“Exegeting the neighborhood”
This is a term that has come up time and time again, here and from other missional writers. The long and short of it is that “place” is important. It’s important to understand where it is that you are sent (which is often where you already are!). We need to have a “lay of the land,” understanding the joys, concerns, issues and feel of our neighborhoods and communities.
Without that any evangelistic movement will be paternalistic and can be misunderstood. It’s like the old Western movie phrase, “You ain’t from around here, are you?”
So we need to walk our neighborhoods. We need to “prayer walk” (which I did last Friday). We need to find regular places to hang out and we need to see what it is that God is already doing in the neighborhood and ask how it is that we might participate with God…in what God is already doing.
In the same way that Jesus connected to his context, we need to do the same. We cannot emulate the incarnation of God but we can embody the gospel in our particular “place.” As we love the neighborhood which we live in, we embody the gospel for a watching community. …
We can ask questions such as, “Where do I see signs of hope?” “Where are there signs of destruction and lifelessness?” “Where can I discern God’s activity?” “Where is there a sense of loneliness, sickness, marginalization?” “Where are people gathering to celebrate?” We do this knowing that God is already at work in our community and wants to open our eyes to show us what he is doing. So as we engage in this missional habit, we must be open to the Spirit’s leadings and promptings.
Only then can we hope to offer Christ.