Ernest Goodman, who calls himself an “unemployed former missionary, after more than six years in Western Europe,” has written about the need for what he calls “contextualization.”

According to Wikipedia, contextualization is “the process of assigning meaning, either linguistic or as a means of interpreting the environment within which an expression or action is executed.” (1)

Goodman says that contextualization is “the active work of translating the gospel into a culture that doesn’t have an indigenous expression of Christianity.”  But, he says, “Slapping a new coat of paint on the same old conventions is not contextualization.”

“It won’t do to make your church look like someone else’s. You can’t just steal somebody else’s sermon. You can’t pipe in a great speaker who doesn’t know your context. You must be an expert in the people to whom you minister.” (2)

When I moved to Massachusetts, I joined a small congregation we called ‘a home for misplaced southerners.’  But as we sought to spread the Gospel to our neighbors, we adapted and adopted a Yankee mindset.  We turned ourselves into leaven for the local loaf, instead of keeping our distance. (It is now 3 times the size as when I joined, and has a major impact on its town.)

You need to create a church that matches its context. That’s why there are Cowboy churches (often at the fairgrounds or rodeo), truckstop churches,  and workplaces Bible studies.

There is nothing wrong with a hymn-singing church if that’s what your community expects; if we all became rock-n-roll, where would the senior saints go?  If not for folk church, the mellow souls would just hang at the coffee house.  Blessed be the man who hosts heavy metal Christian music on Saturday night.  It’s all about wrapping the core gospel in the cloth of the culture and the language of those served.

Who is in your community?