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I think I have always had a rebellious streak in me. I am constantly asking the “why” question. The why question gets stronger when there is a situation or a person who is adamant about something. Whether it is my desire to “know” why a person believes in what they believe in or my need for people to explain their convictions, I am always trying to find out what makes people tick or why things are done the way they are.
This is why when something is done in a conventional way, I am constantly asking the “why” question. Do we do things a certain way because it has always been done that way? I don’t think there is anything wrong with doing things in a conventional way. In fact, some conventional things are good things, which have been proven to be good over a period of time. But then there are some conventional things that need to be challenged. Sometimes conventionality confines us in our potential. It can also stifle creativity or the ability to come up with new solutions to old problems. Tradition should never trump how the Spirit of God is moving at a given time.
The converse of this thought process is that sometimes God uses unconventional things to accomplish His purposes. As one of my missions professor would always say, “Missions has always been done on the margins.” People, who at times seemed a bit radical or appeared not following the expected norm are the ones that made a difference for God’s Kingdom.
One good example from missions’ history is Hudson Taylor, the pioneer missionary to China who did not stay at the port cities like everyone else but rather went into inland China to preach the Gospel. He did missions in an “unconventional” way. Instead of doing what all Western missionaries did in China, he wore the clothes that the Chinese people wore. He also ate the food that the Chinese ate. He even had his hair styled the way the Chinese men donned, which was the long braided pigtail. Through this unconventional way, Taylor won many Chinese people to Christ.
Now, when we think about this situation of contextualization, it is a no-brainer. But if you think about it back in the mid-nineteenth century, it was pretty radical and unconventional.
As we think about church and church planting, we might have to be open to unconventional ways of doing things. When I look in our specific context, I am challenged to ask myself the “why” question again. Can church planting be done in a different way from the way we are familiar with in our HMCC context?
If we want to see God work in powerful ways, then we have to be open to unconventional ways. A lot of times, we don’t like unconventional things because it is not predictable, it will challenge us, and it shows that we are not in control. But then again, aren’t those factors essential in creating the perfect condition for God to receive all the glory when anything good comes forth?