DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Keep It 100!

Written by: on January 26, 2017

“Keeping it 100!” has become a very modern day phrase. It means keep it honest and speak the truth. In our society today there is a need and a longing for the Truth. As I read the article and reading for this week, I felt as though I was connected with my own personal narrative. Although I am not a missionary nor do I have an indepth understanding of Missiology, I am choosing to share my experience. When the discussion arises about Missiology they tend to also involve Contextualization. How do we connect and reach others within their cultural, socio-economic, context etc.  In reading, Stephen Bevans, he outlines six models that can be presented in contextual theology. The six models are anthropological, translation, praxis, synthetic, semiotic, and transcendental.[1] Each of these models provides a way in which the gospel can be relevant within a specific context. Although they are not meant to be taken literally in their approach, it is meant to be a framework that can be studied, understood and applied. From a macro perspective there are 3 dimensions that are the basis for contextual theology. I will summarize those as individual and/or group personal life experience, culture and societal status. How we experience and understand God can be realized within those three dimensions. What is the intended result to understanding our world theologically in this manner? Steven Gardner asserts that “the result is a theology that needs to remain faithful to the full experience and contexts of the past, while at the same time taking into account the experiences of the present, because “God is present and acts contextually.””[2] So what does it mean to be contextual in theology? “Contextual theology enables us to make sense of God and ourselves in and through the world in which we find ourselves embedded, in a particular time and place.” [3] When reading and processing each of the models, it is apparent to me that the work we are called too can crossover many of the models or progressed through many of them as we continue to live out our faith and minister. It may not be nice and neat in how we engage with the culture we are called to. I would agree with  Leslie Newbigin  “All theology is inherently contextual, in that it has been shaped by the historical, social and cultural contexts of the individuals and communities doing theology.”[4]

In connecting with my own personal cross cultural experience, I recall the missions trip I went too in Mexico. I was a teenager and my youth group along our youth pastors and other adults were coming along with us. It was multiple churches in the area going. We were the only multi-cultural church invited. The objective was to be advocates and support to pastors children in Mexico. We had meetings and training as to how we would accomplish this goal. Most of us were just excited to attend. We were elated going into another country and feeling as though we were going to encourage them in their faith. When we arrive we are taken back by the fact that they worshiped God in a new way but it was similar and exciting. Even though we were coming from an American African American Pentecostal context, we were wore out by their worship service. They spent hours jumping and running around praising God on the first night literally only saying “Gloria A Dios”. It only got better. What we thought were differences we were able to connect on. I will never forget the skit they made us learn. It had no words and only an instrumental. They received it well. But one thing I learn was that we related on a different level. As pastors kids we had a connection. we spent every night that week just talking about our lives. All of us young people understood each others plight and formed a deep connection. My father spoke one night and it was so powerful. He talked about his father issues. It was insightful and very transformative for me watching my father be so vulnerable and transparent. However, I was more amazed about watching all of the young people going to the alter and nailing their “issues” on the cross. For us young people, we all realized that some of the issues we face in life are universal. Despite our language barriers or cultural differences, we have hurt, pain, grief and life struggles. Looking at the dimensions of how contextual theology is framed, personal experiences play a huge role in how we experience God and engage with one another. After that night, all of us felt a deeper connection with one another. What transpired on a spiritual level translated in a relational way on a personal level. In that moment I realized that what had occurred was beyond my expectation of this trip. This was something unique yet something I genuinely had hoped for. As a young woman, I was able begin to understand how to relate to  another cultural group within their context. It wasn’t about our agenda and our mission. It was about establishing a relationship. Connecting through personal experience, or life experiences. Relating through cultural understanding and surrendering my  privilege to remove any barriers that would inhibit us from having an authentic connection.


[1] Stephen Bevans, “Our Reviewers,” Missiology: An International Review 8, no. 2 (April 1985): , doi:10.1177/009182968501300408.[2] Stephen Garner, “Contextual and Public Theology: Passing Fads or Theological Imperatives?” Stimulus: The New Zealand Journal of Christian Thought and Practice 22, no. 1 (2015): 23.
[3]Ibid, 21.

[4] Ibid, 23.

About the Author

Christal Jenkins Tanks

5 responses to “Keep It 100!”

  1. Mary Walker says:

    “For us young people, we all realized that some of the issues we face in life are universal. ”
    Christal this is really beautiful. Your posts always seem to get at the heart of something and this is no exception.
    I enjoyed the book but have only been thinking about comparing and contrasting the six frameworks. How do we take all of that and really make it work?
    I thought I fit in with the countercultural model best, but now I realize there is something a little bit negative about it. “Suspicious” of culture? I did not like that word. I couldn’t put my finger on why. Now you have helped me to see it.
    People are really alike. Yes, we have problems, that are the same. But every one of us is also made in the image of God and wants to be creative, loved, and needed. I need this balance to my cynicism.

  2. mm Katy Lines says:

    “As I read the article and reading for this week, I felt as though I was connected with my own personal narrative.”
    Christal, you are in a position that very few of the rest of us are: the business world. You have the opportunity to speak, share and live the good news in ways that your peers and co-workers would understand. That is a context whose language you speak, whose people you understand– their fears, burdens. What would be “good news” for them? What part of Jesus’ coming/living/dying/rising would speak good news & joy to them? That is something you bring into the discussion that the rest of us cannot. But that’s contextualizing the gospel for your context.

  3. Sounds like a powerful mission trip you had! I have always wondered, who gets blessed more, the ones on the mission or the ones you are ministering too? I liked your example of how you connected to youth in another country even though they worshipped differently, you found their problems were similar to yours’. Powerful last line- removing any barriers that would create an authentic connection. Sigh…isn’t that what we are all truly longing for? Great reminder.

  4. Christal,
    Your experience in visiting another culture should give one a perspective of inclusion. If you have a spirit of compassion, you want to learn who they are and understand their culture. You also want to experience their culture by participating in some of their activities. From these experiences, you are equipped to speak and share with them and others the Word of God to their understanding.
    When I traveled to Ghana it was a wonderful experience to see, learn and understand the culture. I was even able to relate some of my childhood experiences to their culture.

  5. Thank you Christal! Your post highlights the importance of cross-cultural contact. My world has been rocked every time I have encountered another culture, especially in worship. I love that you point out the commonalities you encountered despite your differences. I think that is a key point to contextual theology. We look for the places of commonality to build relationships. In relationship, we naturally learn ways to talk to each other about the important things of life in ways we can both understand. It’s what happens when we put relationship first.

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