The Multiplying Church 2 – Indigenous

I’m gonna do a few series kind of interacting with and starting discussions about themes in some books on church planting. This first series comes out of the The Multiplying Church.

The forward to this book is written by Ed Stetzer, who explains that for a church to be faithful, it must be incarnational, indigenous, and intentional. I’ll hit each of those ideas in three posts today. This is number two:

Indigenous churches take “root in the soil of their society and reflect, appropriately, their surrounding culture.” This goes to the question of: If the same person were to start a church in a suburb of Little Rock, Arkansas, OR a small town of 3,000 people in Maine, OR in downtown Las Vegas, would they all look the same? What would be different?

Now this seems obvious, of course they should be different, but one complicating factor is that it’s the same person. So on one hand we want to be all things to all men, and have an indigenous church that reflects the surrounding culture. But, on the other hand, there are complications. One is that, as Stetzer explains in his writing and speaking, most church planters start the church in their head and not in their community. That is, they come to their “mission field” with preconceived ideas of what kind of church they want to start. A second issue is that we want to be authentic to who we are. So what do you think? Should a planter only start a church in an area that is a “right fit,” or should we just be able to adapt? And how different can we be from who we really are?

I’ve actually had quite a few people ask me this question: “Vince, if you had started this church in a different place, how different would it be?” And I know the correct missiologist answer, “Oh, very different indeed.” But I usually say, “Man, I don’t think it’d be much different. I just don’t know how to be anything but me.”

Yet another complicating factor is that it strikes me that incarnational must come before indigenous. Without truly living in the community, you can’t start a church that reflects it. But many Christians have serious trouble living incarnationally in their community. And many church planters don’t get to move to an area till shortly before the new church is launched, so how well can they know it? What do you think?

In another book (Reconnecting God’s Story to Ministry) Tom Steffen suggests some great questions to ask when entering a new culture:

  1. What is the worldview of the target audience?
  2. What is the culture’s decision-making pattern?
  3. What does it cost a person in this culture to become a Christian?
  4. What redemptive analogy is best for this culture?
  5. How does this culture view Christianity?
  6. What does this culture understand about the basic components of the gospel story?
  7. Is this culture based on shame or guilt?
  8. How will this culture understand Christian rituals?
  9. What is the best delivery system for exposing the people of this culture to the gospel?

So … how about your church? How much is it rooted in and a reflection of the culture of your surrounding community? In what ways is, and isn’t it? And what could you do to make it more indigenous?

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