Editorial on Haslev 1997

Fergus Macdonald

If we wish to take the Great Commission seriously and obey it faithfully,we will seek to contextualise the gospel in the cultures of the ‘nations’ to which we are sent. And we will do so in such a way that the gospel becomes neither captive to, nor alienated from, any particular culture.The Willowbank (‘Gospel and Culture’) consultation in 1978 developed some key principles to guide churches and missions engaged in cross-cultural ministries. The Haslev consultation on “Contextualisation Revisited”, held in June 1997, was both a sequel and a supplement to Willowbank. It was a sequel in that it helped to bring Willowbank up to date with issues and insights which have emerged in the intervening 19 years. And it serves as a supplement both by analysing why Willowbank did not have a greater impact, and by dealing in greater detail with issues which Willowbank only touched.

Haslev recognised that contextualisation is hard work! Indeed, it is!

First, because we are so often unaware of the extent to which our own culture blinds us. Second, because we have only a partial grasp of both the culture of the Bible and of the culture into which we seek to communicate the biblical message. We will be able to meet Haslev’s challenge to make contextualisation a verb only if we accept the ongoing discipline of learning more about ourselves, the Bible and those to whom we are sent.

Contextualisation may be hard work, but it is also exciting! It’s thrilling to witness the gospel, indigenised in a culture, engaging people at the level of their deepest needs and aspirations, penetrating their world view and producing strong and relevant churches. And there’s a bonus! In contextualising the gospel for others, our own understanding of it is greatly widened and enriched as we see and experience it through a different cultural lens.

Rev. Fergus Macdonald

This article originally appeared as an editorial in the Sept/Oct 1997 Issue of Lausanne’s ‘World Evangelization’ Magazine. The following articles related to Haslev 1997 were printed in the Sept/Oct 1997 Issue of Lausanne’s ‘World Evangelization’ Magazine.


Date: 21 Jun 1997


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