Over the past several months we have been taking time to focus and understand the importance of contextualization in missions. Our understanding of this topic is critical as we advance the knowledge of the Lord in the nations.
2 Corinthians 4:6 says, "For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (italics added)
This is precisely what is taking place in the hour in which we live. GOD is making the fragrance of the knowledge of Himself known in all the nations (2 Cor 2:14). It is important for us to recognize that this is God's mission, not ours. He is King and He will accomplish His mission in the earth. With this in mind we have a proper perspective to engage the nations for we understand that God is inviting us to take part in his plan for the nations. This produces rest and peace in our hearts because we know that the fate of the nations does not rest on us alone. It also invigorates us to engage the nations because we know that we have been invited to participate as a co-laborer with God in His great plan to reach the nations.
Right now all across the globe people groups that have never once heard the name of Jesus proclaimed are hearing His name for the first time. Two years ago a list of the top 639 unengaged people groups was published. Unengaged means that these people not only have never heard the gospel, but that no one is laboring among them. Since that date over half of those people groups have been engaged and these people are hearing the gospel for the very first time.
This should set off an alarm in our spirit. Not a negative one, but one of great rejoicing which urges us on to ensure we are working with the Lord and not against. This is also when our understanding of contextualization becomes key. If we lack contextualization, the price can be costly. As the church of Christ emerges in the nations, among both the unreached and reached, those who are carrying the message must be careful to present the message in a manner that allows for the truth to penetrate the hearts of men and women without cultural baggage and without adding or subtracting from the gospel. Contextualization is the process which addresses this. We must be diligent to process our preaching of the gospel in a manner which will transform the worldview of the receptive hearer. We must preach the word stripped of our own culture, and infused only with the culture of Christ. Simply translating our preaching from one language to another will not suffice. Knowing that God is at work in an incredible way in the nations at this very moment, our effort should be structured in a way that creates an open avenue for him to move, rather than a roadblock.
This is why contextualization is important, and why we must make every effort to understand the deeper dynamics of the people we are working among. Without proper contextualization, men and women end up receiving a gospel that may effectively not be the gospel at all. Without contextualization the faith that we preach may simply become a cloak of "form", rather than a heart invigorated with the Spirit of Christ.