It never ceases to amaze me: the never-ending push to contextualize the gospel to another market niche. Now we have:
The “guy-church,” the church for the real men with no flowers or pastel colors and rustic settings.
We’ve already had
“The Harley-church” (motor-cycle church)
“The Great Sex” church.
The Andy Griffith church (I confess this hit every urge in my body).
The “Church for a better you” (no link necessary) for people who view God as their personal therapist.
The “We’ll give you purpose” (no link necessary) church.
There of course are already “Art churches,” drive-in churches, “gay and lesbian churches,”
My bet? We soon will have:
The “green church” a church for eco-sensitive people. This church promises to show you how God can improve your front lawn.
The “people-with pets church.” – a church to help people in their relationships with their household pets, because after all God loves animals too.
“Ferragamo churches” for people who like shoes, really like shoes.
Contextualization extracts the gospel message (like a concept), reduces it to a narrow point of contact and seeks to attract people via this appeal to this contact. Contextualization by its very nature is attractional in the Frost/Hirsch sense. I would suggest then that contextualization makes it almost impossible for the church to be transformational.
Incarnation on the other hand seeks to incarnate the gospel over long periods of time culturally within a context. It enters into a culture as a communal presence whereby it is able to discern its surrounding contact points. It will accept some things in the surrounding culture and bring them into captivity for the gospel. It will flat out reject others. In the process it becomes a display of a redeemed form of that culture.
Contextualization is possible only within a modern milieu: the milieu that stresses the gospel as a translatable trans cultural (as opposed to intra cultural) concept. Contextualization like this makes the church susceptible to the territorialization of the market, where everything becomes splintered into market niches inevitably separating us from one another. The church thereby becomes bi-furcated ever repeating the modern move to identify and separate. We break up and divide: contemporary churches from traditional churches, black churches from white churches, Republican churches from Democrat. Motorcycle culture churches from suburban churches who drive sedans. “Real men” churches from woman churches from sensitive guy churches. The church becomes another form of “identity politics.”
Evangelicals, uncritical of their modernist bias, are addicted to contextualization.
Comments? Questions? Push backs?
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