the West coast or Canada, who for whatever reason, seem to have grown bored or disillusioned with traditional Christianity. They’re looking for something new. They’ve read the latest and greatest books on missions, contextualization, and culture (and perhaps a smattering of emergent church literature and post-modern philosophy). And so they come to India and try to form communities of “Yeshu-Baktha Hindus” or “Hindu disciples of Jesus.” They don’t want to be identified as “Christians” because they consider this “too Western” (never mind Acts 11:26!).

In these communities, a puja or Hindu initiation ritual performed in Jesus’s Name takes the place of Christian baptism. The “Lord’s Supper” consists in the breaking of a coconut and drinking of coconut water. Bhajans (Hindu devotional songs) are sung in Jesus’ Name instead of Christian hymns. The place of worship is lit up by little diyas (Indian oil lamps typically used in Hindu religious ceremonies). Preaching finds no place in these communities, for “monologue” is considered a Western idea. These groups are led by “gurus” instead of “pastors.” And the storyline of Scripture is replaced by a storyline borrowed from the indigenous culture: Jesus is understood in terms of Hindu mythology and Jesus’s sacrifice is interpreted in light of the Vedas.

Many who propagate such teachings typically do it from good motives. They are wary of a colonialist form of missions that imposes Western culture on indigenous Christians. They truly want to see an indigenous Christian movement established. They’ve bought into the latest “missions research” which says that that removing cultural barriers to belief is the best way to achieve church growth. And so they dress up Christianity in the garb of specific cultural groups hoping that these groups would accept the Christian faith while retaining their culture.  

My Response: Shall We Provoke the Lord to Jealousy?

Sadly, these well-meaning proponents of “contextualized” Christianity do not realize that they are presenting a garbled gospel and forming sub-Christian communities. I will respond here by identifying four serious problems with these “contextualization” movements.

i. Syncretism and a Biblical Worldview.

First, the natural result of such kinds of “contextualization” is syncretism of the worst kinds—a dangerous and damning mix of the Hindu and Christian worldviews. In more serious cases, I do not hesitate to call the movements heretical. The eager proponents of “contextualization” think that they are preserving Indian culture, but they do not realize that for Indians (unlike in the West), culture, worldview, and religion are inextricably intertwined. Most Indians, including “Westernized Christians” such as myself, as well as former Hindus who have trusted in Christ, recognize this fact.

The close link between culture and religion in the Indian mind is the reason that most Indians have a negative impression of Christianity, for they assume that all Western cultures are “Christian cultures.” However, Christianity is not a product of “Western” culture. Rather, the Christian message is a worldview that transforms all cultures, both East and West. The Gospel demands a renunciation of secular thinking, immorality, and profligate living in the West, just as it demands a renunciation of idolatry and superstition in the East. We must proclaim the transcultural lordship and glory of Jesus, rather than hyper-orienting our message and praxis around specific cultural groups.

The Apostles never permitted pagan cultures to influence the biblical message or the form of Christian worship. Rather, even in a pagan culture like Corinth, Paul gives the Scriptures pre-eminence. Writing to a predominantly Gentile congregation in Corinth, Paul calls these believers to see their identity in terms of the biblical storyline (1 Cor 10). Paul prescribes what should happen in their worship services and even dictates to them how they should take the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11–14). Paul proclaims the death and resurrection of Christ in “accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3–4), and not some cultural metanarrative from Corinth. Scripture forms the people of God, not vice versa. I have often wondered if a connection exists between contextualization movements and the influence of post-modernism. The authority is shifted from the revealed Word to the community of readers.

Proponents of “contextualized” movements disregard the biblical principle that darkness has no fellowship with light, and Christ has no part with Belial (2 Cor 6:14–15). And Christ’s Word is mutilated in the name of “contextualization.”

When Indian national believers advance these criticisms, we are labeled as being “Westernized.” In fact, Indian “Christian background” believers are told that we have no right to speak on such issues at all, for we are the root cause of the problem. But even when “Hindu background” believers voice their concerns—and I know several who do—they are sidelined as having already been “Westernized.” The irony is astonishing: These are Westerners claiming that they know more about Indian culture than Indians who have been born and raised in India! 

ii. Christ Commands Us to “Teach”

Some of the more moderate “contextualization” advocates with whom I’ve interacted tell me that they do not want Western understandings of Christianity to be imposed on people in India. Therefore, instead of teaching Indians what Christian life and worship looks like, they ask them to read the Bible and come to their own conclusions. Sounds good doesn’t it?

Except that Christ has commanded us otherwise. The Great Commission includes the call to make disciples, teaching them to obey all of Christ’s commands (Matt 28:18–20). And Christ’s commands are revealed in the apostolic Word—the Bible. The Bible sets the agenda. The Bible forms Christian identity. The Bible shows us what Christian life and worship looks like. And the Bible tells us that Jesus equips his people through teachers (Eph 4:11). This means that we must interpret and apply the Word of God across ethnic and cultural lines—much like Paul the former Jew did in the congregations that he formed in Gentile and pagan cultures. The notion that communities should read and come to their own conclusions is actually rooted in the post-modern mindset that places authority in the community rather than in the text. 

iii. “Insider Movements” and “Secret Believers”

Another result of “contextualization” movements is the emergence of Hindu “insider movements.” Proponents of “insider movements” teach people to remain as “secret believers” or as “Hindu devotees of Jesus” (Yeshu-Bakhta Hindus) so that they will not be excluded from their families and communities but can instead stay on the inside in order to “eventually win more converts to Christ.” Furthermore, those who advocate these forms of contextualization—in direct violation of 2 Corinthians 6:14–18 (cf. also 1 Cor. 7:39)—teach people to prefer marriage to unbelievers from their same backgrounds and ethnic / caste group over marriage to believers of other groups. They also insist that “Hindu followers of Jesus” should never intermarry with “Christian background believers.”

