Too many leaders pastor their churches in their heads and not in their communities (Ed Stetzer).I have started two or three blog articles on contextualization. Fortunately, I have always found the grace to resist finishing them, mostly because I am not quite sure I have a good enough grasp on what it means to people who use the word to describe their ministry. (My desire to accurately represent them while not being hypocritical overrides my desire to put another article on this blog.) Here's one thing I am quite sure of: What some fundamentalists have written about contextualization should have stayed private, rather than public, mostly because their objections are sometimes of things that most contextualizationalists (yes, I think I made it up) do not hold to, and sometimes are critiques of things that fundamentalists themselves do. In other words, some have written about something they do not understand and practice in their own lives anyway.
So my intent here is not to defend or critique contextualization. There will be time for that later, I suppose. My point is to point to two introductory resources on the subject by Ed Stetzer. Stetzer is perhaps most known for his books, Planting Missional Churches (formerly Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age) and Breaking the Missional Code. He also has a website called NewChurches.
The first resource is an article found at The Resurgence website. It gives a good introduction. The second is essentially a verbal presentation of the first, a message preached at the Reform and Resurge conference in May of 2006. The message is from Acts 17, a key passage for contextualizationalists.
So here's my suggestion: Listen to Ed, and read his article to get an introduction to contextualization. You will find somethings you disagree with (I am not offering any complete endorsement of Ed or contextualization as he sees it), but hopefully you will have a better understanding of what it means to those who believe in it. And hopefully it will challenge your thinking about whether or not you are ministering to church in your head or the church in your community.