Many of you that know me personally, have heard me talk about Czech culture, and/or have read this blog for some time know how hard the soil is here in the Czech Republic. Meaning that the spiritual soil, and/or the hearts, of Czechs are extremely hard and dry. In other words, if you want to see “big numbers” and etc. don’t come here! We have likened it to trying to plant and maintain a garden on an asphalt parking lot. Not an easy task, right? You may be wondering, “Then why are you there Zach?” I would respond with one of our team’s verses that gives us hope and drives us Acts 26:28-29:
And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I amâ€”except for these chains.” [italics added]
Paul says to Agrippa, “short or long” and we realize some places you can go to and see fruit falling off the trees and see people responding to the Gospel in “short” but other places, like Czech, it takes much longer. But it is worth it! It is worth it! Because I believe what Jesus said to Paul of Corinth is true of Prague and Czech:
“Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” Acts 18:9-10 [again, italics added]
Jesus has many in this city and in this country and I really feel it is only a matter of time. I come back to these two sections of Acts frequently for encouragement and refreshment and direction and vision! Which is utterly important with whatever God has called each of us to!
Well, the past week these verses have been revisited in my mind, heart and prayers. “Why?” you ask. Because I had a conversation recently that has made me think a lot about contending and contextualizing within the Czech culture. Let me explain, what I mean by contend and contextualize.
Contend – Jude 3 – “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you(B) to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”
This means there are things about Christianity, the Bible, God and Jesus that we must contend for at all costs. There are many things that could be said we must contend for but a few majors that come to my mind immediately are; 1) The divinity of Jesus, 2) The resurrection, 3) The validity and relevance of the Bible to every age and every culture, 4) The Trinity, and 5) Salvation by Grace through Faith alone. I’m sure you, or I, could add to the list, but those are a few that came to my mind right away. We must contend for truth amongst cultures, because “right thinking” leads to “right living”! But we need to be careful because we need to contextualize as well. Ed Stetzer puts it well:
Preaching against culture is like preaching against someone’s houseâ€”it is just where they live. The house has good in it and bad in it. Overall, culture can be a messâ€”but (to mix metaphors) it is the water in which we swim and the lens through which we see the world. And the gospel needs to come, inhabit, and change that and every culture (or house). [for whole article click HERE]
This brings us to contextualizing the Gospel within a particular culture.
Contextualize – 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 – “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that(C) by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
Now most Christians have no problem with the first one (contending), but they do have a problem with the second (contextualizing). I have caught flak for this in the past because people could not understand what I was doing. Why would I use examples from pop culture, instead of just preaching “The Word” to people? There are a couple of reasons; 1) It’s biblical, see verse above but SEE Paul’s example of using pagan poets, and 2) The people I’m trying to reach don’t speak “Bible” they speak “Pop Culture” of some kind, so I can see how God is using and communicating to them in their language and through it bring them to the “Bible Language”. I would love to write more, but to read more on it click HERE for a great article or pretty much read anything about it over at theresurgence.com. I say this in brief because I want to get what led to this post.
So I recently had a conversation with a young man here in Prague that has led me to wrestling with contending and contextualizing. The thoughts in my mind have gone a bit like this, “Okay God how do I do this? What does this look like? How can I contextualize this truth for him to hear it? What would you have me say? Help please!” This was on the heels of one of the best convos I’ve had since I’ve been back. This young man said some encouraging things about the Bible, Jesus, and desiring to follow Jesus BUT he still has reservations. I was so excited to see him be real with me, and it was an eye opening convo for me.
“Why?” Well because it gives me some insight into working here. It would seem his biggest hesitation is that he is Czech, that he lives here, and how the majority of his culture views Christians – which isn’t positive, to say the least. So I have been thinking and praying about this. What does he need to see and hear? Because he does need to see and hear! Not one or the other, but both! What would God have me say to him to encourage him to stand out in the midst of a culture who thinks Christians are “nut jobs”? What actions must I take to help him see this? Because to him it is okay for me to stand out in the midst of it all because I’m an American and to him “Americans are supposed to be Christians”. How do I help him see that God will help him stand out in the midst of this all if he merely trust Jesus with everything? The questions are many and right now the answers are few! But I trust that God through His Spirit is moving to bring change. On a quick side note, this has also made me think a ton about this very issue in general here and how it will change the way I communicate and live to help Czechs see an alternative.
There you have what is going on in my mind and heart. I pray that it moves you in your context as well. Please pray for this young man and that we would have more sincere Czechs like him and that God would move them along! May God move in us to bring His Revolution in Word and Deed!