Jesus commanded us in Matthew 28:18-20 to “go and make disciples of all nations.” To do this effectively requires us to have some understanding of the community and the culture that God has called us to minister within. Race, age, religious belief, economic status, language, educational background, unique community marks of identification, major social issues all have impact on our mission field and can be bridges or barriers to the Gospel.
Every church needs a cultural awareness of their mission field.
The Apostle Paul taught us about the need for cultural awareness in ministry in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.”
We are called as believers to be Ambassadors for Christ.
A good ambassador:
- Has knowledge of who he is and who he is representing.
- Knows extensive knowledge of the place that he has been assigned…culturally, socially, politically, geographically, etc.
- Shows respect for the people that he will serve among.
- Seeks to identify and connect with the people that he will work with.
Do you know your community?
Strategic Cultural Demographics – Strategic Mapping for Ministry/Outreach
- Ethnic Diversity/Make-up
- Geographical Divisions
- Income Levels – average income
- Educational Levels
- Employment/Unemployment – biggest employers
- Percentage of Poverty and homelessness
- Population Distribution by Age – fastest growing age segment
- Languages Spoken
- Major Social Issues that Impact community – drug usage, teenage pregnancy, etc.
- Unique Community Markers of Identification – university, resort area, military base, etc.
- Projected Community Growth Rate over Next Five Years – community stagnant, declining, or growing
- Religious Beliefs in Community
- What Percentage of Community Looks Like Your Church?
There are several ways to gather this information to help you to understand the culture of your community. Information can be gathered from census and other community data resources on the internet. Often real estate groups, local Chambers of Commerce, and schools will have good community information.
Church Leaders should also do personal observation in the community to verify or to discover additional community information. Drive through the community. Walk through neighborhoods. Look for significant community markers or cultural markers (ethnic restaurants, non-Christian places of worship, community assistance or resource centers, colleges, military base, recreational areas). Identify local places where people congregate. Observe and engage people in local gathering places.
The goal is to learn about people in your community and identify points where the church can build bridges to Christ.
The keys to developing a missional cross-cultural strategy in your church are:
- Listen and observe
- Be sensitive
- Look to build bridges to Christ
- Share the Gospel in the heart language of your community/target group
- Make decisions when possible with those of your target group
- Be inclusive when you reach people – allow them a place in the family of faith
- Be willing to make changes that break down barriers to the Gospel
- Do not sweat a few mistakes but seek to learn from them.