Contextualization: The Theory, the Gap, the Challenge

DarrelI L. Whiteman


Contextualization may be one of the mast important issues in mission today. Unlike the “Death of God” movement in theology, contextualization is no mere missiological fad that will fade when another “hot topic” catches our attention.  Concern over issues of contextualization has been a part of the Christian church from its inception, even though the vocabulary of contextualization dates back only to the early 1970s. It is a perennial challenge—one that Christians have faced every time they have communicated the Gospel across language and cultural boundaries. The church has struggled with this problem through the ages as it has evolved from one era to another.  Essentially, contextualization is concerned with how the Gospel and culture relate to one another across geographic space and down through time.

Contextualization captures in method and perspective the challenge of relating the Gospel to culture. In this sense the concern of contextualization is ancient—going back to the early church as it struggled to break loose from its Jewish cultural trappings and enter the Greco-Roman world of the Gentiles. At the same time, it is something new. Ever since the word emerged in the 1970s, there has been almost an explosion of writing, thinking, and talking about contextualization.[1]

Contextualization is part of an evolving stream of thought that relates the Gospel and church to a local context. In the past we have used words such as “adaptation,” “accommodation,” and “indigenization” to describe this relationship between Gospel, church, and culture, but “contextualization,” introduced in 1971,and a companion term “inculturation” that emerged in the literature in 1974, are deeper, more dynamic, and more adequate terms to describe what we are about in mission today.[2] So I believe we are making some progress in our understanding of the relationship between Gospel, church, and culture, but we have a long way to go in everyday practice.

Contextualization is not something we pursue motivated by an agenda of pragmatic efficiency.[3] Rather, it must be followed because of our faithfulness to God, who sent God’s son as a servant to die so that we all may live. As Peter Schineller says, “We have the obligation to search continually for ways in which the good news can be more deeply lived, celebrated and shared.”[4]

In this essay I will discuss three functions of contextualization in mission today. I will then look at the gap that exists between the theory and the practice of contextualization, and then I will discuss two areas of resistance to contextualization.

Last year one of our students at Asbury Seminary, studying with us from Thailand, said to me, “Now that I have been studying contextualization and have discovered how the Gospel relates to culture, I am realizing that I can be both Christian and Thai.” On a recent sabbatical in Southeast Asia, I probed the question of how the Gospel was being proclaimed and lived out in a contextualized manner, and, frankly, I was disappointed. In Thailand I heard over and over again, “To be Thai is to be Buddhist.” The notion that one could be both Thai and Christian was an oxymoron to many. My student at Asbury went on to confide, “It always seemed strange to me that after I converted to Christianity out of Buddhism, I became so aggressive and felt forced to turn my back on my Buddhist family and denounce my culture. Now I realize through the insights of contextualization that I can practice a cherished value of meekness, affirm much of my Thai culture, and follow Jesus in the Thai way.” Contextualization was the key that unlocked the door in her understanding that had kept Christianity bound up in a Westernized room. But now, with this new insight, a burst of sunshine has come into her room that affirmed Buddhist teaching on meekness and reinforced her love and respect for her family, while at the same time strengthening her love for God as revealed in Jesus Christ. She is now working on a dissertation entitled “The Way of Meekness: Being Christian and Thai in the Thai Way.”

Three Functions of Contextualization

This story of my Thai student sets the stage for discussing the first function of contextualization in mission. Contextualization attempts to communicate the Gospel in word and deed and to establish the church in ways that make sense to people within their local cultural context, presenting Christianity in such a way that it meets people’s deepest needs and penetrates their worldview, thus allowing them to follow Christ and remain within their own culture.

This function seems at first to be self-evident, but it is clear we have not always done mission in this mode. Why, then, this sudden burst of energy and excitement, at least in the academy, about this notion of contextualization? I believe the answer lies partly in the postcolonial discovery that much of our understanding and practice of faith has been shaped by our own culture and context, and yet we often assumed that our culturally conditioned interpretation of the Gospel was the Gospel. We are now beginning to realize that we have often confused the two and have inadvertently equated our culturally conditioned versions of the Gospel with the kingdom of God.

