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November 17, 2016

Contextualizing “Personal Jerusalems”

By Daniel Im

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Contextualizing “Personal Jerusalems”

One of the keys to effective ministry today, according to Tim Keller, is the need and ability to contextualize properly.[1] The reality is, throughout church history as the gospel spread from Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of the world, the church has been faced with the challenge of contextualization. And at the most basic and fundamental level, contextualization begins in everyone’s Jerusalem.

Now, before I move any further, it would help to define contextualization. David Hesselgrave and Edward Rommen in their book, Contextualization, provide a helpful definition and description of contextualization. They write,

…Christian contextualization can be thought of as the attempt to communicate the message of the person, works, Word, and will of God in a way that is faithful to God’s revelation, especially as it is put forth in the teachings of Holy Scripture, and that is meaningful to respondents in their respective cultural and existential contexts. Contextualization is both verbal and nonverbal and has to do with theologizing; Bible translation, interpretation, and application; incarnational lifestyle; evangelism; Christian instruction; church planting and growth; church organization; worship style—indeed with all of those activities involved in carrying out the Great Commission. (Contextualization, 200).

In short, based upon the above definition and description, the ability to contextualize the gospel properly (and relevantly) through word and deed, as well as through the structures that facilitate ministry and mission greatly affects the effectiveness of a church advancing the mission of God in a specific locale.

Recently, I conversed with Brian Sanders, Founder and Executive Director of Tampa Underground Network, about how he leads his network to properly, relevantly, and effectively contextualize in an effort to advance the mission of God in Tampa. Brian shared that his strategy of contextualization begins by taking leaders through an Opportunity Analysis. The main objective of the Opportunity Analysis is to help people discover “what” God has called them to and then to help them discern “where” God is calling them to do it.

As he walked me through the analysis there were four elements that aids the leader in discovering and discerning the “what” and “where” of God’s call.

  1. Indigenous. This element answers the question, “Who am I?” This element and question takes into account a person’s entire metanarrative—including their story, culture, and worldview.
  2. Context. This element answers the question, “Where do I come from?” This element and question looks more specifically at a person’s background and the place where God rescued them.

Click here for the full video and post to read the final two elements of Brian’s Opportunity Analysis that aids contextualization.

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  • One of the keys to effective ministry today is the need and ability to contextualize properly. @timkellernyc
  • At the most basic and fundamental level, contextualization begins in everyone’s Jerusalem.
  • The ability to contextualize the gospel properly greatly affects the effectiveness of advancing the mission of God in a specific locale.
  • Contextualization begins by helping people discover the “what” of God’s call and discern the “where” of God’s call—Brian Sanders.
  • Contextualization helps believers understand how God can send them back to the very context in which He saved them.

Additional Resources:


Daniel Im

Daniel Im (@danielsangi) is the Director of Church Multiplication for NewChurches.com at LifeWay Christian Resources. He is a Teaching Pastor at The Fellowship, a multisite church in Nashville. He is the author of No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts that will Transform Your Ministry, and co-author of Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply (2nd ed) with Ed Stetzer. He also co-hosts the New Churches Q&A Podcast, the 5 Leadership Questions Podcast, and a brand new podcast with his wife on marriage and parenting called the IMbetween Podcast. He has an M.A. in Global Leadership and has served and pastored in church plants and multisite churches ranging from 100 people to 50,000 people in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Korea, Edmonton, and Nashville. Visit Danielim.com to learn more.


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