The Limitations of Contextualized Mission

As some of you have noticed, I write and think about Asian American churches because that is the background that I am from. This type of study is categorized under “Contextualized Mission”, which simply means understanding the application of the mission of God in light of different contexts (e.g. culture).

I find myself in dialogue with other people concerning the Asian American church trying to figure out a way to do God’s mission in that context. As I researched, and thought, and listened, and talked, I found being tempted into a thought that was deceitful in its purpose.

What I mean is that there is a temptation to believe that proper contextualization of mission will cure the problems we see in the churches. As in, if I understood everything about Asian culture, I could see why the church would be failing, or what the young people are leaving, or how we can witness better. While I respect those endeavors, I now understand that those “contextualization” efforts fall short in accomplishing God’s mission.

My basic premise is this: contextualized mission does not make God’s mission more effective, it’s just that un-contextualized mission will hinder God’s mission.

To put it another way, if I had a positive/negative scale of doing God’s mission, contextualized mission will never push the scale to the positive, poor contextualization will only push it to the negative. It may be a subtle difference, but it is a difference nonetheless that will yield to a different mindset about doing mission.

Proper considerations of the people group to which we are trying to do God’s mission to is valuable, but adds nothing to the ability to be effective. I believe that the basic recipes for success remain the same, no matter what context you are in: prayer, God’s word, the gospel message, the Holy Spirit, and our love. I believe that it is only those things which push mission into the positive, not our contextualization.

The difference I want to point is because I believe it realigns our attitudes about missions: that it is first seeking the power of God first, and then secondly understanding how to relate to the people to whom we are trying to reach.

And so these are my thoughts on the limitations of contextualized mission.

Phillip Chan

Phil has been writing for 10 years. His passion is to grow in his love for Jesus to obey his purposes in our generation.

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