In a recent article for Pastors.com, Ed Stetzer points out that it’s not enough simply to try to reproduce a previous church model from another setting. We have to study our own communities in order to minister most effectively.
“In Acts, Paul arrives at his appointed destination and begins to engage the communities there. Rather than approach each community with a plan that worked in the city before, he adapts. Paul’s strategies vary depending on the community.
“When preaching to the Jews in Antioch, he uses Old Testament Scripture. That would have made sense to them. In Lystra, he speaks of creation and points to Christ. In Athens, his starting point is very different; his speech before the Areopagus incorporates poetry and philosophy in his argument. Paul’s example reminds us that the way we do outreach differs from location to location. Outreach often has a different starting point, but evangelism comes to the same conclusion—proclaiming a bloody cross and an empty tomb.
“Furthermore, churches themselves look different from context to context. There are marks of a biblical church that should and must be present in every culture, but biblically faithful cultures look different from culture to culture. A biblically faithful church in Singapore, Senegal and Seattle share the same gospel, worship the same God and teach the same scriptures; but it should (even must) look different.
“When it comes to the Kingdom of God, uniformity is not a value. Simply cloning other successful models is unlikely to work. Dig into your community, get to know the religious climate, what the [people] think about the church and what they’re objections are. Then respond accordingly; not by changing your message, but clearly articulating and demonstrating the relevance of the truth. You must continue to do this the rest of your ministry. If we stop being students of our surrounding culture, then our own church will become an isolated, ineffective culture unto itself.” (Click here to read the full article.)