How much does your church resemble the community around it?
Contextuality is a hot issue. Pyromaniacs have posted a lot on engaging the culture over the past year. Emerging church folk have popped up on the other side to defend it. Even I had some response to John McArthur’s “Contextualization is a curse” rant. More importantly, there is some discussion in the Lausanne scene about the relevance of John Travis’s contextualization scale C1-C6.
There is a underlying suspicion that contextualization leads to syncretism, C1 somehow being morally neutral and each step forward up the scale being a little more daring and dodgy which finally, unless stopped by well-meaning people, ends up at a C6 which everyone knows is a negative and compromising stance. Cody Lorance has responded with an argument that the inherent negative connotation between contextualization and syncretism is not helpful.
There are other problems I see. The scale assumes there is a single culture and a single kind of Christian gathering or approach. This may have been somewhat true back in 1988 when John Travis created the scale but less so now with so many different models of church working in complex environments.
Another bad habit that needs to be addressed:
Contextuality and the Travis scale automatically points our attention to the fields out there somewhere but very rarely do we apply it to our home situation. It is assumed the churches in our sending countries are somehow perfectly adjusted contextually to our societies and the only time we need to pull out the Travis C1-C6 scale is when we go overseas.
The first church I pastored in USA was highly contextualized (dare I say ‘syncretized’) to the professional business world around it.
– The church board meetings were set by Roberts Rules of Order (1876) as recommended by the Southern Baptists and other Christian ministries. and were probably not much different that any other secular organizational board meetings.
– The church financial structure was set by the 501c3 taxation requirements.
– The thinking and argumentation in the sermons was influenced by Scottish Common Sense Realism introduced by James McCosh in 1868.
– The stance on alcohol was contextualized with the secular Temperance and Abstinence movements of the 1800’s.
– The dress code on Sunday morning – suits and ties for men – was a close match to the business dress code during the week.
– The titles and functions of the church leadership were set in accordance with similar titles [like “executive”] used in the secular business setting.
All in all, I would say it you viewed that church alongside the typical for-profit business down the road, it would probably be rated C5 on the Travis scale. However, if you compared Sunday morning in church with the Sunday morning rituals and informal dress codes of the neighbors, it would rank much further down the scale – perhaps a C2.
OK, a little off topic but still related:
Here is another kind of C1-C6 scale that I created to measure your church’s formality or informality. Don’t take it too seriously, but how would your church service rank?
THE CHURCH INFORMALITY SCALE
C1 – Courtroom. The most formal. Assigned seating. Silence while being addressed by a robed official sitting higher than everyone.
C2 – Corporate business meeting. No agenda deviation. High dress code but more interactive.
C3 – Classroom. Orderly but interactive within boundaries. Semi-formal dress. Leadership from front.
C4 – Coffee Shop. Interactive but people seated and orderly.
C5 – Club. No seating. All casual dress. Fully interactive.
C6 – Children’s birthday party. No dress code. Interactive games and activities. Food. Laughter. Gift-giving.