I could never have imagined being as blessed as I am. I live in a great community. I serve an awesome church. I’m married to a beautiful wife, and we have four incredible kids. It truly is a wonderful life. One of my favorite times of the day
(I think most parents of young children can relate) is bedtime, and one of the highlights of bedtime is putting our two-year old, Evangeline, down to sleep.
It’s at that time, every night, that we pray the same prayer.
“Thank You, God, for this day, and for Ethan, Addison, and Elliott (her brothers and sister), for Mommy and Daddy, for our Grammies and Papas, for Walter and Jack (her doggies) in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Occasionally, we even pray for Mike Wazowski, Eva’s favorite stuffed animal. It’s a simple and sweet prayer, which is almost always followed by her insisting that we sing “Jesus Loves Me” at least twice through, maybe three or four times, if she can get away with it.
If I prayed the same way and sang the same song week after week with the congregation at Cross Connection, more than a few people would take issue with it. I imagine that some might find it cute – once. But to continue to do so for three or four consecutive weeks would most certainly invite some anonymous “comment cards”.
It is easy for us to speak pejoratively of relevance, but the fact is that we need to contextualize, nearly all the time. To speak of substitutionary atonement with Evangeline would be fruitless. But to explain in simple terms that Jesus loved us, died on the cross, and rose from the dead to save us is appropriate and fairly clear, even for a two-year-old.
Illustrated like this, there are few people that would take issue with topics of relevance and contextualization. Still, there are some in Evangelicalism today who are genuinely uncomfortable with it.
Yet, if we are going to reach the lost, we must contextualize the message. Yes, in doing so there are dangers. The opportunity for miscommunication or misrepresentation is real. But the objection that all relevant contextualization is a deviation from the full gospel is, at best, a straw-man argument, and at worst a denial of the incarnational aspect of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
The fact is that we in the church speak a completely different language from those outside of it. To require that non-Christians learn our jargon before hearing the Gospel, disregards 2,000 years of missions history and smacks of a Christianity that would opt for the return to a Latin Mass. Men and women throughout Christian history have died to allow the message to be presented for the common man; it is unfortunate that some are still being “crucified” for doing so today.