Dean Flemming notes, “Contextualization is the dynamic and comprehensive process by which the gospel is incarnated within a concrete historical or cultural situation.”
The key to ministry in any and every context, both now and for the last two thousand years, is missionary flexibility. To reach a culture, a good missionary will adapt gospel communication and ministry to that culture. In other words, good missionaries must learn to translate the gospel for the particular context in which they are called to proclaim it.
Those involved in ministry for a city must communicate in a way that is understandable to those who reside in the city. This communication must be more than just our verbal proclamation, what we say through our preaching and teaching. It includes our leadership structure, our written communication, and even the aesthetics of our facility.
Questions to ask:
- What does good news look/sound like in my neighborhood?
- How does the gospel address the longings for good news expressed by the people in my neighborhood and/or city?
- Am I portraying the gospel as the reportage of vibrant news of something that actually happened in history and has immediate and future impact, or as a dusty, old religion that may or may not change the way one sees the present and the future?
- Who lives in our area but is not represented in our church? Senior citizens, young families, singles, the urban poor and needy, the urban wealthy and self-satisfied?
- Who in our current congregation is positioned best to reach the group or groups of people God is calling us to reach?
The multiple facets of who we are can only be uncovered in community, and despite what popular culture tells us, we were not meant to “find ourselves” on our own. As individuals, we can’t mine the depths of our greatest hopes, our worst fears, and the deepest desires of our hearts. Living in close community and close relationship with other people reveals our strengths-that which makes us helpful to others-as well as our weaknesses-those things that make us hurtful, our sinful patterns of behavior.
Relationships grow and mature us. We find authentic community as we learn to experience Christ through one another. Biblical community is experienced as we come to know others and are known by them, love and are loved, serve and are served, celebrate and are celebrated in return.
One of the primary responsibilities of a church that wants to exist for its city is helping people see that there are people hungry for real biblical community in their places of work, home, and play, we draw people toward the gospel-the message they so desperately need.
A church for the city will equip people to see that their workplace is full of people who need the kind of community that only the gospel can offer.
For the City: Proclaiming and Living Out the Gospel (Exponential Series)