4 out of 5 Stars
Author: A. Scott Moreau
Publisher: Kregel Academic
Buy Contextualization in World Missions
Reading Level: Moderate
Moreau provides a helpful framework for understanding the foundations and relevant models of contextualization. He also doesn’t shy away from discussing the pitfalls of over-contextualization or not grounding your contextualizing in the Scripture (“ultimately the only viable grounding for good contextualization is Scripture” p. 111). That said, the book’s perspective is soundly evangelical. If you’ve spent much time reading Christian books especially ones related to ministry you’ve probably heard the word contextualization. It’s entered into the mainstream parlance of evangelicals and so it’s important to understanding the evangelical definition of the word and also not demonize a term which encompasses something we all participate in.
It was interesting as Moreau was discussing this term I thought back to my own experience in Fundamentalism. The movement historically has had a low view of cultural involvement. Culture was often something to reject but the more I consider many of the churches who have this view, the more it dawned on me it’s not that they reject culture, rather they reject cultural expressions outside of their norm. They practice contextualization for their preferred culture but reject it for others. The church in the West cannot continue to be so blind.
What I also loved was the diversity of views and cultures appreciated through out Moreau’s work. He doesn’t exclusively or even mainly pull from western Christians. The bibliography is deep and wide. This is an important practice especially in America where multi-racial churches are on the rise. Moreau says,
One important check in this regard [marks of good contextual processes] is the extent to which we incorporate diverse voices into the process--including living voices in the community and in other communities as well as historical voices of the world church. (p. 112)
While staying faithful to the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in God’s very Word, we must contextualize the form of our message to successfully evangelize the world in an age where access to all peoples has never been more possible. We must not force our Western models of church on Christians from other cultures. And we must actively seek to represent other cultures and ethnicities in the process and leadership of doing church in those contexts.
Moreau spends extensive time exploring the “insider movement” (p. 164) within Muslim communities. On the far left of this movement Christians are “evangelizing” Muslims by embracing Muslim identity and shifting focus away from Christianity’s more controversial doctrines (deity of Christ, for example). These insiders are keeping the form of Muslim worship and imbuing it with Christian meaning. This practice cannot be tolerated (at least in the form of embracing Islam forms). As I said, he doesn’t shy away from examining more controversial practices like this.
If you’re looking to understanding contextualization then you should read this book. He covers the history and development of contextualization praxi and approaches the how side from an evangelical point of view. I want to end with a thought which I have been mulling over since finishing the book.
God is a missionary God. The history of humanity is essentially a drama in which God engages in his missionary purposes among humankind. This is not a “religious” drama per se, but a dram in which God pursues relationships with humanity in spite of our brokenness out of his compassion for us--a theodrama because it is God who shapes the narrative in his missionary pursuit. Therefore, “the whole theodrama is essentially missional, consisting in a series of historical entrances and exoduses (e.g., incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, Pentecost)” (110). Following this reasoning, we can describe theology as “faith seeking theodramtic understanding” (109, and “All other truths must be engrafted into and encompassed by the drama of Jesus Christ” (110). (p. 233)