Recognising our missional context means we can no longer assume the church understands the culture. We need to get to know our neighbourhood, its people, their stories, values, worldview and culture. Sometimes communities are defined by geography, but they may also be defined in other ways (ethnicity, leisure interest, time of life). In an urban context most people are part of several communities.
Here are three sets of questions culled from various sources. In a future post I’ll give my own set of suggested questions.
Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, The Shaping of Things To Come (213)
Observe the organic social rhythms of the host or target community.
Watch for the social patterning.
Ask where the social centres in your community are. Or as Brian Ollman at the Millennia Co-op in Los Angeles says, ‘Where are the ant trails? And where are they leading?’
Ask ‘What is church for this group of people?’ and ‘What will a Jesus-centred faith community look like among this people with their particular culture?’ Do not import an alien or artificial model of church. Try to help develop one that is truly indigenous to that culture or subculture.
Keep asking ‘What is good news for this community?’
Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways Handbook (99)
Where are people gathering and experiencing community?
Where are people finding meaning and a sense of identity?
What are the current existential issues? Where are people expressing a longing for the divine?
How does the gospel address these issues? What is “good news” for these people?
Where is God already at work in the community? And how can we join with God?
Given the above answers, what will chary look like for this community?
Mark Driscoll, The Radical Reformission (132-133)
During the week, make an effort to learn from the people whom you encounter in public settings, such as the bank teller or grocery store clerk. Simply ask them what they’ve learned about people after interacting with so many. You will find they are a wealth of insight … Most important, speak with lost people who are not like you, not for the purpose of converting them but rather for the purpose of learning what life is like for them in their culture.
Where do people spend their time and money?
What do people do during their free time?
What do they fear?
What do they dream about?
Where do they shop?
What cultural experiences do they value?
What are the most painful experiences they have had?
What music do they listen to?
What film and television do they watch?
What do they find humorous?
In what ways are they self-righteous?
What do they read?
What is their spirituality?
Whom do they trust? Why?
What do they think about the gospel?
What sins will the gospel first confront and heal for these people?