“How far should the gospel be ‘at home’ in a culture, and how far should it resist domestication. What is true contextualization?”
Lesslie Newbigin, theologian, missiologist, and missionary.
This is a very important question. You ask it every time you start a new ministry or program, though you probably have not used Newbigin’s exact words, and perhaps you have not taken care to answer it well. You answer it every Sunday with the music you choose and the worship service that you run, but again perhaps you have not prayerfully, and Biblically, answered it well. How should we answer this well, and satisfy what the Bible tells us?
Allow me to help us understand what is being asked, and then to challenge you to consider the good question. “How far should the gospel be ‘at home in a culture” is pretty much the question Jesus navigated when He incarnated. He went so far, for instance, as to eat with “sinners”! He healed on the sabbath, He conversed with, and befriended women, He compassionately touched untouchables, He violently cleared out the religious center, He forgave sins, He rebuked religious officials, He went far but apparently without compromising truth, and His good news.
Jesus engaged with the prevailing culture, but it was not able to domesticate Him and His Gospel. Jesus’ purposes always prevailed. What an insightful word by Lesslie Newbigin, “domestication”. This is a process of taming a wild animal to become a pet, and it is a powerful metaphor for the taming of the Gospel, and Church. How do we tame the Gospel and Church? Frankly, you do all the time: every time you read a clearly stated passage, but you rationalize (or tame) it down to fit your current lifestyle. For instance, “I know that the Bible says to go into all the world, but…” Or “I know it says not to worry, but…” Or “I know that it says tithe, but…” Or “I know that it says something about selling everything, but…” Or “I know it says to forgive, but…” I could go on listing the passages that the people of God have tamed (that I have tamed). We have reduced the Gospel to something much less, which is apparent in our orthopraxy.
What then is true contextualization? What is it to live fully into the Kingdom ethic, or Gospel of Peace, without compromise? What does it look like to be, in Wesley’s words, a “peculiar people”? A people who engage missionally (which is in the fullness of the Spirit) with culture, in such a way that introduces the culture to JESUS?
I am currently reading a history book called the “Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World” by Larry Hurtado (not to be confused with Nelly Furtado, who is not related, and not a Christian historian). His premise is that first century Christians were both despised, persecuted and even killed, BUT they were also a growing and thriving community. He researched their distinctiveness which included monotheism, ethnicity and faith (Christians did not limit access to faith to people of the same ethnicities), their relationship to sacred text, and ethics, particularly offensive was their view of marriage and family (“fidelity of a man to his wife”), and the rejection of child abuse.
The Christian story is inspiring, and should inspire us today to continue to be a distinctive people who have been navigating with Jesus for a couple of thousand years how to have contextualized faith where we: LOVE GOD, LOVE OTHERS (DO NOT CONDEMN – JUDGEMENT AND CONDEMNATION ARE NO WHERE IN OUR JOB DESCRIPTION CHURCH!), AND LIVE LIVES FAITHFUL TO THE KINGDOM ETHIC.
Now I challenge you to take time with Lesslie Newbigin’s question. Take some quiet time to answer the question, and then answer it as a board, leadership team, small group.
If your answers include, “getting people to Church on Sunday morning, and make sure they are not wearing baseball caps, or ripped jeans”, then you have not prayed (or listened) for a sanctified imagination…
Pastor Lorilee Bishop – approved as a Ministerial Candidate and appointed as Associate Pastor, West Springs FMC, Calgary, AB, effective June 8
Pastor Natasha Frentz – approved as a Ministerial Candidate and appointed as Associate Pastor, Northview Community Church, Regina, SK, effective June 8
June 26 at 2:00 pm – Benjamin Platz – Next Church, Kingston, ON
FOUNDATIONAL COURSES http://www.fmcic.ca/
Register online through the link above (Tuition payment is not required when registering for a course. Payment is due 10 days before the course begins.)
