The Misperceptions of Extrovert “Introversion”

Are you a misunderstood extrovert?

I don’t think anyone would disagree that Jesus was extroverted. He was an outgoing expressive person. Jesus was always among the crowds—always followed, speaking, and feeding. But, at times, I bet his extroversion was misperceived.

If we utilize today’s definition of introvert, someone that gravitates toward being alone as the primary form for relaxation, rejuvenation, and resting, Jesus would probably have been perceived as one due to his frequent custom of withdrawing to desolate places to be alone (Mt. 14:13; Mk. 1:35, 6:31; Lk. 4:42, 5:16). While Jesus fed the masses, he also often walked away from the crowds, and ridiculed the religious elite.

On the other hand, extroverts are perceived as happy, outgoing, and energetic people—they love being around people—this energizes them. So, if Jesus was extroverted, why did he remove himself?

While impossible to know the mind of God, it is more than likely that Jesus found his strength, discernment, clarity, rest, and rejuvenation during his alone times with the Father. But, if he took the gifting and profile tests we currently partake, introvert would be the result. In fact, some would say that because Jesus found “recharging” via isolation that he would be the true definition of an introverted person (i.e. demanding seclusion).

Yet, Jesus’ moments of withdrawal to be alone should not define him as an introvert (or an Extrovert-Introvert). There’s an interesting dynamic within apostolic leadership that I’ve observed (among my own behaviors)—along with naturally extroverted people. 

Here’s two observations.

Extroversion Demands Introversion

Jesus directed the Apostles to “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mk. 6:31). Naturally, we all need rest. Without rest, burnout is sure to come. The extrovert is no exception to the rule—they are, indeed, the need for the rule.

Subsequently, with naturally outgoing people—true extroversion—their daily draw to be around people and interact is where they thrive. It’s their “ignition zone” and passion of life. 

For the apostolically gifted extrovert, they are thriving, energetic, and network-driven people that will find themselves recharging—not in the crowds, but in seclusion. For this reason, they must be aware of utilizing seclusion as a spiritual discipline.

For the naturally extroverted person that engages people and groups daily, filling schedules with meetings, gatherings, and socials, will require unplugging and morphing into a temporary hermit—perhaps an hour or so, each day. This hermitage is a necessity to prevent burnout and keep the joy of living within community, strong. 

But, on the other end, if you place an extrovert in isolation for too long—depression will sit in. While extroverts demand introversion for recharging, they must be aware of what may be causing the need for the introversion. Is it hard-work, crowds, or something else?

Why Extroverts may be Perceived as Introverts

—The “something else.”

One of my observations of extroverted crowd loving people—is that they may not “like” everyone in those crowds (think Jesus and the Pharisees/Sadducees). For the extrovert, judgmental and negative people turn them off—quickly—and in like manner, they may receive the extrovert’s “off-switch.” To silence an outgoing, naturally communicative person—may not be a good thing.

Because extroverts need interaction, conversation, and dwelling among people, they tend to pick up rather quickly on human behaviors and negative people. Basically, they can see through fake people in an instant. As a result, extroverts will tend to immediately withdraw from negative, narcissistic, and nippy individuals.

The extrovert’s withdraw may be perceived as introversion— (i.e. “they always want to be alone when I see them; they never want to gather with us.”). Extroverts thrive off of positive feedback.  

What’s the Answer?

As a naturally gifted (apostolic) extrovert, I have realized that people will seriously misperceive my behaviors. To some, I will seem way too outgoing—usually the ones that see me working within my daily giftedness. I’ve had people tell me that I “wear my heart on my sleeve.”

But to others—those who see me in my off-time or around negative people—they may perceive me to be a recluse. When you’re off, all that you want to do is be alone. Or, why don’t you talk with such and such people? I realize that I shut out negativity—indeed—it’s a hard door slam!

So, what’s the answer? 

We have to learn to cultivate our natural gifting. I’ve learned to give my time to where it is most utilized and most needed. As well, I’ve learned that if I do not have those times of “desolate” recharging that my life is off-kilter. And, if I’m surrounded by prolonged negativity it squashes my innovative, outward, and outgoing personality. 

I’ve learned to be “slow to speak and quick to listen” (James 1:19). And so, I’ve learned to navigate the daily rhythms of life, with Jesus. 

Enduring Transitions: Why am I here?

