How Context Shapes Us

by Mark Votava


Several years back, I thought I had all the answers for everyone else in regards to spirituality and life.  If you didn’t want to hear what I had to say, I just wrote you off as deceived.  But maybe I was the one that was deceived.  I missed out on many relational revelations because of my ignorance towards others in my life.

  • Figuring out what good news means

Contextualizing the good news is important as the body of Christ in the parish.  Without contextualization the church becomes disconnected from culture and place.  There isn’t any authentic expression of the body of Christ in everyday life without contextualization.  We are all rooted in a particular context and need to figure out what the good news means to this context that we inhabit together.

  • Context shapes us

Our context shapes our lives in the parish.  Our context shapes who we are as the body of Christ in everyday life together.  Sean Benesh writes, “…we’re all rooted in a context.  It forms and shapes our lives…”  Contextualizing the good news forms us as the body of Christ in everyday life.

  • Contextualization and listening

Contextualizing the good news teaches us to listen to our particular place.  There is no contextualization without listening.  Listening is so important in contextualizing the good news.  Listening and contextualizing are intertwined.

  • Connecting relationally with neighbors

Our place can speak to us in mysterious ways if we just experimented with listening more.  Contextualizing comes with rootedness in the parish.  Contextualizing will shape and form us as we listen in the parish.  Contextualizing the good news is so important to connect with our neighbors relationally in the particular place we inhabit together.

  • The ecology of context

Everything is connected to context.  There is an ecology of context that cannot be ignored in the parish.  Everything leads to the stream of context.  As we listen to our context, we will understand what the good news might mean to this particular context over time.

  • The damage of the franchise approach

Contextualizing the good news takes years to embody with much experimentation, innovation and risk involved.  It is so much easier to have no contextualization and apply the franchise approach, disregarding context and culture altogether.  But how much damage this has done as Christians have become colonial through this franchise approach.

  • The American demise of the incarnational, relational way of love

This isn’t incarnational.  This isn’t relational.  This does not represent love.  This is American.  The franchise approach is the American way.  This isn’t what God has in mind for the body of Christ in everyday life in the parish.

  • All things are connected

Wendell Berry says, “All things are connected; the context of everything is everything else…”  Can we see that “the context of everything is everything else?”  This means that everything in our particular context is connected whether we realize it or not.

How can we figure out what the good news is for us in everyday life in the parish?