Category Archives: Exegete Your Context

Effective Church Planters Are Missionaries

Effective church planters are missionaries who learn to exegete the culture to which they are sent!  As a church planter, you must apply the same rules of interpretation that you use to understand the scriptures to understanding your cultural context.


To be truly successful, you need to create a model that uniquely fits you, the people on your team and your context!

Don’t plant the church in your head – the one you emotionally prefer – plant the church that fits your context!

You can use this simple three-step process to exegete your community:


Observation (What do you see?)

Your goal is to see the neighborhood as God sees it, to see its hurt, its beauty, and its potential as a harvest field for God’s Kingdom.  Make at least fifty observations about what you have seen, smelled, tasted.  What has made you angry and offended?  What has broken your heart?  What has convicted you?  What has excited and encouraged you?  What have you seen God doing?  Where do you see the mighty hand of God at work?  What is not happening?


Interpretation (What does it mean?)

Your goal is to understand what your experiences mean and how to extract some meaningful principles upon which to build a church planting strategy.  Why do you think you reacted to certain experiences the way you did?  Why do you think some of the groups you saw are thriving and others are not?  What are the underlying order and causes that formed the area?  Look for the dynamics at work in creating a community.  How do you transfer your observations into principles?  What are the principles or conclusions you would create out of your observations?  List at least five.


Application (What do we do?)  ACTION LIST

You need to determine specific actions to implement as you develop a comprehensive strategic plan for church planting with an appropriate model for this community.  What should your role be in fostering and promoting a church planting movement in this community?  How are you going to leverage your resources – time, talent and treasure – in order to maximize the mission here?


As Yogi Berra said, “You can see a lot by just looking.”


3 Habits for Raising Your Cultural IQ

We don’t live in an Acts 2 environment – where you can stand in the public forum and say, “Repent and be baptized” and assume everyone will know what they are repenting from or understand the symbolism of baptism.


We live in an Acts 17 environment where effectively communicating the gospel requires building a bridge to what people already know like Paul did when he used an altar “to an unknown God” to introduce his audience to creator of the universe.  If that is our context, where do you find the idols and poets like Paul did?

Here are some suggestions for raising your Cultural IQ to become a better bridge builder and communicator to an Acts 17 audience.

Listen to the Music of your Culture:

  • Find out what the 3 most popular radio stations are in your area and listen to each once a week while driving.
  • Use iTunes or Spotify to listen to the top 20 songs once a month.
  • If you live in a place where live music is more than 8 people at the bowling alley singing karoke, make a commitment to hear local artists 4-6 times a year.
  • You can’t watch ‘em all, so know what the hottest shows are and watch one a week.  Don’t think paying for premium cable is a good use of God’s money, then learn how to use free sources to watch online.
  • You can’t go to ‘em all, so know whats raking in the money at the box office and get out once a month to see it.

Watch the TV and Movies of Your Culture:

(The great part of these activities is you can leverage them to build relationships too.  Don’t watch alone.  Invite your friends, neighbors and co-workers to watch with you – then ask them what they think and feel about what you just experienced together.)

Read the Opinions of Your Culture:

Since you’re reading this, you’re online and you’re a blog reader – why not set up Google Reader to sync your blog subscriptions so you can read on the run when you have a few minutes of down time or waiting.  While your adding this blog to your reader, think about adding these too:

News blogs:

Hit and Run –

Michelle Malkin –

America Blog –

Daily Kos –

Pop Culture blogs:

Gawker –

Pop Candy -

Men’s/Women’s blog:

Divine Caroline –

Feministing –

GQ Blog –

I can promise if you do all three of these things you will at some point be offended, hopefully heartbroken and ultimately better equipped to build a bridge to the good news about Jesus.

Who are you starting a new church for?

One of the most eye opening books in our Cultivate reading list is I Once Was Lost by Don Everts and Doug Schuapp. They write about their experience as campus staff with Intervarsity,

“We came up with our evangelism strategy while we were alone in a room together with a bunch of Christians. Not once in our brainstorming and planning did we ask where are our non-Christian fellow students were coming from. Not once did we try to find out what they might need to take a step toward Jesus. We were mostly coming up with something we wanted to do, not something that would be actually helpful to those unsuspecting sunbathers in the quad.”

Watch the video and then ask yourself, “what kind of new church would help Ben find faith in Jesus?”

Paradox of Proximity

In the last year I’ve had the privilege of traveling in my country and out of my country, to big cities like Los Angeles and London and smaller towns like Caldwell Texas and Cinque Terre in Italy. I have observed a paradox of proximity. The farther apart people live the more likely they are to know each other. Conversely, the closer together people live the more likely they are to be strangers.

Walk the streets of a densely populated city like LA or London – almost any time of day or night – there are people everywhere and they are all strangers. Walk the streets of a small town like Caldwell or Cinque Terre – where people may live miles apart – they all seem to know each other.

Where in the paradox do you live? Who has God sent you to reach?

  • If you’re in a densely populated city, are you finding that presence alone is enough to build relationships?
  • If you’re in a sparsely populated area, are you able to build relationships just by showing up?

Whichever reality you’re in – how are you’re working with relational environment, not against it, to be effective on mission?


“If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes.” As I travel, I’ve heard people say that in so many places I have no idea where it came from. I also know I’ve never heard it where I live in California. The saying here would be, “if you don’t like the weather, drive 50 miles.” We have what meteorologists call micro-climates. Drive over hill, across a river, up a mountain and the weather changes – often dramatically.

I’ve observed the same thing about culture. In the last month I’ve had the privilege to speak at three new churches. Each was unique in ways that were evident by just walking in the door.

  • One was culturally diverse.
  • One was filled with teenagers.
  • One was filled with well-educated and well-traveled people.

That didn’t seem to be of much significance until I considered that each church meets less than 20 minutes from my house, each church is part of the same metropolitan area and each church reflects its own local culture. Each church planter must exegete his micro-culture.

Lloyd Kwast wrote an article called “Understanding Culture” that can be found in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. His outline provides 4 helpful questions that I find myself asking often.

Behavior: What is done?
Values: What is good or best?
Beliefs: What is true?
Worldview: What is real


What question are you using to exegete your context?