“Why did you make us leave Egypt and bring us here to this terrible place?” (Numbers 20:5, NLT).

Recently, my church family has been exploring the theme of transition. I was grateful to preach one of the messages about the discipline of waiting. If you’ve ever felt like you’re in a terrible situation, transitioned from one job to the next, waited to hear from a potential employer, doctor’s diagnosis, or continued in position/circumstance while hoping for a change, continue reading.

This morning, as I began my daily Scripture reading, I was in Numbers chapter twenty. Granted, there’s not too many great application accounts in Numbers, but chapter twenty is a gold-mine of reflection! Moses endures three great life-losses; he loses his sister Miriam, his brother Aaron, and he’s rejected from entering the Promised Land—all within this chapter! There’s a sermon for each of those topics, but that’s not our illuminating nugget of light.

As I was reading, Israel’s question to Moses, “Why did you make us leave Egypt and bring us here to this terrible place?” (Num. 20:5), it reverberated in my mind. I began to pray through this verse. As I reflected, I began to think—Israel doesn’t understand that where they are is not the end game. This isn’t their home. The desert is not the Promised Land of milk, honey, and blessing. All that they can see is their current situation—they forgot about the promise.

Better not bitter

I think it’s important to realize (at least for me) that we’re on a journey with the Lord. Where he has us, and where he’s taking us are two different things. For the record, while I’m elated to be in the position that I am currently in, that was not always the case. Many times, I searched and sought out new positions, was rejected by employers, and questioned God as the Israelites, “Why have you brought me to this terrible place”?

Sometimes life is hard. So, I wonder how many of us might be feeling bitter because our circumstances are not better? As I reflected on this passage, I was reminded that the desert is not the Promised Land. Israel was grumbling about the journey, about the process to get to the destination. That’s when the light bulb went off. The journey is not the destination. The destination is the destination.

Enduring transitions

Sometimes we may feel like God is not answering our prayers because we’re enduring a life situation that seems grueling and draining. I know that the job-search experience can definitely seem like a desert experience. But, so is any transition-period. Any time that we associate our current situation as an end-objective in life, we have neglected the power and process of walking with God.

As the Apostle Paul reminded the Philippian churches, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Phil. 1:6). Wherever you may be, it is not the end-game. Transitions are part of the process.

Hence, that “terrible place” that you currently perceive to be in, maybe that’s the part of the journey that will end up being your most productive and learned. But, let’s be honest, no one enjoys the desert-periods of life. Truly, they feel “terrible” and no amount of encouraging words can pay bills, or change specific circumstances.

Yet, if we can change our perceptions, we can change our motivation to endure. For me, I have to remind myself that God is in control. He is guiding and leading—and He knows best. The goal is never the desert, but the desert is a training ground and part of the process.

As Exodus reminds us, “When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt” (Exo. 13:17). Battles and deserts are part of the transitioning process.

Regardless of the Israeli spies rejecting God’s sovereignty (Num. 13), the desert was always part of the transition and never the end-result. So, what are your takeaways from this message?

Reflection

Do you perceive that you’re in a “terrible-place”? What can you learn from it?

How can you trust and serve God where you are, so that when you arrive at the destination, He receives the glory?

A Biblical & Missional Look at Migrating Peoples

Jacob Lawrence’s, The ‘Epic Drama’ of Great Migration

It seems that migration is a “hot-topic” these days, whether ideologically, politically, or practically. Everyone seems to have a perspective (that’s correct!). Yet, I would like to propose that migration is more than those things, it is biblical and missional. With regards to that perspective, how should followers of Christ view migration?

First, we should acknowledge that the world is witnessing the largest number of displaced peoples in history,[1] However, we also recognize that people migration is not a new concept. Unfortunately, many Americans, even or especially some evangelicals, have forgotten how the 16th through 18th century migrations of people to this continent helped forge the DNA of this country’s greatness. America became the beacon of hope for the world’s downtrodden—the descendants of all current U.S. citizens.

