The folks at Grace to You fre­quently con­demn the con­cept of “con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion” and do so by defin­ing it in light of those who abuse the term. John MacArthur and Phil John­son in par­tic­u­lar have por­trayed con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion as water­ing down the mes­sage so peo­ple aren’t offended by it.

Ed Stet­zer cor­rectly defines con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion and the need for it on his blog today:

I have said it many times, but it always seems to bear repeat­ing — con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion is not water­ing down the mes­sage. In fact, it is exactly the oppo­site. To con­tex­tu­al­ize the gospel means remov­ing cul­tural and lin­guis­tic imped­i­ments to the gospel pre­sen­ta­tion so that only the offense of the cross remains. It is not remov­ing the offen­sive parts of the gospel; it is using the appro­pri­ate means in each cul­ture to clar­ify exactly who Jesus was, what He did, why He did it, and the impli­ca­tions that flow from it. Often­times, it is unclear com­mu­ni­ca­tion (and a lack of con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion) that con­tributes to some reject­ing some­thing they do not under­stand. If the feet of those who bring the gospel are beau­ti­ful upon the hills, it is at least partly due to the fact that those who hear the gospel under­stand and appre­ci­ate its life trans­form­ing truth. This often occurs through crit­i­cal contextualization.

My often-used def­i­n­i­tion of con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion: com­mu­ni­cat­ing in a way so as to make the offense of the gospel most clear.