Thursday, June 08, 2006

Boundaries between Contending for our Faith & Contextualizing our Faith

I attended a seminar at the Missouri Baptist Convention this past Tuesday. It was led by Southern Baptist missiologist (mission/church growth guru) Ed Stetzer. I’ve read some of Stetzer’s articles (too cheap to buy his books) and he makes some good points. He certainly made some good points Tuesday.

He isn’t your normal church growth guy. Usually, the mantra is “anything goes” with these kinds of gatherings. “Whatever it takes to win the lost” is the theme and conservative guys like me leave feeling really gross. The classic proof text is 1 Corinthians 9: 19-23 (used Tuesday, but hey, it is scripture); “ I have become all things to all men that I might win some.” But Stetzer acknowledged the need to “contend” for the truth. He advocated there are boundaries. That was refreshing to hear from a church growth expert. But the $100,000 question is: “What are the boundaries?”

That’s the rub for cooperative mission work. Most of us would agree the picture above is of a person who’s more than a bit excessive with piercings and tattoos. But how many are too many? At what point did she cross the line? Do I have to have piercings to reach pierced people? This “contextualization” stuff isn’t very easy to figure out. It seems there is an inherent “attack” upon the sufficiency of scripture whenever we go down the “contextualization” path. Language barriers I understand. Beyond that, I get really confused.

Stetzer made a very compelling statement. I’m paraphrasing, but he said the extremes to avoid are “obscurantism and syncretism.” We will either be so irrelevant to culture, we’ll become obscure or we’ll blend in so well we will become one with the world. The gospel is worth considering. And Christians need to consider how it will be presented.

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