As a reminder, in 1884, France gifted the United States with the Statue of Liberty. She still stands as a colossal structure that commemorates the United States’ dedication to friendship, opportunity to provide safe harbor to vulnerable peoples of the world, and devotion to those seeking asylum. Emma Lazarus’ words are more than mere poetry; they are forever etched in the bronzed open book of the “Mother of Exiles”:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


While the Statue of Liberty is only one example of welcoming the foreigner, the global movement of peoples is recorded as far back as Genesis 1:28 and the creation of humanity. The Lord commanded the first man and woman, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Of course, humanity rejects God’s mission. God judges the world with a global flood. After the flood, the Lord reinstitutes his mission through Noah and his sons, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen 9:1). Displacement can occur for a myriad of reasons (war, famine, disease) and it can also occur as part of the mission of God. Whether examining Genesis or the early church’s rejection to fulfill the Great Commission-mission to “make disciples” of all peoples (ethné, Matthew 28:18-20; c.f., Acts 11:19), the migration of peoples is biblical and missional. This article will briefly examine the biblical and missional aspects of migration.

Biblical

Throughout the Bible, especially within the pages of the Old Testament, migrations are frequently recorded. Whether the movements at the Tower of Babel or Jacob and the first tribes of Israel from their homeland to Egypt, the Sovereign million-person migration of Israel with Moses to the Promised Land, or the conquering and enslaving performed by Tiglath-Pileser III or Nebuchadnezzar, the Scriptures are teeming with accounts of forced and willful migration. We ought not view migration as a contemporary political or ideological construct of a border wall.

Throughout history humanity has been building walls to keep people out and protect people from within. Regardless of one’s views, when war, famine, and disease force people from their home, the people migrating are generally not excited to leave their culture, customs, and land. Everything must be relearned; how to speak, what to eat, where to work, when to worship, and why change is inevitable. Often, migration is terrifying for the migrant.

One notable historic migration movement that is revealed in the New Testament demonstrates the difficulties they cause. Yet, this singular event ended up providing the world with one of the most widely read works—Paul’s letter to the Roman Churches. In Acts 18:1-2, Luke briefly describes how the apostle Paul met Priscilla and Aquila, “Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome.” As Paul was church planting in Corinth, and because Paul was skilled in leatherworking, he met them as they migrated to that city.

As the account is stated, Emperor Claudius removed all the Jews (Christian Jews, too) from Rome. He disperses them throughout the Empire. But, years later, his successor Nero, with open arms, invites them back. However, the resulting migration of Jewish Christians filtering back into Roman churches caused much turmoil.

Douglas Moo reveals, “[when] the Jewish Christians returned to a church that, in their absence, has become a largely Gentile institution. The situation was ripe for social tension.”[1] The Jews believed that their faith traditions steeped in a Jewish Savior was essential for salvation, while the Gentiles proclaimed that there was no need for the ancient law or ancestral traditions. Turmoil!

Assuredly, the central point of Paul’s letter is to unify and provide the leveling truth of the gospel (no one is righteous), but his work reveals the migration of people to foreign lands and back to their homelands isn’t such an easy task. I’m sure some of the Gentile Christians believed the Jewish believers should “go home to where they belonged.”

While biblically, sometimes migration is viewed as oppressive, confounding, causing division, or otherwise, it is also acknowledged and connected to God’s mission (Missio Dei). The Lord reveals to the prophet Jeremiah, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer. 29:4-7). Thus, the exile of God’s people into Babylon was a sovereign migration.

Missional

Understanding the missional movements of God is not as easy as it seems. For who can know the mind of God (Rom. 11:34)? Perhaps, missionally speaking, God allows the movements of people to occur due to an inactivity of his church within a region of the world; thereby, calling other people groups to that region that will obediently live out the gospel? Missiologists label these groups diaspora. But, who’s to say? One thing is certain, biblical accounts of migration have demonstrated fulfilling God’s purpose and mission.

While in the Garden, Adam and Eve display disobedience to the mission, and by Genesis 11, the Lord disperses the people throughout the world. The Genesis 11 dispersion is a global migration of epic proportions. The Spirit of God creates new tongues and languages to confound and halt the people from refusing the mission of God (i.e., be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth). In Genesis 11, the writer specifically records the people’s intentions, “let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (11:4). The last part of the verse provides the context— “lest we be dispersed …”

Thus, the Lord’s dispersion of peoples is foundational to the mission of God and the cultural mandate. The people reject the cultural mandate (i.e., be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth) thus, the Lord missionally migrates them in order to fulfill his plan. Many missiologists (this one included) believe that the Spirit’s infilling at Pentecost is the proverbial reversal of the Tower of Babel (i.e., bringing divine understanding to all people that the mission of God may be fulfilled).

