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The Struggle of Contextualization

Contextualization in Missions, Cultural Sensitivity, Muslim Contextualization Add comments

boy prayingOne of the most difficult struggles in church planting and missions in new cultures isn’t just the culture shock, it’s figuring out the fine line between respecting the culture of a people without watering down the gospel or compromising its message. For example, according to a blog called LeakeSpeak, here are a few questions faced when Muslims become Christians:

  • By what name do you call God? Do you tell people that Allah is not God and then try and introduce them to the one true God, giving him some other name? Or do you say that Allah is the one true God and then try and help lead people to a clearer understanding of his true nature?
  • Can a believer worship God in a mosque? Or should s/he never go to a mosque again after beginning to follow Christ?
  • Muslims customarily kneel and pray five times a day. Is this an okay practice for a follower of Christ to continue, or should a Muslim-background believer be encouraged to avoid it?

In a comment posted later, the author tried to show us what the line might look like from an Americna perspective. Here is his comment:

Taking it back to an example in our own culture, which of the following would go over better with you if you were a non-Christian parent in the U.S.?

–Your kid comes home, says he’s accepted Christ, he continues to live in your community as an American, and you see a radical change in his life, OR

–Your kid comes home, says he’s accepted Christ, he’s therefore no longer of this world, so he renounces his U.S. citizenship, refuses to salute the flag or say the Pledge of Allegiance, burns his passport, will never watch a baseball game again because it’s the American passtime, and abstains from apple pie because that’s also too American.

Obviously, it is of utmost important to find that line that continues to maintain culture, without compromising what the very basics are of becoming a Christ follower. The services might change, the music will certainly change…but there is so much more to consider.  What is the bottom line of what it means to follow Jesus and how can we only pass that on to the new believers without forcing our own culture upon them?  That is the question.

Photo by Terminalnomad Photography

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