As we have become more critical in a postmodern world, we have discovered how urgent the task of contextualization is everywhere in the world, including—or should I say especially—in North America. An example of contextualization is the Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago, Illinois, which discovered the need to contextualize the Gospel and the church in order to reach a particular subculture of American society in this location.[5]

My concern over why the mission of the church so often required people to abandon their culture is the main reason I trained as an anthropologist in preparation for cross-cultural ministry. I initially expected my research and ministry in Melanesia to help primarily expatriate missionaries figure out the complex and diverse Melanesian cultural context. But it did not take me long to discover that when I talked about contextualization with Melanesians, they became very excited about the possibility of being Christian and Melanesian without first having to become Australian, German, American, or whatever the cultural origin was of the missionaries with whom they identified.

On a furlough assignment I remember sharing with churches in the United States about my mission work in Melanesia and driving home the idea that my work was not to encourage Melanesian Christians to become like Americans but rather to enable Melanesians to become better Melanesians by becoming Christian. This was a brand new idea for many congregations with whom I spoke. I remember the enthusiasm of one elderly parishioner when she asked, “Did you invent this way of missionary work? I’ve never heard anyone talk like this.” “No,” I replied, “I can’t take credit for it. It’s not my invention.” Being a good Methodist, she figured this must have been John Wesley’s invention. And although he was certainly on target, credit for this approach to mission must go back to the early church as it broke free from its Jewish cultural trappings and made the important decision at the Jerusalem Council that one could follow Christ without first becoming culturally a Jew (Acts 15).

Present-day discussions of contextualization are getting us back in touch with this principle, for at nearly every era of the church’s history, Christians have had to relearn this important principle. Contextualization is a fine balancing act between necessary involvement_in the culture, being in the situation, and also maintaining an outside, critical perspective that is also needed. In anthropology, we would call this holding in tension emic and etic perspectives—the insider’s deep understanding with the outsider’s critique.

Good Contextualization Offends

Another function of contextualization in mission is to offend—but only for the right reasons, not the wrong ones. Good contextualization offends people for the right reasons. Bad contextualization, or the lack of it altogether, offends them for the wrong reasons. When the Gospel is presented in word and deed, and the fellowship of believers we call the church is organized along appropriate cultural patterns, then people will more likely be confronted with the offense of the Gospel, exposing their own sinfulness and the tendency toward evil, oppressive structures and behavior patterns within their culture. It could certainly be argued that the genius of the Wesleyan revival in eighteenth-century England was precisely that through preaching, music, and social organization in a society undergoing rapid and significant social and economic change, John and Charles Wesley contextualized Christianity so well that the power of the Gospel transformed personal lives and reformed a nation.[6]

Andrew Walls said it so clearly years ago in contrasting the indigenizing and the pilgrim principles, which we must always strive to hold in balance. He notes:

     Along with the indigenising principle which makes his faith a place to feel at home, the Christian inherits the pilgrim principle, which whispers to him that he has no abiding city and warns him that to be faithful to Christ will put him out of step with his society; for that society never existed, in East or West, ancient time or modern, which could absorb the word of Christ painlessly into its system. Jesus within Jewish culture, Paul within Hellenistic culture, take it for granted that there will be rubs and friction—not from the adoption of a new culture, but from the transformation of the mind towards that of Christ.[7]

Unfortunately, when Christianity is not contextualized or is contextualized poorly, then people are culturally offended, turned off to inquiring more about who Jesus is, or view missionaries and their small band of converts with suspicion as cultural misfits and aliens. When people are offended for the wrong reason, the garment of Christianity gets stamped with the label “Made in America and Proud of It,” and so it is easily dismissed as a “foreign religion” and hence irrelevant to their culture.  When this happens, potential converts never experience the offense of the Gospel because they have first encountered the cultural offense of the missionary or Westernized Christians.

