Question: What does it mean to “contextualize” the gospel to reach other cultures?
To contextualize does not mean to change the gospel message: “Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead!” That message has reached cultures around the world for the last 2000 years and will stay the same until Christ’s return.
Instead, contextualize means “to place into context.” In regards to the gospel, it means to communicate the good news in a way that is relevant. This is vital in evangelism. Each culture looks at the world in a specific way. If we ignore a person’s background and worldview, we risk communicating a gospel that is misunderstood and distorted.
One of the most effective ways to reach other cultures for Christ is to use appropriate illustrations. Because the unsaved mind is not accustomed to thinking in terms of Scripture, illustrations can clarify biblical truths. However, it is important to use illustrations that relate to your audience. An illustration about a home run would make no sense to someone who is unfamiliar with baseball.
Research the culture you are trying to reach in order to understand their point of view. This will help you select illustrations that your audience will understand. Jesus provides a great example of this. He used simple illustrations and stories about fishing and farming; two subjects with which His audience was familiar. In the same way, we need to find illustrations that speak to the culture of our audience to make the terms of the gospel as clear and simple as possible.