The pragmatic desires to maintain cultures and grow the church result in a dilution of the gospel message, and a casting aside of the call to follow Christ at the cost of persecution and exclusion from one’s kin (Matt 10:34–38; Mark 8:31–38; John 15:18–25; 16:33; 2 Tim 3:12).  

This testimony of a sister in Christ from a Hindu background illustrates the point:

When I became a Christian, there were some people in my area who started teaching me that I should remain a “secret believer” and not inform anybody of my faith. They did not want me to be excluded from my family. Therefore they encouraged me to live as a “secret believer” so that I could remain within my family, hoping that eventually my family and community would also come to Christ. When I moved to a different area to start a job, I learned that this teaching was seriously wrong. I found great freedom in finally expressing my faith in Christ openly and boldly told my parents and community. I told them about Jesus and the work he has done in my life. Though I was rejected and ostracized at first, after ten years, my family finally began to respect my decision to follow Christ. They even attended my wedding to a Christian believer in the church!

Indian church leaders like myself and my Indian co-laborers call people to be open and committed followers of Christ and to come under the authority and discipleship of the local church. In response, proponents of “contextualization” condemn us for practicing “extraction evangelism” (taking individuals out of their families / communities) and not “stimulating the growth of people movements.” But if I remember correctly, it was Jesus who declared that those who follow him would be hated by all for his name’s sake, and that a person would find enemies among those of his own household, yet one must embrace and follow Jesus at the cost of all these (Matt 10:34–39). The New Testament tells us that Christians are “sojourners and exiles” who have been “rejected by men” but are “chosen and precious in the sight of God” (1 Pet 2:4–11). Believers are called to bear the reproach of Christ, going with him “outside the camp” (Heb 13:12–13).

iv. What They Do When It Doesn’t Work.

The irony of it all is that when it comes to truly winning people to Christ in India, “contextualization” proponents fail dramatically! Virtually no one is won to Christ, for when the gospel is not clearly proclaimed, there is no power to draw people from darkness to light. In fact, very few Indians are interested in joining a movement that looks in every way the same as their own religion but simply has a new god tacked on. One of the Westerners I mentioned above has lived in India for several years and has adopted all these Indian customs, but no one seems interested in his teaching.

"When it comes to truly winning people to Christ in India, “contextualization” proponents fail dramatically" - Tweet this 

And so, desperate for some kind of success, some of these groups resort to shameful and underhanded tactics. They begin to enter the established Indian churches that they once spurned. They give some impression of reaching out for fellowship, and try to gain the trust of national church leaders. And after making their way into the established church, they begin to target new believers who have recently embraced Christ from Hindu backgrounds—those who are weak and facing imminent persecution and rejection, those who are learning what it costs to follow Christ. The “contextualization” proponents then begin to brainwash these weak and fledgling believers, teaching them that they are being “Westernized.” They are told not to give up their Hindu identity: “You don’t need to be a Christian—instead, be a ‘Hindu follower of Jesus.’” This is how many “contextualization” proponents find their “converts.” I know, because I’ve seen it happen, and I’ve known struggling baby believers who have fallen into these traps. When things like this happen, I pray that the Lord would obliterate such “ministries.”

So What Can You Do?

Okay, so maybe by reading this post, you’ve been stirred to take this issue more seriously—what now? How can you help prevent the growth of these kinds of false and destructive teachings?

(1)  Please be very careful whom you support. Most of these Western workers on the field have been funded by orthodox, evangelical, Bible-believing churches who would be utterly horrified to learn of what those they support are doing on the field. Please be cautious. Hold all your supported missionaries to rigorous doctrinal accountability, and periodically check in on them to ensure that they are teaching the truth.

(2)  Always be careful to review the values and distinctives of mission agencies and refuse to support any mission agency that advocates these extreme forms of contextualization. Contextualization is necessary in every cross-cultural endeavor, but beware the forms of contextualization that fall short of biblical Christianity.

(3)  If you’re seeking to be a missionary, resolve that you will not ignore the established national church! Wherever possible, partner with faithful national church leaders, so that you better understand the culture and how the gospel should take shape in that culture. I know this can be challenging, and in many cases national churches are corrupt, unhealthy, or non-existent! But if at all possible, strive to find faithful and doctrinally sound national brothers with whom you can partner. I assure you—they exist. If you are in a pioneer endeavor where no national church exists, be careful to understand the culture well. Make a distinction between those forms of culture that are religious and those that are not. Do not shrink back from teaching the “whole counsel of God”—which means teaching people to embrace Christianity as an entire worldview. Teach them to reject cultural practices where the Scripture demands it, and be certain that all your “contextualization” is biblically warranted.



[1] For a quick glimpse into “Insider Movements” in the Islamic world, see this insightful interview with a Bangladeshi pastor: http://www.wts.edu/stayinformed/view.html?id=1579

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