‘C1 – C6’ What’s It All Mean in Suburbia

Phil Parshall is well known for his C1-C6 contextualisation spectrum and its application to an Islamic context. However what would it mean for us to think in those terms for Oz?


download super the divx

a summary of what its all about. Make sure you have a read of the different stages otherwise the rest of this post will not make sense!

My personal preference is to push the contextualisation boundaries further rather than lesser. I think we have almost always erred in the reverse direction, and tended towards extractional mission, so I am interested to see how far we can go to genuinely share the gospel and help people follow Jesus. While C6 is far from ideal, there is a definite option in C5 for Muslims to retain their cultural identity, worship in a messianic mosque and be a follower of Isa (Jesus).

One writer has put it like this:

C5 practitioners insist that-even as Paul argued tirelessly with Judaizers that Gentiles don’t have to convert to Judaism to follow Jesus-Muslims don’t have to convert to “Christianity” to follow Jesus. C5 believers surely are genuine disciples of Jesus (Acts 15:8,11), but they do not desire to align themselves with what they perceive as that godless Western institution called “Christianity,” where (from a Muslim perspective) homosexuals enter the clergy, immodest women worship in scantily clad summer dresses, and people put their Holy Scriptures on the floor right next to their dirty shoes.

I wonder what this might mean for us?…

Do people need to become Christians to follow Jesus?…

In The Message 1 Cor 9: 22-23 Paul speaks about his own understanding of contextualisation and says this :

I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ–but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

I’m not sure I like the expression ‘I didn’t take on their way of life’ although I know what he’s trying to say. I do like the phrase ‘kept my bearings in Christ’. The NIV says it a little better I reckon…

I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

When it comes to contextualising the gospel the reality is that sometimes we will get it wrong. If you choose to live on the edge occasionally you will fall off. I’m happy to take the risk because I feel like I do have my ‘bearings in Christ’ pretty well established. I don’t fear being any more syncretistic than I already am. (Yes – I am sycretistic and you are probably are too when you look at what you mix with Jesus to bring you ‘salvation’. Its just easier to see other culture’s sycretisms! )

Syncretism and compromise is a risk inherent in incarnational missional engagement. The other option of course is to come with our own form of ‘Christianity’ and impose that on people.

I find myself wondering, why is it ok for overseas missionaries to push the contextualisation boundaries, but not for us? Yesterday I suggested to our local Baptist newspaper don t answer the phone divx that they might want to do a story on some friends of ours (John and Angie – missionaries to muslims in Africa) alongside ourselves, because these guys are the people we find we have most in common with. It might help others here in WA better grasp the thrust of what we are trying to do.

The vast majority of Australian churches still operate at a C1-C3 level, and I am wondering what a C4/5 expression of faith would look like – a more indigenous way of living the gospel in Oz.

What implications might this have for mission in the burbs?

I wonder if we might need to accept some radical (yet biblical) ecclesiology where the need to gather weekly in one place is replaced with a strong relational connection that allows us to ‘be church’ with each other but doesn’t make us ‘do church’? What I mean by that specifically is that as people come to faith they would be connected into the church community but they may only be connected to one or two other families. They may be followers of Jesus who never go to a church gathering as we experience it, but they may ‘gather’ when they meet with other Christians be it only for dinner or coffee.

Will that be understood?

Is that a C4/5 approach to Oz?

Of course it raises some difficult questions, like ‘how would you take an offering in that kind of setting?… ‘

1 thought on “‘C1 – C6’ What’s It All Mean in Suburbia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *