Pastor, Know Your Context

When I was a graduate student, I took a missions class called “Contextualization” as an elective. The class was essentially intended to equip missionaries for understanding the cross-cultural context, or setting, in which they were going to do mission work so that they could share the message of Christ in culturally astute ways. We discussed ethical issues like bribery, relational issues like polygamy, and theological issues like worship styles that fit the heart language of a people group.

Unfortunately, the mission principle of contextualization – doing ministry in culturally astute ways – is often relegated to clearly “missionary” or cross-cultural settings. But when we do ministry as pastors within United State, we often ignore the fact that we need to contextualize our ministry just as much in a setting that seems familiar.

We take for granted, for instance, that we actually know our setting. “After all,” we think to ourselves, “I’m an American doing ministry in America! What is there to understand?”I would like to contend, however, that we do not always understand our context as much as we think we do.

Here are six questions worth pondering for those of us who do ministry in the United States. While national history and trends must be considered, we must be aware of the specific state and local history and trends for our context. If you know the answers to these questions for your setting, kudos to you! If not, it is time for you to dig deeper in order to know your setting.

  1. What is the rough chronology or time-line of your city, town, or county? When and how was it founded and when and how did it expand?
  2. What ethnic groups make up your context and how did they come to be there over time? What are the cultural distinctives of those ethnic groups, and how are those distinctives continuing to impact your setting?
  3. What are the driving economic forces of your setting and how have those changed over time? How did national issues, such as the Great Depression or World War II, affect your setting economically?
  4. What have been the defining conflicts over time in your setting? Put another way, what governmental, ethnic, or economic issues have raised tension levels at different times?
  5. What has the religious climate been within your setting over the course of its history? What have been the ebbs and flows of church life, and how has the flow of cultural issues over time affected that positively or negatively?
  6. What would you see as the key 3-5 issues in your setting that the church must address in some way, whether directly or indirectly, in order to minister in culturally astute ways in the next 25 years?

A superficial familiarity with our setting may hinder us from truly knowing it and, thus, keep us from an effective ministry for the kingdom where God has placed us. We must dig deep to know our setting.

Next Steps from MissionsFest

dwell-series-gfx_thumbAs we drew Eastbrook‘s 2016 MissionsFest to a close this past weekend, here are the next steps we shared this past weekend in relation to the messages by Ken Katayama (“Christ in Us“) and Pastor Paul Bland (“Embodied Presence“).

READ a book!
Joyful Witness in The Muslim World: Sharing the Gospel in Every Day Encounters by Evelyne Reisacher
Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People by Michael Frost

PRAY for Eastbrook’s partners
Over the next month, use our prayer page to pray for our International Field Workers, as well as our Local Partners. Contact me for that prayer page.

ENGAGE at Eastbrook’s Sunday 9:30 am Missions PRAYER Class
This weekly class meets in Fellowship Hall every Sunday at 9:30 am and is a great time to get informed, involved, and to intercede for our world in prayer.

VOLUNTEER at the International Language Center
Serve and meet some new friends from Iraq, Somalia, and Burma! See what happens at this center and consider tutoring a refugee.

MEET a new friend
Women, become a friend to a Muslim woman! Contact Laura Fears to get connected.

SHOP, EAT & DRINK at a neighborhood store, restaurant or coffee shop
Get to know the owners and workers. Ask the owner how you could be a blessing to their employees.

SERVE at the Eastbrook Church Food Pantry
Come help distribute groceries and build relationships with our guests. Contact Chris to volunteer.

JOIN THE NEIGHBORHOOD MINISTRY TEAM
Reach out to the neighborhood around Eastbrook Church. Contact J.C. to take a next step.

COACH OR PLAY BASKETBALL with young men from our neighborhood
Saturday mornings. Contact J.C. to take a next step.

EAT dinner with some of your neighbors
Get to know their life stories by inviting neighbors over to your apartment or home for a meal together.

SUPPORT financially Eastbrook’s Missions Budget for 12 months
Visit the Eastbrook website for more information on how you can financially support the Missions Budget.