Contextualization need not prohibit the prophetic role in mission as some fear it will. Paul Hiebert’s landmark article “Critical Contextualization” is a wonderful tool for applying this prophetic dimension and critiquing function of contextualization.[8]

A third function of contextualization in mission is to develop contextualized expressions of the Gospel so that the Gospel itself will understood in ways the universal church has neither experienced nor understood before, thus expanding our understanding of the kingdom of God. In this sense contextualization is a form of mission in reverse, where we will learn from other cultures how to be more Christian in our own context.

This is an important function of contextualization in mission because it connects the particular with the universal. The challenge is creating a community that is both Christian and true to its own cultural heritage. Peter Schineller points out in addition that “every local Christian community must maintain its link with other communities in the present around the world, and with communities of the past, through an understanding of Christian tradition.”[9]

      Contextualization forces us to have a more adequate view of God as the God of all persons.

I have experienced this connection many times where two Christians from very different cultures have much more in common than do their respective cultures. This is because the common bond that unites them and bridges the chasm created by language and cultural differences is the Holy Spirit, who knows no boundaries of race, class, gender, or social location.

Encounters with Christians from other cultural context expand our understanding of God, for no longer are we satisfied with our own limited perception and experience. For example, I learned very little about the church functioning as a community and body of believers growing up in the United States, where faith is so privatized and individual. I had to learn this important biblical principle of the community nature of the church from living with Christians in a Melanesian village. Contextualization therefore, forces us to have a wider loyalty that “corresponds to an enlarged and more adequate view of God as the God of all persons, male and female, and as a God who especially hears the cry of the poor. God can no longer simply be the god of myself, my family, my community, my nation; such a god is ultimately an idol or false god, one made according to my narrow and limited image and perspective.”[10]

In this sense the anthropologists are correct—human beings have a tendency to create God in their own image, but we must always counter this observation with the biblical view that God has created all human beings in God’s image. Stretching our understanding of God through contextualization will enable us to gain insights from around the world, which we need to inform each other and certainly the church in North America. From Asia we can learn more about the mystery and transcendence of God; from Oceania we can recover the notion of the body of Christ as community; from Africa we can discover the nature of celebration and the healing power of the church; and from Latin America we are learning about the role of the church in the work for justice.

In his well-known book The Primal Vision (1963), which reflects on his study of the growth of the church in Buganda, John V. Taylor helps us realize the value of learning from and listening to other voices of Christian faith. He notes:

The question is, rather, whether in Buganda, and elsewhere in Africa, the Church will be enabled by God’s grace to discover a new synthesis between a saving Gospel and a total, unbroken unity of society. For there are many who feel that the spiritual sickness of the West, which reveals itself in the divorce of the sacred from the secular, of the cerebral from the instinctive, and in the loneliness and homelessness of individualism, may be healed through a recovery of the wisdom which Africa has not yet thrown away. The world church awaits something new out of Africa. The church in Buganda, and in many other parts of the continent, by obedient response to God’s calling, for all its sinfulness and bewilderment, may yet become the agent through whom the Holy Spirit will teach his people everywhere how to be in Christ without ceasing to be involved in mankind.”[11]

When I think about this function of contextualization in expanding the universal church’s understanding of God, I am reminded of the picture we are given in Revelation 7:9 of people from every ethnolinguistic group surrounding the throne of God, not worshiping God in English, or even English as a second language, but in their own language shaped by their own worldview and culture. We can count on hearing about 6,280 languages. The view we get of the kingdom is a multicultural view, not one of ethnic uniformity. One of the things we admire most about the Gospel is its ability to speak within the worldview of every culture. To me, this feature is the empirical proof of the Gospel’s authenticity.

