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Enabling Believers to Understand Local Cultural Groups


The Significance of Understanding Context

Since before 1926 in Chicago, realtors have often used the phrase "location, location, location" when talking with prospective property buyers.  What they mean is that the same identical property will have different values depending on the community location in which it is located.   This is important because where a home is located is the most important factor in it's value -- both now and in the future.

In a similar vein, missiologists (those who study and develop missional strategies) could just as easily use the phrase "context, context, context" when talking with pastors, church planters and lay leaders.  What this means is that a church's ministry will vary depending on the church's context:  the cultural group, community type and living space in which ministry is conducted.

In broad terms, the cultural neighborhoods may be divided into six basic groups:

  • African Cultures
  • Asian Cultures
  • European Cultures
  • Indigenous Cultures
  • Islander Cultures
  • Latino Cultures
  • Multi-Ethnic Cultures.

Each of these cultural heritages provides a different foundational understanding of worldview, social organization, relation of humanity to natural resources, and several other areas.

Each of these cultural neighborhoods sort themselves into one of six community types based on socioeconomic and other factors:

  • upscale (affluent suburbs and city areas) communitie
  • mainstay (small town and second city)
  • working (blue collar and working class) communities
  • country (rural and exurban) communities
  • aspiring (significant multihousing population) communities
  • urban (highly densely populated inner city areas) communities

Over time each community has developed their own cultural values, cultural practices and spiritual issues.  These values, practices and issues impact the way in which the gospel is understood and affects disciplemaking issues as well.

Within each type of community there are six types of living spaces.  These living spaces consist of the physical environment in which people live.  Since the physical environment impacts the social environment and lifestyle people develop, these living spaces tend to produce groups of people with similar experiences and behaviors.  The extent of Christian influence in some of these living spaces is often minimal.  These living spaces include:

  • multifamily housing - two or more units in the same physical building
  • student housing - college students living on-campus, off-campus and commuters from home
  • military housing - active military and veterans who live on base and off base in one of the community types
  • correctional facilities - various types of adult and youth correctional facilities including jails, prisons, work release facilities and group homes
  • medical facilities - long term care for the sick, injured and elderly
  • single family housing - single dwelling units including mobile homes in subdivisions or on separate land parcels