Like Joshua and Caleb, as they spied out the promised land, we need Spirit-directed research on the ‘harvest force’ (the church) and the ‘harvest field’ (the world) We need to observe the signs of the time; we need to read and interpret the newspapers, statistics, trend analysis and whatever helps us to understand that nature and magnitude of the unfinished task in a nation. Since we cannot really love what we do not know well, knowing our country better allows us to love it better. (1)
The key to good research is asking good questions such as, “How can the gospel best become incarnate in this setting?” and “What cultural values and symbols can be used to illustrate gospel truth?” Tom Steffens’s detailed list of questions can be helpful in exegeting the culture wherever you are
- What is the worldview of the target audience?
- What is the culture’s decision-making pattern?
- What does it cost a person in this culture to become a Christian?
- What redemptive analogy is best for this culture?
- How does this culture view Christianity?
- What does this culture understand about the basic components of the gospel story?
- Is this culture based on shame or guilt?
- How will this culture understand Christian rituals?
- What is the best delivery system for exposing people of this culture to the gospel? (2)
These kinds of questions will help Christians to determine how to present the truth of the gospel message in culturally appropriate language and behaviors. Every believer must learn how to contextualize the gospel so that it will be understood and embraced by faith. “It would be the height of arrogance if we were to think that we are the only ones in the world who don’t have to worry about the gospel getting lost in the culture.” (3)
- Simson, Houses that Change the World, OM Publishing, 1998, 296.
- Tom A. Steffen and David J. Hesselgrave, Reconnecting God’s Story to Ministry: Cross Cultural Storytelling at Home and Abroad, La Habra: Center for Organization and Ministry, 1997; quoted in Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches, Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2006, 34.
- Ed Stetzer, “Missional DNA,” (lecture, National New Church Conference, Orlando, Florida, April 24, 2007).