First, we must understand the Gospel in light of culture. Second, we must understand Culture in light of the Gospel. Third, only then can we wisely Church the Gospel in our cultures. These three layers of understanding build on each other the way you plant a tree. We need seed (Gospel), soil (Culture), and growth strategy for your trees (Church). The seed layer is seminal and the second two allow gospel seed to grow into flourishing trees.
The challenge of mission is to so understand the dna of the Gospel that we are compelled to exegete our culture and grow indigenous churches that offer shade and strength to their cultures.
The Gospel Seed
The seed layer is: understanding the Gospel in light of culture. It’s impossible to conceive of the gospel apart from culture. So many people miss this, get in a tiff about contextualization, say it is compromising the gospel, and create unnecessary division. It’s so important that we get off on the right foot by understanding the Gospel in light of culture. This is our first, seminal layer. It’s more theological.
The Cultural Soil
The soil layer is: understanding Culture in light of the Gospel. Before we can sufficiently start, lead, and grow churches that spread the gospel, we need to understand and work over the soil of our cultures. Trees grow different in various soils. We must understand the soil of people’s values, rhythms, and beliefs before we can properly plant the gospel in their culture. This second layer is more practical.
Finally, the third layer is our growth strategy for nurturing the tree(s), where we will consider how to Church the gospel in our cultures. How does the seed of the gospel grow in the soil of our cultures in a way that actually grows a healthy, reproducing church? How do we church the gospel in our culture? The final layer is our strategy.
So, what I’m trying to practice and teach is putting Gospel seed in Cultural soil, with a strategy to Church the gospel in your culture. This is all vague and introductory, but if helpful, I will fill in this framework with future posts.