If you're looking in the mirror—watch out!

Indian mirror motorbike I caught up with old friend last week. I was telling him what I learnt about church planting movements on my trip to India. He's a good guy. But his response bothered me. . .

“But that's India. How do you know it will work in Australia?”

I hear responses just like this too often. With one comment we set ourselves up as unique in the world and in history. Nothing to learn from what God has done in other contexts and in other times. I hear it all the time.

“That works in America. Not here.”

“Sure that happened in Australia but this is New Zealand.”

“Church planting works in the suburbs but it won't work in the inner city.”

“The early Methodists were amazing. But their context was ”modern“ not ”postmodern“.

”Sure he's multiplying leaders and churches, but that's Africa, not Europe.“

So no lessons from history. No lessons from other contexts.

I have a theory. These objections are not about contextualization. They're about resistance to change.

If the Celtic missionary movement, or the Indian church, or the Pentecostals, or the Americans, or anyone who is not like us—if they all have nothing to teach us, then we have nothing to learn, and nothing to change.

We're looking in the mirror and seeing our own reflection.

Contextualization is useless unless we understand biblical principles. And you can learn biblical principles from any context and any era. In fact, you're more likely to learn them from a context that is totally different from the one you're in right now.