Another recorded missional (and biblical) event sponsored by God was the migration of the early church in Acts 8 and 11. Jesus commanded his church to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). Yet, it seems the Great Commission was placed on the back-burner as the church at Jerusalem was growing. With the martyrdom of Steven, the Bible reader is informed that the church began its dispersion. While we would all agree that Steven’s stoning is not something that the Lord particularly desired, we do know that he was watching and standing in judgement (Acts 7:56). As well, Paul provides a reminder in Romans (i.e., the migration book) that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (8:28).

While there are multiple biblical missional accounts of God’s sovereign hand migrating peoples throughout the world, we must be reminded that the world is in fact, his. Additionally, it’s important to recall that all people are created, “from him and through him and to him” (Rom. 11:36). God allows situations to occur (even evil ones), divinely knowing that he will “bestow on [the oppressed] a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isa. 61:3). While horrific wars, catastrophic weather, disastrous famine, or infectious deadly diseases do not sound like the love of God, assuredly, the Lord can and will utilize calamitous events to bring about eventual good.

Assuredly, the dispersion of the early church during a time of chaotic persecution was horrifying, but the result was surrounding regions received the invitation of the gospel and restoration of souls. Consequently, as modern migration movements occur throughout the world, displacing millions of people, the prayer of the believer is that God is missionally leading the people to safety. May God’s words to Joshua be encouraging, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deut. 31:8).

Reflections

How can followers of Jesus come alongside the missional migration movements of God to glorify Him?

What practical steps can you take to promote the welfare of migrants, asylees, or refugees, in order to demonstrate the love of Christ?

Do you have any perceptions or misconceptions that need illuminating by the Spirit of God? If so, seek the Lord with a humble and contrite heart.

Lastly, who can you share this message with?


[1] Douglas J. Moo. Encountering the Book of Romans, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 27.

[1] Refugee Data Finder. https://www.unhcr.org/refugee-statistics/

Gen Z and Global Priorities

Thankfully, the comprehensive nature of the gospel is more than salvation—as if salvation were not sufficient. Yet, the wholeness of the gospel encompasses redemption, restoration, and freedom from injustice. Recently, it has been identified that Gen Z views ending racism (83%), climate change (79%), social equality (78%), and alleviating poverty (78%) as more important than evangelistic mission.[1]

While many evangelicals may have their feathers ruffled with such a thought, I think it’s important to understand that the passions of Gen Z are biblically aligned. I believe they provide a powerful connection to the mission of God and the inherent principles of the gospel (dignity, love, and value).  

In the Bible, Moses describes mankind as being created in “the image and likeness of God” (Gen. 1:26). While Genesis 1:26 is one of the first theological confessions, it is also a profound statement that highlights the inherent value and dignity of all people. Genesis 1:26 establishes the essence and substance for understanding human identity, purpose, and even potential.

The Divine Image and Likeness

Being created in “the image and likeness of God” (Gen. 1:26) means that every human being possesses intrinsic worth and deserves respect, love, and dignity. The divine imprint that we possess transcends race, gender, age, or any other characteristic that may divide us. It seems that Gen Z is merely implementing “word and deed” measures (1 Jn. 3:18). They recognize this truth challenges us to see the immeasurable worth within every person and people group. It compels us to work towards justice and equality for all. Consequently, they do not view a distinction or divorce between gospel-living and justice—it’s unified.

The Comprehensive Nature of the Gospel

The gospel message goes far beyond personal and corporate salvation. Yes, salvation encompasses redemption, but also restoration, and freedom from injustice. When Jesus begins his earthly ministry, he cites Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”

However, according to Matthew (an eyewitness), when John the Baptist was cast into prison, he sent his messengers to specifically ask Jesus if he was the fulfillment of Isaiah 61. Jesus responded, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matt. 11:4-5). The incarnate Word brought restoration and freedom to those he encountered (including the condemned adulterous woman).

Absolutely, not, downplaying any aspect of salvation, through Christ’s sacrificial act on the cross, humanity is offered the opportunity to be redeemed from sin and reconciled with God. However, the gospel does not end there. It also calls us to participate in the restoration of all things, working towards the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth.

