I ended yesterday’s post with a statement and some questions.
The task of witnessing to the gospel of Jesus Christ is a task of interpretation; it is essentially a hermeneutical task. How do we interpret the gospel for this time and for this place? How do I know I am not giving a gospel that is more influenced by my culture than the gospel itself? What does the context “speak back” to the gospel?
When I refer to ‘interpretation’ I mean to interpret both the gospel and the context and more to the point, what the gospel means in that context. One problem we encounter in Evangelical circles is that this task has often been handed over to individuals and that these individuals are normally professional theologians.
By saying this, you will note that I believe that the task of interpreting the meaning of the gospel for a given context is the task of the church community and that church community is one that lives in the context. Therefore the task of witnessing to the gospel of Jesus Christ is not the task of the individual professional theologian. They may have a role but they are NOT the most important.
This was the purpose of the Base Ecclesial Communities (Comunidades Eclesiales de Base [BEC] of Latin America. They met together and would discuss, in the light of the gospel, what their reaction to the context should be. This was true contextual theology.
In our churches, are there people who see their task as thinking about the context in which the church community is placed in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Do we leave this to church leaders who then tell us what to do, what projects we should undertake, what ministries should be resourced? Theology, as a discipline has been so elevated to the status of the elite that the average church member feels incapable of thinking clearly about their own task of mission.
Theologians should get out in two ways. Firstly we need to get out of our academic bubbles. Theological discussion at a high level is fun and I enjoy it but it is a luxury and one that the church cannot afford, either financially or missionally. Secondly, theologians need to get out on to the street. By street I mean into the place of mission. Theologians cannot do their real task in accompanying the church community in its theological task if it does not know the context in which the community is doing its work.