Contextualization, Big Apple Style: Making Conservative Christianity More Palatable in Modern Day Manhattan

Publication Date: 
December 2013
Symposia 5: 1-16

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How is it that a conservative Protestant, Bible-believing church consistently attracts close to 6,000 people (most young professionals and artists) to its services in the heart of Manhattan every Sunday and is ostensibly thriving in one of the most liberal, secular, pluralistic, and cosmopolitan cities in the world? The general consensus in social science, after all, is that exclusivist religious beliefs and conservative theology are not amenable to affirmations of cultural pluralism and diversity. Yet, this multiracial congregation has figured out how to go with the grain of the city’s immense ethnic and cultural pluralism without compromising its distinctive beliefs. This essay seeks to explain a small part of the church’s attraction by reflecting on the senior pastor’s preaching strategy–a central part of which is to make the monologic text of the Bible more palatable to cosmopolitan hearers.