130: Church Planting Mistakes: “Overthinking Contextualisation Can Slow You Down” (with Tim & Matt Simmonds)

Tim and Matt Simmonds are church planting brothers who are pioneering churches in Manchester and Amsterdam. In this series of podcast episodes they discuss mistakes they have made along the way. Today they talk about how we can sometimes overthink contextualisation.


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HYPOTHESIS - When we overdo our efforts to contextualise, it can slow down the progress of our church plants.

  • Sometimes our efforts to contextualise makes us miss some important things - for example our family life and our own personal ministry style.
  • In the last 10-20 years, contextualisation has become a trendy topic for church planters to engage with. 
  • Sometimes it can be problematic with people - it means that we are not natural in how we lead them when we overly contextualise the culture onto them and miss what is actually going on with them.
  • It is possible to oversteer. It is also possible to understeer.
  • Sometimes we can over-read things in culture and be too cautious.
  • If you are not careful you can end up second-guessing yourself, trying to crack a 'code' of the culture.
  • You can overdo (or underdo) contextualisation on venue. It may not seem the best thing contextually in Europe to meet in a home, but practically speaking you need to start there. Maybe doing a monthly public meeting too helps. It's a simple, pragmatic decision that isn't helped by overthinking.
  • Be aware of what works for your own stage of life. 
  • There are big cultural trends that may affect your preaching - but global cities are actually complex... there are lots of different cultures in every city, so contextualisation is an ongoing thing. 
  • A big part of contextualisation is highlighting everything that is positive, not just trying to correct what is wrong.
  • Tim Keller talks about A and B doctrines. Talking about things that people are on board with will help give you the credibility to speak about things that need changing.
  • It is harder coming from the outside to bring words of correction to your city too soon.
  • Listening is the key skill to learn.