There seems to be three themes in discussions over evangelism:
1. Contextualization for the sake of Christ. This refers to our attempt as Christians to appropriately accommodate and adapt to culture so that we can best communicate the grace and truth of Christ, especially the gospel. It often involves a kind of humbling and discomfort on our part, of doing things in ways that aren’t familiar to us.
2. Conflict for the sake of Christ. This refers to our struggle with the world system around us which tries to silence or neutralize our message. It involves our countercultural endeavor to help people see the other-worldliness of the kingdom of God. I regard this as a subtheme of contextualization, because thoughtful consideration of a culture can be the very thing that helps us understand the need for a countercultural method.
3. Using spiritual gifts for the sake of Christ. This refers to our calling as Christians to use our talents and desires which God has given us. God wants each one of us to be good stewards of the special graces he has equipped us with.
We have to somehow integrate all three of these themes and not let any one take over in a way that justifies our own passions or selfish ambitions. It isn’t easy. Our flesh inclines us to contextualization as a worldly way to avoid suffering and feel good about relationships, to conflict as a worldly way of avoiding gentleness and patience, and to the abuse of our gifts as a way to justify bringing glory and attention to ourselves.
Even when we don’t agree with our Christian brothers, I think we need to cut them a lot of slack, particularly when it is evident their philosophy of ministry is centered around a thoughtful love that endures at least a meaningful degree of suffering and practices patience with very difficult people.
The longer I live, the dumber I feel on this whole matter. And I have a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to people who think they are experts on being “missional”. It too often is just a highbrow way of letting sociology or individual preferences or cowardice or personal ambition dominate. To those who read part of that and think, “boy, that sounds like Aaron when he…”, I am sorry.
May God grant me a deeper love for everyone.