Top Priorities

Succeeding the Millennial generation, Gen Z is the first to be raised in an entirely digital age, generally—they were born between the mid 1990’s to the 2010’s. For the most part, even though cultural background, socioeconomic status, and individual experiences can vary, Gen Z is a cohort of youth that are passionate about authenticity and having unique political and social perspectives.

In observing their list of concerns, it illustrates their value of people. They desire to see an ending to racism, be good stewards of the planet, promote equality, and alleviate poverty. These priorities are deeply rooted in the gospel’s call for justice, compassion, and love for our neighbors. As Gen Z recognizes God’s divine imprint upon every person, they are driven to confront the systems and structures that perpetuate suffering. Their desire is an all-encompassing faith of “word and deed.”

Word and Deed

Thus, living out a “word and deed” life incorporates elements of gospel-evangelism, social justice, and compassion. It involves sharing the good news of Christ’s redemptive work through our words and proclaiming the message of salvation. Additionally, it entails actively engaging in alleviating poverty, addressing the needs of the marginalized, and advocating for justice. It means extending love and hospitality to strangers, embodying Christ’s teachings of inclusivity and value. Above all, “word and deed” living recognizes the inherent dignity of every person, reflecting God’s image in our interactions, actions, and efforts to uplift and empower others.

Summary

The comprehensive nature of the gospel goes beyond personal salvation, encompassing redemption, restoration, and freedom from injustice. Gen Z’s prioritization of ending racism, reducing climate change, social equality, and alleviating poverty aligns with the biblical principles of dignity, love, and value.

Genesis 1:26 establishes the inherent worth and dignity of all people as being created in the image and likeness of God, transcending divisions such as race or gender. Gen Z’s pursuit of justice and equality reflects the recognition of immeasurable worth within every individual and compels us to work towards a more just society.

Living out a “word and deed” life involves gospel-evangelism, social justice, and compassion. It means sharing the message of salvation while actively engaging in addressing poverty, advocating for the marginalized, and promoting inclusivity. Such an approach recognizes the inherent dignity of every person, reflecting God’s image through our actions and efforts to uplift others.


[1] “Gen Z and Gen Alpha Infographic Update,”https://mccrindle.com.au/article/topic/generation-z/gen-z-and-gen-alpha-infographic-update/

Picking Seeds & Methods of Cross-Contextualization

In the book of Acts, Luke records Paul speaking to the Athenians, “Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers … said, ‘What does this babbler wish to say?’ ‘He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities’—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 17:18). The Greek word translated as babbler means “seed picker.” The philosophers assumed that Paul was creating a new religion by picking up pieces of various deities. However, all good missionaries (and church planters) understand how to “seed pick” cultural norms, values, and behaviors for cross-contextualization.

Recently, a social media meme said, “You cannot reason and rationalize a person from a faith that they never reasoned or rationalized themselves into.” I’m not sure who the individual was that devised the statement. However, while everyone should know that memes are not exactly the best forms of truthfulness, they sometimes contain a portion of the truth. I perceive that the originator of the social media meme had apologetics in mind when crafting their statement. While there are similarities between apologetics and contextualization, we’ll focus on the latter.

            Contextualization principles are visible throughout the Scriptures. In the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, it is recorded that the elders stood and “read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Neh. 8:8, emphasis added). The concept(s) of providing people with the ability to understand is essential to everyone’s daily conversations. We strive to ensure that we are understood.

            For decades, missionaries have learned and applied the art of cross-contextualization. By employing specific techniques for understanding people groups, cross-contextualization helps a missionary or church planter relate and listen to a culture (hence, picking up seeds). A proverbial bridge to the gospel can be constructed by comprehending the culture’s sufferings, pains, and idolatries. Finally, contextualizing the gospel in a way people can understand is vital. 

My desire in this article is to convey three essential principles of cross-contextualization. The objective is to provide practical insight and applications for reaching the unreached. The diagram below will be the basis of the three methods.

The Gateway

Michael Goheen rightly notes, “Contextualization will always be either ‘true’ if it is faithful or ‘false’ if it is not.”[1]The biblical writers expressed the sinfulness of man, the need for redemptive salvation and restoration, along with God’s longsuffering, mercy, and steadfast love (2 Pet. 3:9). God’s longsuffering love for His creation is displayed in His words, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people … I know their sufferings” (Exo. 3:7). All people are created in the image of God, yet sin has distorted that image. 