Lay Ministers tracking for credentialed ministry and those transferring ordination credentials into the FMCIC need to take the following two courses for full credit – and if possible, the Heart course first and then Wesleyan Theology.
Heart of Canadian Free Methodism:
November 4-6, 2022, – location TBA*
November 4-6, 2022, – location TBA*
- Tyndale University: https://www.tyndale.ca/seminary/course/theo-0629
- FMC-USA http://fmcusa.org/leadership/courses/
- as a 7-week intensive online course: Wesleyan Theology [#74W] Dr. Robert Vaughan – start dates: Jul 26, Sep 13, Nov 1
- as a correspondence course (8 months to complete): Wesleyan Theology (#74C), Dr. Allen Wachter
Ministerial Candidates tracking for Commissioned or Ordained Minister are required to take the following two courses for full credit. Those who are already commissioned or ordained are required to either audit these two courses for 1 Continuing Education Unit (CEU) each or take the two courses and complete the assignments for 3 CEUs each.
Culture and the Missional Church:
Date and location TBA*
Personal and Church Stewardship:
5-week online course – Start Date TBA
(* These course locations are selected based on where the majority of the participants reside – so please register early!)
2022 SCHOLARSHIPS http://www.fmcic.ca/scholarships/
LEADERSHIP SCHOLARSHIP PLAN (LSP):
The Leadership Scholarship Plan (LSP) provides financial assistance to candidates who are studying to meet the educational requirements for credentialed ministry, or for members of conference pursuing continuing education.
October 15 is the deadline to apply for LSP for any courses taken during the summer and/or fall semesters of 2022. The 2022 application forms and instructions are now available to download from the link above. Please use the application forms marked “rev 2022.”
The Special Scholarships provide financial assistance to those who are members of a Free Methodist church pursuing post-secondary education to grow in their Christian faith, to those who are pursuing credentialed ministry, and to members of conference pursuing continuing education.
October 15 is the deadline to apply for the annual Special Scholarships for courses taken during the 2022 calendar year – apply online anytime from the link above. Special Scholarships are awarded in late November/early December each year.
CONTINUING EDUCATION UNITS (CEUs) https://www.fmcic.ca/
Ordained and Commissioned Ministers (except retirees) are to annually report hours acquired during each year for Continuing Education Units (CEUs). Check the link above for information on CEUs, and a list of examples of many different types of life-long learning that can be applied as CEUs.
You can now send a report online anytime you have hours to submit for CEUs. Here is the link: https://fmcic.wufoo.com/forms/continuing-education-unit-ceu-report-form/
Note: For those who attend the fall Minister’s Conferences or the spring Regional Gatherings, attendance is now taken at these events so 6 hours of CEU credit for each event will automatically be recorded.
For those who took courses and/or did in-depth research and learning about how to make the changes required during the pandemic (ie how to live-stream services), add the number of those hours to your annual CEU report.
CHURCHES IN TRANSITION
Hamilton, ON – Rymal Road Community Church
Harrowsmith, ON – Harrowsmith FMC
New Westminster, BC – First FMC
Thornbury, ON – Blue Mountain Community Church
Warkworth, ON – Warkworth FMC
Church Profiles available
Contact Davika Dotson in the Leadership Development Office to request a church profile – [email protected] (deadline to apply in brackets)
Salmon Arm BC – Lakeside Community Church (full time) [Aug 2]
Sarnia, ON – New Horizons Community Church (full time) [June 21]
If you are interested in seeing the profile for any of these churches, please contact Davika in the Leadership Development Office [see above] and the profile will be emailed to you as soon as it becomes available.
Bracebridge, ON – New Hope FMC
Campbellford, ON – Campbellford FMC
Cloyne, ON – Pineview FMC
Dunnville, ON – Dunnville FMC
Frankford, ON – Frankford Community Church
Hilton Beach – St. Joseph Island FMC (David Griggs interim)
Richmond Hill, ON – Richmond Hill Chinese & English FM Churches (Rev. Louis Leung – Interim Pastor)