I’m taking a contextualization class in three weeks. In preparing for this class, I have been doing lots of reading on this highly debated topic. How far is too far for “contextualizing the gospel”?
However, I am still pondering this question. Should we have an African church, a Chinese church, a Thai church, a Latin American church, or even an American church? When we speak like this, it’s almost as if the church’s are in tension with each other.
When I read the New Testament, I find simply the church. Paul wrote the church in Galatia, the church that met in Colossae, the church in Ephesus. Revelation spoke of the church in Laodicea among the other six cities. I get the sense we have turned the church upside down looking to culture as our guide rather than first being an extension of God’s family. We often let culture shape the church rather than the church shape culture.
As a missionary with five years of service in Thailand, I am far from saying I have all the answers. More to the point, I have more questions than clear understandings. I wonder what are the universal indicators that the church exists. I see Paul establishing a church wherever he went with certain unchanging particulars, a DNA of sorts. They each had faith, love, and hope as part of their essence.
How does the church exist in a setting without being defined by its location? At the same time, how does the church become local in its setting? There will always be subtle differences from place to place as how the church functions. The church will look different in language, dress and style, but when does this cross the line from contextualization to compromise?