A wise missionary knows that preaching the gospel to a different culture requires contextualizing your message. The words we use don’t automatically translate to a new culture that lacks the associations and experiences we’re familiar with. We need to find new ways of communicating the old, old story, ways that can be understood, ways that “speak the language” of those we’re ministering to.
But even on a local scale, we have to deal with contextualization. That’s because music and liturgy are a language. They can mean different things to different people. In the past few years, much has been written, advocated, and modeled to help us understand why we should be concerned about leading services in ways that people actually comprehend what we’re doing and saying so that they are impacted in the right ways (Mike Cosper’s Rhythms of Grace is one example). That might mean changing your music accompaniment, liturgy, communication methods, and more.
But I’ve seen contextualization misapplied at times. Here are a few things I’ve found helpful to keep in mind when thinking through how to connect with people.
He shares seven pieces of advice on how to deal with changing the medium without ruining the message.
This one especially stood out to me:
Some aspects of our meetings will be counter cultural and shouldn’t be contextualized. Christians are people of the Word. Our first and last authority for what we do when we gather is Scripture. That’s why we celebrate the Lord’s supper and baptism. That’s why pastors preach and don’t merely engage in non-threatening interactive conversations (2 Tim. 4:1-2). The gathering of God’s people is its own context, which is meant to shape and transform our thinking, perspectives, and choices.