Post by Dr. Scott Hildreth, Director of The Center for Great Commission Studies
Contextualization: Teaching Sound Theology Cross-Culturally
Kevin VanHoozer writes: “If theology is to serve the church, the new challenge is how to give local expression to the understanding of the faith. . .” This is true. Theology represents human beings seeking understanding from God’s revelation of himself through the scriptures. In order for it to serve its ultimate purpose, theology must be founded on the scriptures but also rooted in local experience, language, and thought.
For years I have taught students at Southeastern the importance of contextualization as a missionary task. I remind them that contextualization first happens as cross-cultural communication when missionaries or church planters tell the message of Jesus in the language of the local people. However, contextualization does not stop with communication. It also takes place as the local church developed and communicates this faith. Contextualization is doing theology locally.
The week before Easter I had the opportunity to lead almost two dozen African pastors in the process of doing and developing theology for their people. We spent 8+ hours a day together exploring core concepts of theology: Revelation, God’s Character, Trinity, Humanity and the impact of sin. The goal was to guide these men and teach them to communicate core Christian teachings to their people in local languages, thought, and experiences.
It was a wonderful time of Christian partnership as they worked in teams focused on their own people and then as they worked to assist others as well. We had to consider new words and new ways to communicate ideas. By the end of the week there was a commitment to be spiritual and theological leaders for several tribes across this region of Africa. These men caught the vision of teaching the Word of God to the people of God. These men represent the best and brightest of our missionary work as Southern Baptists. They are also those who will strengthen national churches and conventions as well as insuring sound doctrine and healthy evangelism.
Please pray that the Lord will protect these men and give them vision for helping sustain theologically healthy churches across the region.
Scott Hildreth is the director of the Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies. He frequently speaks on issues of missions, spiritual formation, missiology, and theology. Scott also contributes to SEBTS faculty blog www.betweenthetimes.com