Video Transcript – slightly edited
(From a Steve Childers’ seminary classroom lecture – recorded live)
Most religions are locked into a particular time and culture in history with a unique language, dress, form of worship, etc. they believe must be observed in every generation. But that’s not true of Christianity. This is why, in every generation, Christians follow the example of Jesus’ incarnation and take on diversely different cultural forms as ways to express their faith in worship and life. The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9 how far he was willing to go in order to accommodate cultures different from his to win people to Christ: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win the Jews…to those outside the law, I became as one outside the law….”
But, are we going too far? Or are we going far enough?
This is our session on philosophy or philosophy of ministry.
That is a term that we use to describe the more technical term of contextualizing the gospel to a particular culture or ministry focus group, and in this module, like in all modules, we have one primary question that we’re seeking to answer. The question here is:
How can I contextualize the gospel without compromise?
The assumption here is in my particular ministry focus group. Contextualization is presenting the gospel in ways which consider the worldview of the respondent culture, adapting the biblical message into forms that are true to scripture, but appropriate to the local culture and society.
Right at the center of the heart of the thesis of this session. To the weak, I became weak to win the weak. Now he’s taken us through multiple situations of how he adapted to them in order to win them.
Then we have this famous statement:
“I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. Why? I do this, I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share its blessings.”
Here we see the Apostle Paul, adapting his ministry very specifically and very uniquely and in dissimilar ways according to his cultural contexts. He’s embracing certain cultural forms, certain traditions that are not necessarily his, but he takes them on in order to find common ground for the sake of the gospel and his caveats teach us that he does this. To those not under the law, he becomes as those not under the law and vice versa, but he does this with these little caveats without violating sound doctrine, without violating the gospel. That’s the task.
The difference between Christianity and every other major religion.
I don’t know if you thought a lot about the difference between Christianity and every other major religion beyond the obvious of the centrality of a person and work of Christ into this area of contextualization. One of the things that makes Christianity unique is not just every other world religion points us to a path that leads to the way, but in Christianity, Jesus Christ is the way, is a person. There’s not principles to abide by, to gain God’s favor. This concept that we just got a taste of with the Apostle Paul has been called The Divine Genius of Christianity. It is actually one of the primary reasons that Christianity is the number one largest world religion today.
It is because of this divine genius of Christianity being able to take on such dissimilar forms according to culture that it looks significantly different in one cultural context than it does another. What’s even more fascinating, if you think about your own denomination, people will often ask me as a Presbyterian, usually these are people who are not followers of Christ, they’ll say, “Well, what is a Presbyterian church like?” I go, “I can take you to churches in southern California and say let’s worship here and I’ll say this is a PCA church, and then I put you on a plane and I fly you up to New England and I say this is a PCA church.” The person not familiar would say, “No, no, no. Now these cannot be the same denomination.” I say, “Oh, yes, they are.”
People will often ask me as a Presbyterian,”Well, what does a Presbyterian church look like?
The reason they are is a little micro-example of the divine genius of Christianity in terms of a parallel with Islam. Islam is actually locked in to a particular time in history, a particular culture, a particular language, a particular dress, like a flash photo has been taken of that culture, and if you adopt as your religion Islam, it will look like on the West Coast exactly what it looks like on the East Coast, exactly what it looks like in Asia and exactly what it looks like in Europe. I just want you to be struck with this concept of the divine genius of God’s plan of actually bringing the reality of who He is in Jesus Christ, into the world through the incarnation of Christ into a particular culture, a somewhat lower class Galilean culture that was Jewish.
There’s no such thing as a-cultural Christianity.
It is not possible to have Christianity that is a-cultural. By its very nature, the gospel must take on form in an incarnational context. Here are the biblical perspectives given to us on how the Apostle Paul would accommodate without compromise. What this whole session is about is who are you seeking to reach and what does that mean to the, fill in the blank. I became a, _____________, that I might win some.
Registration closes November 15