Contextualization, Seeker-Movement, or Seeker Sensitive Methods of Evangelism
Nine Parts World to One Part Christian
The book, Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community By Ed Stetzer, and David Putman is used in many seminaries across the land. This author would argue that Breaking the Missional Code is just one more threat to the unification of Christianity. It propagates the idea that you are to mold your church to reflect the makeup of your community. First, what exactly do theses authors mean by Breaking the Code?
“Breaking the code does not mean just finding the best model (or models) for your community. Instead, it means discovering the principles that work in every context, selecting the tools most relevant for your context (which may come from methods and models), and then learning to apply them in a missionally effective manner. It means thinking missiologically, and ‘if we are not focusing on missiology then we are being disobedient to the Great Commission.’ According to Mittelberg, ‘For those of us who have our sights set on reaching secular people in our increasingly post-Christian society, we must step back and figure out what our mission field’s cultural landscape looks like.'” (Stetzer and Putman 2006, p. 2)
Ed Stetzer penned an article in the magazine Christianity Today on the topic of contextualization. “Contextualization involves an attempt to present the Gospel in a culturally relevant way. For this reason, discussions about contextualization are connected to discussions about the nature of human culture; we cannot separate the two.” Culture is the shared beliefs and values of the group: the beliefs, customs, practices, and social behavior of a particular nation, people, or community. Stetzer writes, “The process of contextualization takes these facts about culture into account. It involves ‘presenting the unchanging truths of the gospel within the unique and changing contexts of cultures and worldviews.’ Dan Gilliland offers a full definition of contextualization. He defines contextualization as a tool ‘to enable, insofar as it is humanly possible, an understanding of what it means that Jesus Christ, the Word, is authentically experienced in each and every human situation.’ Such a tool is necessary because “while the human condition and the gospel remain the same, people have different worldviews which in turn impact how they interpret themselves, the world and the things you say.’” Stetzer goes on to say, “Contextualization involves an attempt to present the Gospel in a culturally relevant way … Discussions about culture are unavoidable; all people live in a culture of some sort … Contextualization, then, is simply about sharing the Gospel well … Contextualization is an important component of effective Gospel ministry.”
In short, some innocent appearing terms and ideas are not so innocent once we start unpacking them. Before dealing with Breaking the Missional Code and these terms, let us consider another common term, the so-called “seeker-movement” or “seeker-sensitive,” which aims to make churches more accessible and sensitive to the needs of spiritual seekers. The “seeker-movement” or “seeker sensitive” label is associated with some megachurches in the United States where Christian messages are often imparted by means of elaborate creative elements emphasizing secular popular culture, such as popular music styles. Such churches often also develop a wide range of activities to draw in families at different stages in their lives. Even Stetzer and Putman admit, “A few in the seeker movement have watered down the gospel.” I would venture to say that it is far more than a few. The truth of the matter, it all boils down to only being about the numbers, finding slick ways to reaching those within Satan’s world and being success oriented.
Christianity for almost 500 years since the Reformation has missed the boat that all churches are to be missional to their community, and now they are looking for ways to make up the ground. This is all good and fine, but it seems that they now want to jump on another boat, `let us be like the world so that we can attract the world.’ This is their version of Paul’s words, “I have become all things to all people that by all means, I might save some.” What if Paul were alive today, and he was on a missionary journey into some African countries, visiting some established congregations, and he saw that in many of these churches, men came to church with several of their wives. Would he become all things and accept polygamy, because it is a part of their culture?
Christians are humbly to share the Good News with all people, not prejudging them based on their race, culture, or background. (1 Cor. 9:22-23) Since the authors, Stetzer and Putman, chose how one dresses as an issue of knowing your mission field, we will address that as well.
While this is true, no church should adopt any changes that would violate Scripture, nor would they water down their values and standards merely to please the world. Of course, we do not want a standard of dress that exemplifies wealth, snobbery, and so on. However, we would not want to wear a standard of dress that exemplifies the world either.
There is a difference between a teen girl wearing something that only half covers her up, and respecting the African cultural Kaba, a popular style of women’s attire. There is a difference between a young man wearing a heavy metal or rap T-shirt to church and respecting the Korean hanbok, a bolero-style blouse, and a long skirt, uniquely proportioned.
Based on the definition of indigenous on pages 91-92, what does it mean for you to be an indigenous church?
