Misunderstandings about the Gospel and its relation to human culture promote all kinds of extremes.  

On one hand those who believe the Gospel is disconnected from culture, tend to present it without much concern of contextualization. They transmit academic messages to simple people, build temples of cement for clay cultures, export piano songs to drum players and encourage shinny shoes in the place of bare feet. 

Others, who see the Gospel merely as an expression of the human culture, normally put emphasis on its social effect and don’t expect spiritual transformation. They proclaim a message that doesn’t confront, challenge or change anyone. In these days of growing pluralism and deep relativism, the temptation to proclaim purely a humanistic and comforting message is probably one of the main challenges, both to local churches and missionary fields.  

Lausanne’s Covenant says that “Culture must always be tested and judged by Scripture. Because men and women are God's creatures, some of their culture is rich in beauty and goodness. Because they are fallen, all of it is tainted with sin and some of it is demonic”. Any attempt to communicate the Gospel should combine affirmation and confrontation. Affirmation – recognizing God’s presence, love and signs in His creation; and also confrontation – men is broken, sinful, lost and in need of salvation through Jesus.  

I believe that there are six key functions of the Gospel in relation to culture. The Gospel is Supracultural - it contains the complete truth about men and their society, revealed in the Scriptures (2 Tm 3.16); Multicultural - it brings people from all nations around Jesus (Rev 5.9); Crosscultural - it should be sent from one culture to another (Act 1.8); Cultural - it is revealed throughout the history of humankind (Jo 1.14); Intercultural - it promotes dialogue and understanding between different languages and cultures (Cl 3.11); Contracultural - it confronts people in their own culture, producing real, personal and eternal transformation (Act 26.18).  

I sense that there are three main dangers in the relationship of the Gospel and culture. The political danger takes place when the cultural clothing of Christianity – instead of Christ – is presented. The center is the church and not Jesus; the expectation is to follow tradition, not being transformed; the aim is the expansion of a religious empire, not God’s Kingdom. In a purely political presentation of the Gospel the external aspects of the church (like architecture, meeting times, service style and leadership preferences) become the center of the message proposing a simple empty religiosity with very little significance.   

The second danger – pragmatic – links the Gospel mainly with visible and measurable results. In this approach “what works” – and not what is biblical – becomes the mission defining point. Pragmatism may take us to the extreme of valuing the method more than the content, the goal more than the Gospel. The outcome may be great visible results, however spiritually shallow.  

The third danger is sociological as it presents the Gospel merely as a solution for human necessities in a humanistic, and not theological, approach. In a sociological perspective the Gospel is a message addressed to people’s needs and not to people; promotes adhesion, not transformation; bring happiness, not holiness.   

The Gospel calls us to be humble, but bold; kind, but intentional; presenting the grace and also the justice of God. Let us share the Gospel as centred in the person and work of Christ, the fullest revelation of God to all men in all times, trusting it will bring light into darkness and deeply transformation to those who truly believe in Him! 

Ronaldo Lidorio