A TON has been said/debated/argued, especially over the past 5 to 10 years, about the task of understanding the culture and learning how to “speak it’s language” for the sake of better, clearer, more powerful communication. It’s been referred to as the “Contextualization of the gospel.”
I completely understand needing to rightly relate to a people group in a certain culture according to the view of the world they have traditionally held. Missionaries have been doing this for years… and it’s a very necessary step in the process of communication. If you don’t do it, then you may wind up speaking entirely different languages – literally.
But do we need to “contextualize” the gospel for those in the Western/American culture? Yes, things are changing… moving from a modern mindset to a post-modern mindset. The Western world-view is changing, no doubt about that… and not for the good of the culture. It’s a world-view that denies absolute truth, goes with “what works” rather than what is true, and is based more on personal experience than anything else. The problem? None of that leads you to truth, redemption, or relationship to God.
I’m beginning to believe that the task of the Western church, beginning especially with it’s pastors and leaders, is not to learn the new language our culture is moving toward, but rather to work hard at correcting the errors of the “new” world-view that is being adopted. People don’t need someone who speaks their new post-modern language – they need someone who can show them how and why that language is only gibberish, and lead them back to the age-old truths of the gospel.
What are those truths? There is a Creator God. He is sovereign over all things. He created you. He did so that you might know Him and love Him. You have turned away from Him…gone your own way… sinned. He’s provided, through the sacrificial, unselfish giving of His only Son, the ONLY way for you to receive forgiveness and a place in His family.
It may not sound like it “works” for everyone – but it does. It may not be an experiential-sounding message, but it is. It may sound pretty narrow, and “old-fashioned” – and it is. In some ways, that’s the nature of absolute truth.
By all means, let’s remove the barriers that prohibit clear communication. But let’s not put so much focus on that task that we forget the harder job… calling people away from foolish, worldly philosophies and back to the value of the eternal gospel of Christ.