I’ve been reading Tim Keller’s Center Church, these days, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. In his section on contextualization, Keller points out the importance of preaching in a way that is culturally relevant to your audience. The reason is that different cultures respond to different kinds of preaching.
Contextualized gospel communication will adapt to a culture in the way it persuades, appeals, and reasons with people. Missiologist David Hesselgrave speaks of three basic ways to reason. He calls them conceptual (or “Western”), concrete relational (or “Chinese”), and intuitional (or “Indian”). I summarize his categories this way:
Conceptual. People make decisions and arrive at convictions through analysis and logic. This involves syllogistic reasoning in which premises are established and then necessary conclusions are drawn.
Concrete relational. People make decisions and arrive at convictions through relationships and practice. These are people likely to believe what their community believes. They also are concerned with practical living. They will believe a principle only if they see “how it works.”
Intuitional. People make decisions and arrive at convictions through insight and experience. Intuitional people find stories and narratives more convincing and mind-changing than proving propositions through reasoning…
…[T]he biblical authors use all of these appeals.
Preaching to every culture might seem like a huge task that only inspired biblical authors would be capable of.
The truth is that this is Preaching 101.
Each way of preaching to a different culture corresponds to the basic three parts of a point in a sermon: explanation, illustration, and application.
When you explain the text, you analyze the passage and draw conclusions. This resonates with conceptual cultures.
When you illustrate the text, you use stories and experiences to show the validity of scriptural truths. This persuades intuitional cultures.
When you apply the text, you offer concrete examples of how the Bible should affect your daily life. And when you apply the text not only to the individual, but to the community, you will resonate with concrete relational cultures.