Monday, January 31, 2011

Foreign Language

There's alot of back and forth in the church these days on contextualization. That's a 10 dollar word that basically means; you must know the context of your hearers so that you know how to communicate with them in the most effective way. (so they know what you're talking about)

This is (as with most things folks fight about) a continuum that swings from one side to the other, and folks can be extreme on either side. I won't post defamatory youtube clips (well, I kind of will in a second), but suffice it to say; if you wanted to find a pastor having guys jump dirt bikes in his sermon, you could find that. And, if you wanted to see a guy talk about how the rock beat is from Satan, you could find that as well.

There's much to be said about balance here. And, about "helping" your audience understand something even if it isn't in their immediate context. John Piper once famously said that if folks don't understand the lamb/sacrifice metaphors in the bible because they've never been near a farm. . . "you teach them about sheep. . . YOU DON'T LEAVE THAT OUT". It was great, I remember being in that room.

But, taking the extremes into account, here's a great example of how we have to find new ways to communicate the Gospel message in every generation. Not leaving anything of importance out, not changing the key terms. . but also not speaking in what would be a foreign language to one's audience. Am I over-exaggerating my case? Try explaining the internet to Brian Gumbel in 1994. He was basically being introduced to a foreign language:

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