Perhaps one of the most important functions of contextualization in mission is to remind us that we do not have a privileged position when it comes to understanding and practicing Christianity. It cannot be the exclusive property of any one culture, for it refuses to be culture bound; it continually bursts free from the chains of bondage to cultural tradition. Kosuke Oyama reminded us that there is “no handle” on the cross[12], and Lamin Sanneh has persuasively argued that Christianity demands to be “translated” from one cultural context to another.[13]

The Gap Between Our Talk and Our Practice

Recently I had breakfast with the president of a large Protestant denominational mission board in the United States. In our conversation he said, “I have come to realize that the cutting edge of missiology and our most urgent need in mission today is contextualization. Unless we present the Gospel locally in ways that connect to people’s language, culture, and worldview, we will fail in our efforts at world evangelization.” I nodded my head in hearty agreement, cheered him on, and affirmed his insight. I said that this approach to cross-cultural ministry represented the best thinking in missiology today and was clearly anchored in the biblical model of our Lord in his incarnation. But then this mission executive went on to say, “The problem I face in trying to move our mission toward a more contextualized approach is that I am held accountable to a board of trustees, and they don’t understand anything about contextualization. They are interested only in extending our denomination across the face of the globe, sincerely believing that this is the best way to win the world for Christ.” It was obvious that he was stuck between a theological rock and an ecclesiastical hard place. I urged him to push ahead in leading his mission to become more contextualized in its approach. With confidence, I boldly stated that if his mission chose the contextualization route, in the end they would have more churches planted and connected to their denomination than if they continued in their present noncontextual approach, even though these churches wouldn’t necessarily resemble the same kinds of churches his board of trustee members attended every Sunday.

This conversation illustrates the fact that there still remains an enormous gulf between the models of contextualization that we missiologists discuss and teach in our seminary classes and the practice of contextualized mission by North American and European missionaries, both Protestant and Roman Catholic.  Contextualization and denominational extension are two very different agendas, but if most of us are committed intellectually to the former, we frequently draw our paycheck from the later, and this creates the problem. It must also be noted that this is not just a problem for Western missionaries. For example, Korean missionaries, as well as other non-Western missionaries, have the same struggle of disentangling their culture from their understanding and practice of Christianity.[14]

Another illustration of this tension between contextualization and denominational extension comes from my mission work in Melanesia. I was asked to lead a weeklong workshop on Melanesian culture and religion for Catholic missionaries working in the southern highlands of Papua New Guinea. They were wanting to pioneer a new pastoral approach called Basic Christian Communities. As we know, this concept originated in Latin America, and for this Catholic order it had spread to Tanzania and was now being brought to Papua New Guinea. As an anthropologist, I led them through the process of understanding the social structures, economic patterns, values, and worldviews of Melanesian communities. We had a wonderful week together as we got deeper into understanding things Melanesian. Then we came to the final session. I recalled how we had discussed in great detail the nature of basic Melanesian communities, and I suggested that if they would begin their new pastoral approach in this Melanesian context and let it take on a Melanesian face and be expressed in Melanesian ways, and if they would infuse this Melanesian world with Gospel values, then their pastoral plan, I predicted, would be successful. These basic Christian communities would be both Melanesian and Christian. “But,” I warned them, “if you approach these communities with a prepackaged plan and lay that heavy burden on the shoulders of these Melanesian communities, I fear your approach will fail, because it will not be rooted in Melanesian soil.”

A veteran missioner at the back of the room jumped up and, with anger in his voice, said, ‘Now you have gone too far! We are here first as—(and he named his order), and there are certain distinctive features of our Catholic order on which we must insist. We cannot forfeit those in order to adapt to the Melanesian context.”

My heart sank and my blood pressure rose. After pouring myself out for a week to help them understand how these communities could be both Christian and Melanesian, they still did not get it. They were fearful that contextualization would lead to at best a weak church or at worst to syncretism. In fact, it is just the opposite. When we fail to contextualize, we run a much greater risk of establishing weak churches, whose members will turn to non-Christian syncretistic explanations, follow nonbiblical lifestyles, and engage in magical rituals. This is because a noncontextualized Christianity seldom engages people at the level of their deepest needs and aspirations and so we end up with what Jesuit Jaime Bulatao in the Philippines calls a “split-level” Christianity.[15]

   But the news on the contextualization front is not all bad. In fact, there is a lot of good news. We have made some progress.[16]

Non-contextualized Christianity seldom engages people at the level of their deepest needs.

