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Spurgeon on Contextualization, from The Soul-Winner, chapter 13, “Soul Saving Our One Business”:

Paul went to his work always with an intense sympathy for those he dealt with, a sympathy which made him adapt himself to each ease.  If he talked to a Jew, he did not begin at once blurting out that he was the apostle of the Gentiles, but he said he was a Jew, as Jew he was.  He raised no questions about nationalities or ceremonies.  He wanted to tell the Jew of Him of whom Isaiah said, “He is despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” in order that he might believe in Jesus and so be saved.  If he met a Gentile, the apostle of the Gentiles never showed any of the squeamishness which might have been expected to cling to him on account of his Jewish education.  He ate as the Gentiles ate, and drank as he did, sat with him, and talked with him; was, as it were, a Gentile with him; never raising any question about circumcision or uncircumcision, but solely wishing to tell him of Christ, who came into the world to save both Jew and Gentile, and to make them one.  If Paul met with a Scythian, he spoke to him in the Barbarian tongue, and not in classic Greek.  If he met a Greek, he spoke to him as he did at the Areopagus, with language that was fitted for a polished Athenian.  He was all things to all men, that he might by all means save some.

So let it be with you, Christian people; your one business in life is to lead men to believe in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, and every other thing should be made subservient to this one object; if you can but get them saved, everything else will come right in due time.  Mr. Hudson Taylor, a dear man of God, who has laboured much in Inland China, finds it helpful to dress as a Chinaman, and wear a pigtail.  He always mingles with the people, and as far as possible lives as they do.  This seems to me to be a truly wise policy.  I can understand that we shall win upon a congregation of Chinese by becoming as Chinese as possible; and if this be the case, we are bound to be Chinese to the Chinese to save the Chinese.  It would not be amiss to become a Zulu to save the Zulus, thought we must mind that we do it in another sense than Colenso did.  If we can put ourselves on a level with those whose good we seek, we shall be more likely to effect our purpose than if we remain aliens and foreigners, and then talk of love and unity.  To sink myself to save others is the idea of the apostle.  To throw overboard all peculiarities, and yield a thousand indifferent points, in order to bring men to Jesus, is our wisdom if we would extend our Master’s kingdom. Never may any whim or conventionality of ours keep a soul from considering the gospel, -that were horrible indeed.  Better far to be personally inconvenienced by compliance with things indifferent, than to retard a sinner’s coming by quarreling about trifles.

Spurgeon on Over-Contextualization, from The Soul Winner, chapter 14, “Instruction in Soul Winning”:

[The fishermen whom Jesus called to follow him] were to leave their pursuits, they were to leave their companions; they were, in fact, to quit the world, that their one business might be, in their Master’s name, to be fishers of men.  We are not called to leave our daily business, or to quit our families. . . .  We are called most distinctly to come out from among the ungodly, and to be separate, and not to touch the unclean thing.  We cannot be fishers of men if we remain among men in the same element with them.  Fish will not be fishers.  The sinner will not convert the sinner.  The ungodly man will not convert the ungodly man; and, what is more to the point, the worldly Christian will not convert the world.  If you are of the world, no doubt the world will love its own; but you cannot save the world.  If you are dark, and belong to the kingdom of darkness, you cannot remove the darkness.  If you march with the armies of the wicked one, you cannot defeat them.  I believe that one reason why the Church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the Church.  Nowadays, we hear Noncomformists pleading that they may do this, and they may do that, -things which their Puritan forefathers would rather have died at the stake than have tolerated.  They plead that they may live like worldlings, and my sad answer to them, when they crave for this liberty, is, “Do it if you dare.  It may not do you much hurt, for you are so bad already.  Your cravings show how rotten your hearts are.  If you have a hungering after such dog’s meat, go, dogs, and eat the garbage!  Worldly amusements are fit food for mere pretenders and hypocrites.  If you were God’s children, you would loathe the very thought of the world’s evil joys, and your question would not be, “How far may we be like the world?’ but your one cry would be, “How far can we get away from the world?  How much can we come out of it?”  Your temptation would be rather to become sternly severe, and ultra-Puritanical in your separation from sin, in such a time as this, than to ask, “How can I make myself like other men, and act as they do?”

Categories : Church, Commentary, Missions

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