When viewing cultures, it is, therefore, essential to see them through the lens of Scripture—through an objective truth. We become conscious of the suffering of culture due to innate sin.[2] Missionaries and church planters understand the plight and suffering of cultures because they first comprehend the suffering of Christ’s flight into Egypt as a newborn, no home for his head as a missionary, or His expression of Divine love with healing the diseased, marginalized, and broken-hearted. 

The writer of Hebrews asserts: 

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering (Heb 2:9–10) 

Thus, the gateway element begins with a view of culture seen through the lens of the biblical metanarrative. Consequently, at the forefront of the missionary mindset should exist a unique amalgamated trichotomy of human suffering due to sin, Christ’s suffering for sin, and man’s redemption and salvation through Jesus Christ.[3] For cross-contextualization, a truthful view of the gateway provides a potential path.

The Bridge

Bridges are utilized to conjoin two separate entities. Likewise, building a contextualized bridge unites people but ultimately prepares a path of communication. Sometimes, good “exegetes” of culture utilize linguistics, demographics, sensory perception, or history to discern a diverse culture in order to build a bridge. Listening and observation are practical tools.

In Athens, Paul emphasizes, “I passed along and observed the objects of your worship” (Acts 17:23). The bridging stage is a discernment and internalization of viewing and dialoguing with the culture. For the bridge, the questions that need to be asked are: (1) Is there something the people cannot do without? (2) What do they love the most? (3) What do they worship? 

The answers to the questions supply an internalization and discernment of the culture’s pains, sufferings, idolatries, and relationship with God or gods. Goheen asserts that within missionary observations, there should be the overall assumption of human brokenness because “the gospel will always be expressed in and therefore encounter a cultural story that is incompatible with it.”[4] The bridge seeks to connect the culture’s brokenness to Christ’s wholeness.

Connection

Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost verify, “To contextualize is to understand the language, longings, lifestyle patterns, and worldview of the host community and to adjust our practices accordingly without compromising the gospel”[5] Thus, contextualization is not a static process. Still, a dynamic one—it necessitates Holy Spirit illumination. For the most part, Holy Spirit-inspired contextualization relates to the missionary’s ability to receive particular wisdom concerning the Bible’s authorial texts, ascertain the text’s meaning, and then apply the appropriate meaning to the given situation.[6] As the Holy Spirit utilized the apostles, we “can learn from the ways that [they] appropriated concepts and images from their world in order to shape audiences.”[7] While this may seem like seed picking, it is intentional thought in order to communicate the gospel effectively.

For Paul in Athens, he reasons daily with the Epicureans and Stoics in the marketplace (Acts 17:17). He quotes a Greek philosopher and a poet during his contextualization. Subsequently, He utilizes general revelation (which he often does, cf. Acts 14:15-17). For Paul in Athens (and Lystra), he chooses to contextualize the God of heaven and earth by utilizing general revelation. General revelation refers to the understanding that God has provided humanity with a valid, rational, objective revelation of Himself to humanity through nature, history, and human personality; man does not need to observe, believe, or understand general revelation for it to be real.[8]

Hence, the missionary’s ability to link together the host culture’s story with the biblical  metanarrative isn’t merely that God created the heavens and earth, but that all things have been created through and for Christ (Rom. 11:36). General revelation expresses that God has always revealed Himself to humanity,[9] while special revelation relates to “God’s manifestation of Himself to particular persons at definite times and places, enabling those persons to enter into a redemptive relationship with him.”[10]

Nevertheless, the components of effective cross-contextualization possess three succinct categories (1) the gateway, (2) the bridge, and (3) the connection. All three of these components can find common ground in the incarnational redemption story of Christ. Contextualization is a process of understanding, discernment, and proclamation.


[1] Michael Goheen, The Church and Its Vocation, 142.

[2] Matthew Fretwell, Multiplying Jesus: Missionary Preparedness (Dubuque: Kendall Hunt, 2022), 101.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Goheen, The Church and Its Vocation, 140.

[5] Michael Frost, and Alan Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013), 85.

[6] David J. Hesselgrave, and Edward Rommen, Contextualization: Meanings, Methods, and Models (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 236.

[7] Flemming, Contextualization in the New Testament, 298.

[8] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 194.

[9] Fretwell, Multiplying Jesus, 106.

[10] Erickson, “The Definition and Necessity of Special Revelation” in Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 201.