Where has it been? In worship styles? church social organization and structures? in contextual theology? We can celebrate the incremental progress that has occurred over the past twenty-five years, but there is still a gap—and at times an enormous gap—between our scholarly books and articles on models of contextualization that we write to one another and the actual practice around the world, where in far too many corners of the globe, Christianity is still identified as a Western religion and in where for various reasons people have missed the universal appeal of Jesus.                                                      

   There are notable exceptions, but they tend to occur in places where Western missionaries or Western-trained national church leaders are not in control. In fact, if we look around the world to see what has happened in the past twenty-five years since the terms “contextualization” and “inculturation” came into missiological discussions, we will discover that some of the arguments about contextualization have passed us by as the Christian church’s center of gravity has shifted from the North and West to the South and East.[17]

   A notable exception to this lack of contextualization are some of the African Independent Churches.[18] The documentary film Rise Up and Walk profiles five of these churches, and it knocks the theological and ecclesiastical socks off my students every time I show it. Ecclesiastical hegemony—a carryover from colonial and political domination, and a close cousin of economic domination today—is one of the major obstacles to contextualization. Let me illustrate what I mean.

   A friend of mine in a school that was about to introduce a Ph.D. program in intercultural studies complained that such a program was not needed. His reasoning was that non-Western church leaders who would be attracted to the program would be people who already understood their culture and context. He mused, “What could they possibly learn from a Ph.D. in intercultural studies that they don’t already know because they were born in a non-Western context? What they really need,” he argued, “is a Ph.D. in systematic theology and biblical studies so that they can return to their countries and teach and preach the truth”—which to him meant his particular denominational theological system.

 Little does my systematic theologian colleague realize that until non-Western Christians learn how to exegete their own cultural context as well as they exegete the biblical text, no number of Ph.D. students trained in standard Western theological and biblical studies will automatically enable and encourage church leaders to plant and grow indigenous, contextualized, churches.

Points of Resistance

What are the points of resistance to contextualization? I limit my discussion to two primary sources. One source of resistance comes from the mission-sending organizations themselves. I have often observed the enthusiasm with which missionary candidates train for cross-cultural ministry. It is thrilling to see them acquire skills to begin distinguishing the universalizing Gospel from their parochial culture. They come to realize the value of their cross-cultural training and the need to express the Gospel in ways that are appropriate to the local context of their host’s society. But then they arrive in their host country and are sometimes surprised, and certainly disappointed, when they discover that their mission organization is very intent on reproducing the church “over there” to look like the church back home. I have observed that this problem occurs equally with independent “faith missions,” denominational mission boards, and Catholic mission orders. In other words, we are all guilty.

The first point of resistance to contextualization often comes from mission executives and denominational leaders, who frequently do not think missiologically about these issues. They nevertheless hold positions of power and influence that shape the patterns of mission work.

The second source of resistance to contextualization, and sometimes the dominant one, comes from the leaders of the very churches the missions created several generations previously. This resistance can certainly catch new missionaries by surprise. They wonder, “Why would these people be so hesitant and cautious about connecting the Gospel to their own context in ways that are both relevant and challenging?” I believe the primary cause is that as non-Western Christians have learned a non-contextualized Christianity from their missionary teachers and have adopted it at a formal, behavioral level, it still has not yet penetrated the deeper levels of their worldview. It has not connected with their social structure or addressed the critical questions arising from their political and economic situations. When this happens, after several generations it is not unusual for the church to be plagued with nominalism. But there is security in familiar ways of doing things, and so any newfangled talk about contextualization can be both frightening and threatening, especially to those persons who are in positions of power.

I believe the only way through this maze is to discover the tools and perspectives of contextualization and then have the courage to implement them. We must work at closing the gap between our discussions about contextualization, the training of cross-cultural witnesses and church leaders, and their actual practice of contextualization around the world.

