Today I walked past a poster in a bus stop. It was promoting Telecoms new global roaming packages. Now I walk past this bus stop twice a day and I can promise you no one sitting in the middle of penrose industrial estate waiting to catch a bus will be choosing a mobile phone plab on the basis of its international roaming - they would be far more interested in free texts each month or novelty ring tones. That advert was in the wrong place and talking to the wrong people.
I was watching on TV Paul Merton in India the other night and he encountered a group called 'the god-busters.' This was a travelling group of atheists who went around trying to convince people that belief in god(s) was superstitious nonsense. Expecting Dawkins like lectures on the irrationality of God, and how evolution proves the non-existence of God and other such lines of attack, I was surprised to see them pushing needles through their skin and using them to pull an SUV down the road. Rather than using verbal arguments the god-busters were demonstrating that many of the miracles performed by indian holy men could be performed also by atheists, therefore there was no need to believe in god(s). Now while I would love to see Dawkins or Hitchens work with these guys I can't see such a presentation going down well at a university debate in the west.
But what it shows it that the right words to get your message across in one context will completely fail in another. And yet so often people present their ideas and programs as one size fits all for evangelism, worship, church growth, discipleship, and all the rest. This is one reason why Paul's letters vary so much in style and content and use of terms. Rather than being the work of different people or imitators, they are the work of a highly skilled contextual theologian who understood that to get his message across he had to think hard about the way to say it in that particular time and place and to those particular people.
The question for us is, how well do we understand the context in which we live and good are we really at getting our message across?