The idea behind indigenization is that a church should spring forth out of the soil in which it is planted. It is indigenous in that its leadership, expressions, forms, and functions reflect that of the context. At the same time, it serves as a transforming agent in the very culture that sustains it. When this happens, we can truly say we have an indigenous church.
Breaking the Missional Code seems to be saying, an indigenous church is reflective of its community. It makes the statement, “The churches mentioned throughout this book and Planting Missional Churches, even though very different in terms of form and style, are good examples of indigenous churches.” The idea is that “their style [the church, pastor/leadership] reflects their community.” (Stetzer and Putman 2006, p. 93) Really? I think it would be that the members of the church, who came out of the community, should reflect the image of God.
While more Georgians are finding faith in Christ, statistics indicate that nearly 70 percent of the state’s 8,383,915 residents remain unchurched.” If this is so, then it is important that we ask the question how we can reintroduce people to church and ultimately to Christ. (Stetzer and Putman 2006, p. 90)
No, the question is just the opposite, “how can we reintroduce God’s Word to the people?” This author has stated it repeatedly in his writings and will continue to do so, that we should conform the world to the true Christian, biblical way. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, ESV)
It must seem that I am setting aside what seems like reasonable ideas within this book and others, but we should see it differently. There are 41,000 different denominations, which call themselves Christian, all believing differently. Many of these so-called Christian dominations are becoming more like the world and less like their Creator. We should not agree with the status quo of where things currently are, but nor should we agree with most of the Breaking the Missional Code either. The whole point can be summed up in this; the whole congregation going into the community must share the Gospel, evangelize the community. The congregation must be first trained in witnessing, communication, reasoning, and teaching so that they can effectively relate the Word of God to the community. Yes, they need to be able to relate to the community.
Stetzer and Putman write, “Ironically, it is often when we train people to do evangelism that they become less effective in the process.” (p. 122) This is such nonsense, and so untrue, it troubles me the moment my eyes fell on the words. From this comment alone, this book should be set aside for another. Evangelism training is not ineffective; the one who set up the program is ineffective. Jesus spent 3.5 years training his disciples in evangelism.
Luke 6:40 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
Just how effective was Jesus? How effective were his apostles and early disciples? Jesus early disciples carried on the work that he had commanded them to accomplish, which ran throughout the Roman Empire, in Asia, Europe, and Africa. (Matt 28:18-20) At the beginning of the second century, there were over a million Christians and estimated to be between 5-7 million by 300 C.E. In fact, the Christians displaced pagan religion as the official religion by 400 C.E.
Stetzer and Putman write, “Too often, we find the models they choose do not line up with the communities they are trying to reach.” (p. 154)
Here again, we start off with the fact that the book is seeking to mold the church into the community, as opposed to molding the community into the church. The objective is to convert the community into Christians, not the convert the church into a community pleaser. Have a biblical model, and then learn to reach the cultural milieu(s) that exists within your community.
Stetzer and Putman write, “A biblical church is a contextual church.” (p. 180) What is meant is adapting the church, without violating Scripture, to the local culture. What you have in these authors are missionary minded individuals who are used to the missionary field overseas. There they may have an African village, which has a single culture, or in China, a single Chinese community, or in Jordan, an Islamic community full of Sunni Muslims only, and so on.
However, the Western world is a melting pot of cultures. Within a given community, you could have 20-30 or more cultures. Which one do you try to make your church mold to, or is it best to have a biblically based church, which relates to all cultures, and invites them in, accepting aspects of their culture unless it violates Scripture. Even of the many, many cultures within a given community, there are those that do not reflect that because we are all individuals after all.
What if our context has to do with social status? If our community is made up of people with multimillion-dollar homes, should they waste money by building a church that is reflective of their mansions, costing millions upon millions on the look of the building? Should the pastors wear $5,000.00 suits? Should the pastor avoid sermons on money issues that are reflecting in New Testament teachings, for fear of offending the congregation?
A Biblical Church
- The Bible is their foundation in faith, truth, and practice
- Biblical preaching
- The worship is based on Scriptural principles
- The building is designed based on Scriptural principles
- The music chosen is based on biblical principles
- The education is biblical
- The worldview and lifestyle of its members is biblical
- Its evangelism is patterned after the New Testament
- The pastors and servants are chosen based on Scripture
- The structure of leadership is based on Scripture
- Church discipline is based on Scripture
- Organized and governed based on Scripture
- And so on …
All the while, its members can relate to whoever is in the community. It has acceptance of cultural aspects is biblical as well. This means that they are welcome to engage in any cultural lifestyle that does not violate Scripture. For example, a woman could wear any type of dress that is relevant to her culture, as long as it is modest. While the book hints at this, many of its statements throughout belie what is truly biblical.