Why, for example, does Christianity continue to be viewed as a foreign religion in much of Asia and Southeast Asia? The answer? Because frequently that is how it is practiced. For example, in China before 1949 there were about 10,000 missionaries and 1.5 million Christians. A common phrase at the time was, “One more Christian, one less Chinese,” or “Gain a convert, lose a citizen.” A common, if not implicit, perception for both missionaries and Chinese was that one could not follow Christ without becoming Westernized in the process. This is the old Judaizer problem in a new guise. Then Mao Tse-tung came to power, and the Western missionaries were forced to leave China.  And many thought the church would now die without their presence. But it didn’t. In fact it has flourished, with a rough estimate of 30-40 million Christians today. Now what is the missiological lesson to be learned here? Kick out the missionaries and the church grows? Perhaps, but I do not think so.

The lesson to be learned is that the Chinese discovered that the Gospel could be contextualized in their own contemporary Chinese experience, as oppressive as it often was. They discovered that they could follow Jesus and remain Chinese. In other words, they discovered the important principle hammered out in the Jerusalem Council as recorded in Acts 15. Gentiles did not have to become Jews culturally in order to follow Christ. And Chinese do not have to become Westernized, acquiring white, middle-class values to be Christian. One of the most precious items out of China that I have held in my hands is a two-inch-thick Chinese hymnal printed on thin rice paper, containing 1,000 hymns—all created during the turbulent period following 1949. It is a beautiful symbol and vivid reminder of the importance and fruit of contextualization.


Although we can see the obvious need for contextualization, the actual practice of it is not easy. Blinded by our own ethnocentrism and ecclesiastical hegemony, we find it is very difficult to cultivate the art of listening and learning from those different from ourselves. But in a spirit of humility this is a fundamental requirement for contextualization.

The challenge that contextualization brings to us is, How do we carry out the Great Commission and live out the Great Commandment in a world of cultural diversity with a Gospel that is both truly Christian in content and culturally significant in form?

The function of contextualization in mission leaves us with three challenges:

1.      Contextualization changes and transforms the context— this is the prophetic challenge.

2.      Contextualization expands our understanding of the Gospel because we now see the Gospel through a different cultural lens—this is the hermeneutic challenge.

3.      Contextualization changes the missionaries because they will not be the same once they have become part of the body of Christ in a context different from their own—this is the personal challenge.

In our discussion and practice of contextualization, we must take our cues from the incarnation. In the same wav that Jesus emptied himself and dwelt among us, we must be willing to do likewise as we enter another culture with the Gospel. The incarnation is our model for contextualization, for as J. D. Gordon once said, “Jesus is God spelled out in language human beings can understand”—I would add, “in every culture, in every context.”


[1] See, for example, Charles R. Taber, “Contextualization,” in Exploring Church Growth, ed. Wilbert R. Shenk (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), pp. 117-31; Harvie M. Conn, “Contextualization: Where Do We Begin?” in Evangelism and Liveration, ed. Carl Armerding (Nutley, N.J.: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1977); Dean S. Gilliland, ed., The Word Among Us: Contextualizing Theology for Mission Today (Dallas: Word Publising, 1989); Robert J. Schreiter, Constructing Local Theologies (Mayknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1985); Stephen B. Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1992); Justin S. Ukpong, “What Is Contextualization?” Neue Zeitschrift furMissionswissenschaft 43, no.3 (1987):161-68, and “Contextualization: A Historical Survey,” African Ecclesial Review 29, no. 5 (October 1987): 278-86.  For a conservative evangelical perspective, see Bruce C. E. Fleming, Contextualization of Theology: An Evangelical Assessment (Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library, 1980); David J. Hesselgrave and Edward Rommen, Contextualization: Meanings, Methods, and Models (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989).

