If you did not catch Critical Issue #5 first mentioned on February 15, you can read it HERE.
Now we come to Critical Issue #4: The Challenge of Contextualization. When the church planters noted this issue they were referring to the difficulties experienced in effectively communicating the gospel and planting churches in diverse contexts.
They found out that church planting methods as advocated in the books of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and shared in the conferences, were not as applicable to the 21st century as thought. Such discrepancy also resulted in conflict between those in the trenches and their supervisors who had planted churches 5, 10, 15 years prior, and expected their church planters to be able to do likewise.
Remember, the gospel is always relevant to every people, in any location, at any time. . . . But we’re not.
While I did not study the ethnic breakdown of the church planters or the ethic composition of the people to whom they were evangelizing, my guess is that the overwhelming majority were Anglo and working primarily among an Anglo, middle class demographic. If such was the case, it is likely that these church planters were also struggling with the receptivity to the gospel among their population segment.
Why, do I think such was the case?
Based on personal experience, anecdotal evidence, and the experience of others, I am coming to believe that the Anglo, middle class, majority of the U. S. population is not as receptive to the gospel as they were from the 1950s-1990s (I know some of you are not surprised at this statement.). I have sensed a growing apathy toward the gospel among this group. And growing apathy usually means a greater resistance to the gospel. And greater resistance means fewer and fewer conversions. And few conversions mean that it takes a long time to plant a church among this population segment (Of course, I’m not talking about transfer growth church planting here, but a biblical model of church planting. I’ll save my transfer church planting discussion for a future post.)
Note: Do you see how Critical Issue #4 and Critical Issue #5 may be related?
Practical Matters to Keep in Mind
1) Church planting is more art than science. You can only learn so much in a book (even in my books) or a classroom (even in my classes).
2) Contextualization can be very challenging. How well do you know your people group or population segment geographically, demographically, culturally, spiritually, historically, politically, and linguistically?
3) If you are supervising, coaching, directing church planters, make sure you recognize that since they are presently in the trenches (allow me to assume you are not), they are the experts on their contexts and the challenges in communicating the gospel. Hold them accountable, but be patient with them. Allow them flexibility and freedom, but be a wise steward with your calling as well.
4) If you are attempting to evangelize the U. S., Anglo, majority and plant churches from out of the harvest with them, then recognize that you may be going to serve among an apathetic soil. If such is the case in your area, then be prepared, trust in the Holy Spirit’s timing, and don’t limit your labors on a 2-3 year time frame.