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Contextualizing the Faith

A Holistic Approach

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This major statement by a leading missiologist represents a lifetime of wrestling with a topic every cross-cultural leader must address: how to adapt the universal gospel to particular settings. This comprehensive yet accessible textbook organizes contextualization, which includes "everything the church is and does," into seven dimensions. Filled with examples, case studies, and diagrams and conversant with contemporary arguments and debates, it offers the author's unique take on the challenge of adapting the faith in local cultures.

1. Setting the Stage: What Is Contextualization?
2. The Social Dimension: Introduction, Association, and Kinship
3. The Social Dimension as Exchange: Economics
4. The Social Dimension as Learning: Education
5. The Social Dimension as Organizational: Politics
6. The Mythic Dimension
7. The Ethical Dimension
8. The Artistic and Technological Dimension
9. The Ritual Dimension
10. The Experience Dimension: The Supernatural
11. The Doctrinal Dimension
12. The Future of Contextualization


"Around the world--including the United States--everything we do as followers of Christ is contextually driven. We disciple, we worship, we organize, we lead, and we pray using patterns that are culturally engrained even as they are transformed and infused by God's Spirit. While the majority of the literature on contextualization focuses on theology and theological issues, Moreau shows contextualization to be a product of seven dimensions that together constitute the bulk of what it means to be the church. His approach gives us an overarching map to guide us at the four-way intersection of culture, gospel, gospel bearers, and recipients. The numerous examples for each dimension offer, without bogging down the discussion in minutiae, fascinating glimpses of what it means, across the globe, to follow Christ well."

Ed Stetzer, Billy Graham Distinguished Chair, Wheaton College Graduate School

"Contextualizing the Faith is now my go-to book for contextualization! Scott Moreau's remarkable text is a gift to the reader, capturing over thirty years of the author's academic research, ministry experience, and personal reflection on the topic of contextualization. Moreau's masterful analysis of the multidimensional nature of contextualization provides a valuable framework through which the church's identity, rituals, and beliefs can be analyzed and understood. For everyone interested in the critical intersections between the gospel, culture, and Christian witness this text is a must-read."

Sarita D. Gallagher, associate professor of religion, George Fox University

"This book goes beyond surface-level contextualization in order to provide much-needed depth and breadth for this urgent topic in missiology. Scott provides fresh insight through his thoughtful reflection and practical applications based on his many years of engaging various aspects of contextualization. Practitioners and academics alike will gain new perspectives for mission."

Jay Moon, professor of church planting and evangelism and codirector of the Office of Faith, Work, and Economics, Asbury Theological Seminary

"Scott Moreau is a missionary-scholar with the uncanny ability to think critically about issues without falling prey to academic cynicism. He combines careful analysis with conceptual synthesis to produce works that are as practical as they are scholarly. Moreau pulls together a range of thoughtful missiologists and scholars, including his own work over the years, molding the respective contributions into an integrated study of contextualization from seven different dimensions. The book is a thorough review of contextualization that should be studied by missiologists and missionaries across the globe."

Doug McConnell, professor of leadership and intercultural studies and provost emeritus, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Brilliant and monumental, this book navigates the various global systems and landscape with staggering breadth and academic depth. This is one of the most engaging and provocative books that I have read in the last two decades on the subject of contextualization. As we are shuttled into culture by travel or are instantaneously connected into various cultures in the marketplace, we need frameworks to engage, and this book will guide us for decades to come. I commend this excellent work to you."

Samuel E. Chiang, president and CEO, The Wycliffe Seed Company

"In Contextualizing the Faith, Moreau pushes the boundaries of contextualization beyond systematic theology in significant ways that will impact Christian witness. Engaging the critical need for a full-orbed approach to contextualization, including storytelling, the performing arts, and life rituals, he offers a grounded approach to making Christ known."

Roberta R. King, professor of communication and ethnomusicology, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Drawing upon three decades of global ministry and teaching about contextualization, Scott Moreau offers us a rich, creative, and responsible treatment of the relation between the gospel and particular contexts. Contextualizing the Faith is a wise and reliable guide to issues that are as urgent as they are complex."

Harold Netland, professor of philosophy of religion and intercultural studies, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Approaching contextualization holistically (broader than evangelism and theology and in light of all that the church is and does) is a messy but much-needed task. Thankfully, Scott Moreau lets us in on three decades of thought and practice to offer clarity on this critical topic. This book ought to be read in the classroom and the mission field."

Edward L. Smither, dean, professor of intercultural studies, and PhD program director, College of Intercultural Studies, Columbia International University

"Nearly fifty years ago, the word 'contextualization' first appeared on missiology's radar. This concept has been debated ever since, and no definition has been universally accepted by scholars and practitioners. Professor Scott Moreau's approach is not to propose a new definition or to deconstruct the concept, but to help us understand the goal of contextualization--that is, Jesus Christ as the incarnate God. Christ is real and can be experienced daily in all areas and aspects of life. This book is for teachers and students of missions, denominational and mission agency executives, strategists, field workers, pastors, and parishioners."

Sadiri Joy Tira, Catalyst for Diasporas, Lausanne Movement

"In this highly readable and engaging text, Scott Moreau reminds us that contextualization, despite the controversies that surround it, has always been part and parcel of Christian theology and life, and is therefore here to stay. So we should better understand it and discover tools to help us better practice it. Moreau answers the question of how people understand, conceptualize, and live out their faith in light of the values of their society and context. His approach is indeed holistic, going well beyond just contextualizing theology and worship, as he considers seven different dimensions of contextualization. With a judicious amount of theories, illustrations, case studies, biblical examples, questions for reflection, and implications for contextualization, Contextualizing the Faith is comprehensive without being encyclopedic. Missiologists and missionaries have been waiting a long time for a book like this, and Moreau has filled that gap exceedingly well, giving us a book with a global perspective that will likely become a classic text in this crucial area of understanding and living out our faith as followers of Jesus."

Darrell Whiteman, missiological anthropologist, Global Development Inc., Gig Harbor, Washington

"For decades, Scott Moreau has been a voice for accessible missiology, producing literature that can withstand the test of academia but remain comprehensible to missionaries in training, church leaders looking to expand their outreach, or even business leaders desiring to share their faith with colleagues. Contextualizing the Faith is Scott's magnum opus, combining his years of cross-cultural experience with his teaching. This is a must-read for anyone seeking to effectively communicate the good news of the gospel across cultures. It goes far beyond adapting biblical doctrine to other contexts because it identifies how all the issues of society--family, the marketplace, and more--play a part in understanding cultures, so that we might be understood in our communication."

Paul Borthwick, senior consultant, Development Associates International

"Contextualizing the Faith is a gift to the global church. Dr. Moreau broadens the landscape of contextualization, helping us to see the whole human ecosystem wherein culture and Scripture meet. Rich in illustrations, challenging in case studies, thoughtful in questions, sound in scholarship, profoundly practical, and robustly anchored in the Word, this book sings with reasoned thinking, insights for understanding, and grounds for wise decision making, all sure to produce vigorous discussion. This may well be a classic for present and future generations. May it light our path and show us the way ahead."

Duane H. Elmer, G. W. Aldeen Professor of International Studies and Mission (retired), distinguished professor of educational ministries (emeritus), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

The Author

  1. A. Scott Moreau
    © Michael Hudson

    A. Scott Moreau

    A. Scott Moreau (DMiss, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is academic dean and professor of intercultural studies at Wheaton College Graduate School in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the editor of Evangelical Missions Quarterly and has authored,...

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