[2] The term “inculturation” first appeared in Roman Catholic circles in item 12 in the Final Statement of the First Plenary Assembly of the Fedeation of Asian Bishops’ Conference (Taipei, April 22-27,1974), where the Asian bishops noted, “The local church is a church incarnate in a people, a church indigenous and inculturated” (His Gospel to Our Peoples, vol. 2 [Manila: Cardinal Bea Institute, 1976],p.332). The Society of Jesus at their Thirty-Second General Congregation in late 1974 to early 1975 focused on fostering the task of the inculturation of Christianity. For a history of the term, see Gerald A. Arbuckle, “Inculturation and Evangelisation: Realism or Romanticism?” in Missionaries, Anthropologists, and Cultural Change, ed. Darrell L. Whiteman, Studies in Third World Societies No. 25 (1985), pp. 171-214; Ary A. Roest-Crollius, S.J., “What Is New About Inculturation?” Gregorianum 59, no. 4 (1978): 721-38, and also his article on inculturation in Dizionario di missiologia (Bologna: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1993), pp. 281-86. See also Peter Schineller, S.J., A Handbook on Inculturation (New Youk: Paulist Press, 1990). The fullest treatment of the term to date is Aylward Shorter, Toward a Theology of Inculturation (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1992).

[3] For a discussion of contextualization as a method in contrast to church growth strategy, see Taber, “Contextualization.”

[4] Schineller, Handbook on Inculturation, p. 3.

[5] See George Hunter’s discussion of the Willow Creek Community Church in Church for the Unchurched (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996).

[6] See J. Wesley Bready’s classic study England: Before and After Wesley; the Evangelical Revival and Social Reform (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1938). Cf. Leon O. Hynson, To Reform the Nation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Francis Asbury Press, 1984).

[7] Andrew Walls, “The Gospel as the Prisoner and Liberator of Culture,” Missionalia 10, no. 3 (November 1982): 98-99.

[8] Paul Hiebert, “Critical Contextualization,” Internation Bulletin of Missionary Research 11, no. 3 (July 1987): 104-12.

[9] Schineller, Handbook on Inculturation, p. 72.

[10] Ibid., p. 116.

[11] John V. Taylor, The Primal Vision: Christian Presence amid African Religion (London: SCM Press, 1963), p. 108.

[12] Kosuke Koyama, No Handle on the Cross (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1977).

[13] Lamin Sanneh, Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1989).

[14] Two recent doctoral dissertations attempt to close the gap between theory and practive. See Tereso C. Casino, “The Text in Context: An Evangelical Approach to the Foundations of Contextualization” (Ph.D.diss., Asia Center for Theological Studies and Mission, Seoul, 1996); Hyun Mo Lee, “A Missiological Appraisal of the Korean Church in Light of Theological Contextualization” (Ph.D.diss., South-western Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Tex., 1992).

[15] Jaime Bulatao, S.J., Split-Level Christianity (Manila: Ateneo de Manila Univ., 1966).

[16] Discussion of inculturation (contextualization) at the grassroots level in South Africa has been the subject of articles and letters in Challenge: Church and People, published by Contextual Publications, Johannesburg. See no. 26 (November 1994), no.28 (February/March 1995), no.30(June/July 1995), no.32(October/November 1995), and no. 34 (February/March 1996). A very practical guide to contextualization (inculturation) is Gerald A. Arbuckle, Earthing the Gospel: An Inculturation Handbook for Pastoral Workers (London: Geoffrey Chapman; Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1990).  See also Schineller, Handbook on Inculturation.

[17] See, for example, Walbert Buehlmann, The Coming of the Third Church (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1978).

[18] See David B. Barrett, Schism and Renewal in Africa (Nairobi: Oxford Univ. Press, 1968); Harold Turner, History of an African Independent Church: Church of the Lord (Aladura), 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), and Bibliography of New Religious Movements in Primal Societies: Vol. 1, Black Africa (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1977); M. L. Daneel, Old and New in Southern Shona Independent Churches, 3 vols. (vols. 1-2, The Hague: Mouton, 1971-74; vol. 3, Gweru, Zimbabwe: Mambo Press, 1988).