Contextualisation and Cities (with Simon Brading)

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Worship in Cities

  • It’s not worship in heaven (yet), and it isn’t worship alone in your bedroom. When we gather together as the church we gather together in a location where God has called us and sent us with a commission to go and make disciples.
  • The Great Commission is to go and make disciples, build communities, to then make more disciples.
  • Mission should keep shaping church, not the church just shaping mission. The primary call is to make disciples.
  • Worship has a huge role in the mission of God.
  • Every church expresses mission and worship differently.

Contextualising the Gospel to our Location

  • When Hudson Taylor took the gospel to China for quite a while he didn’t see that much fruit, one of the reasons why they didn’t take him seriously was because he was a man from the west, wearing western clothes, and in China that just wasn’t how it was. Taylor then started to wear cultural clothes and become more like someone of the country he was evangelising to at which point he then started to see fruit.
  • We make judgements on what people look like and their accent and although it sounds very superficial, it can actually be the thing that stops people receiving your message.
  • The Holy Spirit is of course bigger than what we wear but we know that people receive what someone has to say or not based on external things.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:19,Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.’
  • Christ didn’t just stay apart from us but became one of us. He contextualised God to us, He became like us so that He might win us.
  • Contextualisation for the gospel is essential but painful, it cost Christ to leave heaven and take on flesh.
  • Our ministry is a ministry of reconciliation.
  • We wouldn’t apply the same things that work in Manchester to a Muslim community in Turkey.

How to Think About Your Culture

  • Each city is different and that is important to acknowledge.
  • We have to become those of our city to reach our city, we need to look at the stumbling blocks to the gospel that our individual city has. That may not be the gospel itself but the way we have dressed it.
  • We don’t change the gospel, but the beauty of it is that it transcends every culture and every century.
  • There is no culture or area the gospel cannot reach.
  • The way in which we dress and package the gospel is different for every age and place.
  • A movement should look different 40 years later because the culture changes, but the things we hold to should stay the same.
  • There are things we can do in our churches that can offend and isolate unbelievers that we didn’t need to do.
  • We need to ask ourselves what we can remove that is a stumbling block to people in this city so that it is just Christ that does the offending, not us.
  • We want people to walk into our churches and feel at home musically.
  • The language in our music and services can sometimes be alienating to the culture we’re trying to reach – even the clothes we wear in church.
  • This isn’t superficial but we need to acknowledge basic stumbling blocks to individuals in our cities.

Being Understandable to Our Culture

  • There is a matter of intelligibility that is important to Paul in 1 Corinthians 14.
  • We want to help make sure that even our worship times are actually intelligible and don’t leave people confused.
  • We want to engage the Christian as well as the non-Christian. We have to get our language right for those on the back-row that still includes everyone else. But if we just speak to those on the front row, like the elders, then we are in danger of isolating certain people.
  • There is behaviour around our worship that does need explaining. That doesn’t mean we have to explain every little detail of the meeting, that would be clunky, but you have to have discernment.
  • Worship times can be disciple-making opportunities.
  • We can’t see this as ‘selling-out’, but there is a way of loving Jesus with all that we have whilst still reaching the people in our city.