There are literally tens of millions of unbelieving, North Americans, walking around, who have a receptive heart to the biblical truth, the deeper Gospel. They are like low hanging fruit from the tree of potential disciples; all we have to do is pick them. Some will be easy to bring into the fold; some will have to be reasoned with to overcome their firmly entrenched ideas while some will have to have their criticisms overcome, before they will start to believe. Let us speak hypothetically, but realistically for a minute, to give us the real perspective.
In the evangelistic year of 2016, we will say (hypothetically) that there are 10 million potential disciples available to be picked from the tree of humanity. Jehovah’s Witnesses will take about 3-4 million of them while the Mormons will gather up another 2 million, and the Seventh Day Adventists will take between 1-2 million. The Witnesses will go out and win over the easy ones, the ones that have to have their false ideas overcome, as well as the ones that need their criticisms overcome as well. They will win over the blue-color worker, the teacher, the scientist, the professor, the Muslim, the Jew, the African, the Asian, even the occasional pastor, as they gather up 30-40 percent of the fruit available.
What about so-called true Christianity, i.e. Christendom? Well, let us quote Stetzer and Putman, “This ‘humiliation’ of Christendom has been underway for two centuries. It is no longer appropriate, if it ever was, to speak of “Christian America.” (p. 228). The only fruit that Christendom will take in is maybe less than 50,000 depressed souls that walk into their church looking for hope because they do not go out and win over anyone. They will take in far less than 0.01 percent of the 10 million potential disciples, and will only keep a few thousand before they are stolen from the above groups.
Stetzer and Putman write, “Did Jesus Christ not institute the church as his missionary instrument for fulfilling the Great Commission?” (p. 227)
Yes, he did, and this includes all Christians carrying out the Great Commission, not just the pastors. The book makes this point as well.
Stetzer and Putman write, “The heart of the Great Commission is to ‘make disciples.’ Earlier in this book, we described a disciple as one who lives like Jesus lived, loves like Jesus loved, and leaves behind what Jesus left behind.” (p. 227).
In other words, a “learner” or better known as a “Christian” makes another “learner.” If a Christian is to make disciples and this involves making them into “people who are like Jesus,” then that would mean they are to be teachers of potential disciples, helping them as they transform into becoming a Christian disciple.
Stetzer and Putman ask, “How do you turn your church into an army for breaking the unbroken code?”
It is quite simple; make a biblical church that is reflective of the New Testament in principle, which has members that are trained in effectively sharing God’s Word to all sorts of people in their community, proclaiming, teaching and making disciples, regardless of the culture one is from. Make the maximum number of members in a church be 150, at which point 75 divide and build another church in the same area. This way you are growing away and out from your first local-missional minded church.
Discernment is keenly selective judgment. In other words, we have the ability to judge well, and our ability to determine is finely tuned and able to sense minor differences, distinctions, or details, to obtain spiritual direction and understanding. A Christian who has both knowledge and discernment is able to make decisions that if Jesus were in our place, and in our imperfect human condition, he would have made the exact same decision. One way that we can use discernment is in our sharing of the biblical truths with others who possess different worldviews and backgrounds, so as to save some. The apostle Paul said,
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
Keep in mind that, even though Paul said, “I became as,” so that he might become all things to all men, so as to save them, he never became anything that would be contrary to God’s will and purposes. A good/bad example of this would be the modern day Christian heavy metal bands, who by all appearances, are just like the worldly ones. Such bands are nine parts world to one part Christian. Can we imagine young Timothy, Paul’s student and traveling companion, being a member of Stryper, Vengeance Rising, Deliverance, Believer, Tourniquet and P.O.D? Much of modern day Christianity, has become like the world in their misguided attempt to evangelize the world. They are nine parts world to one part Christian. This so-called evangelism is an excuse for loose conduct, i.e., an excuse to be worldly under the guise of ‘saving some.’ While we are using a hyperbolic extreme example here of being like the world, to save some out of the world, which is complete foolishness, there are many other minor to major examples within modern day Christianity. Jesus used hyperbole, which is to over exaggerate to emphasize a point, but sadly, in our day, we do not need to over exaggerate because our example found in these so-called Christian metal bands is a reality.
See Video to the below, Supposed Top 15 Christian Metal Bands
THE FALSE TEACHER
John 17:16 English Standard Version (ESV)16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
Romans 12:2 English Standard Version (ESV)2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
This is the Truth
Psalm 98:4 English Standard Version (ESV)
This is the False
THE IMPORTANCE OF QUESTIONS
Matthew 7:13-25 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
The Narrow and Wide Gates
13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Recognize Them by Their Fruits
15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. They do not gather grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles, do they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will recognize them by their fruits.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’
The Two Foundations
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was its fall.”
These infer that there is but one correct answer and it guides the listener to that answer.
Q: After reading Matthew 7:13-14, does this not suggest there are two courses in life, one that leads to destruction, which many are on and one that leads to life, which few are finding?
Q: After reading Matthew 7:15, does this not suggest there will be some who appear as innocent as sheep, but really are false prophets to the point of being ravenous wolves?
Q: After reading Matthew 7:16-20, what is it that will help us identify these false prophets?
A: Their fruit
Q: After reading Matthew 7:21, who does Jesus say are the only ones who will enter into the kingdom.
A: Jesus said only those doing the will of the Father.
Q: After reading Matthew 7:22, will there be those who believe that they are doing the will of the Father?
Q: After reading Matthew 7:23, will Jesus accept their excuses for failing to do the will of the Father?
These questions can be used in one of two ways. First, they can be used to clear up something that the listener said. Second, they can be used to clarify that the listener fully understands what something means.
NOTE/Q: The term prophet has two basic meanings. First, it means one who proclaims a message. Second, it means one who foretells the future. What does the term “prophet” mean here?
A: It means one who proclaims a message.
Q: What did Jesus mean by many being on the path of destruction? Was Jesus referring to his disciples (i.e., Christians) and those of religions other than Christianity?
A: The many Jesus referred to was his disciples, coming Christians.
Q: How do you know that the many who are on the path to destruction are the disciples of Jesus Christ?
A: Just after Jesus talks about the two paths, Jesus said ‘be careful of false prophets.’ Then, a few verses later he says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven …”
Q: Are these false teachers found within Christianity and why are they so hard to recognize?
A: If it is the many Christian disciples, who are on the path to destruction; then, the teachers who taught them must have been Christian teachers. They are hard to recognize because Jesus compared them to sheep. In other words, they come across as innocent appearing.
Q: What did Jesus mean by the term “fruit”?
A: In other words, we would recognize them by their words and deeds.
Q: Based on who can enter into the kingdom, ‘those doing the will of the Father,’ what should we know?
A: What the will of the Father is?
Q: Did the many on the path to destruction believe they were doing the will of the Father?
Q: Jesus started out by talking about two paths and false teachers, correct?
Q: False teachers imply false teachings, correct?
Q: What did Jesus say he would say to those who thought they were doing the right thing or thought they were teaching the right thing but were not?
A: ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Q: We have false teachers, who are difficult to recognize, as they appear as innocent as sheep. Recognizing them can only be accomplished by recognizing their fruit (words and deeds), as well as knowing the true will of the Father. Does it not then seem prudent on our behalf that we should apply 2 Thessalonians 2:10 and 2 Corinthians 13:5?
A: Yes, the ones, who are deceived by these false teachers, will perish because they refused to be receptive to the truth. Therefore, we need to be in a constant mode of examining ourselves, as well as our beliefs, to see whether we are really in the truth.
2 Thessalonians 2:10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
10 and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.
2 Corinthians 13:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 Keep testing yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Keep examining yourselves! Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed you fail to meet the test?
 Reggie McNeal, The Present Future (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003), 51.
 Mark Mittelberg, Building a Contagious Church (Grand Rapids: zondervan, 2001), 34.
 Dean Gilliland, “Contextualization,” in The Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions, edited by Scott Moreau (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2000).
 What is Contextualization? Presenting the Gospel in .., http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/october/what-is-contextualizatio (accessed February 04, 2016).
 Putman, David; Ed Stetzer (2006-05-01). Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community (p. 181). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.
 Newton, Phil A. (May 2007). “The Package Matters: Problems with the Church Growth Movement”. Areopagus Journal (Apologetics Resource Center) (Troublesome Movements in the 21st–Century Church).
Seeker-Sensitive Problems, http://brfwitness.freeservers.com/Articles/1994v29n6.htm (accessed February 04, 2016).
 While there are both men’s and women’s styles of the hanbok, our discussion focuses on women’s.