A couple of years ago I was invited to a 3 day International round table discussion on Discipleship. During one of the discussions, I was able to share some thoughts about creating a disciple making culture. About 20 minutes into the conversation a church leader from another country stood up and objected that I, as a “Gringo,” did not know or understand the context of the people here and that my advice wasn’t culturally applicable. Almost immediately, several others around the table objected to his objection. They were people who knew me. They were people who have seen the work of the ministry up close. They were the ones that have inspected the fruit of the ideas that I was espousing. That wasn’t the first time an objection like that was directed towards me. That kind of objection can take on many forms. It’s both wonderful and bothersome when someone asks, “How can we take what you’re doing in your context and make it work in ours?”
It’s a difficult question to answer because “our context” is so very diverse. In the region of Ecuador where we work, there are more micro-cultures than in many other parts of the world. The reasons are extensive, but center on microclimates, micro-geographics, and micro-stories. Initially when I was thinking through this, I was going to name some cities, towns, villages, and neighborhoods and describe the differences among them culturally. Then I decided it wasn’t prudent. Instead, here are some two-word descriptions of some of the communities we work in:
As I stated earlier, these are my “off the cuff” first thought, two-word descriptions of just some of the cultures we find ourselves working in. I don’t mean any of them to be derogatory. These are meant to be thought provoking, but represent my perspectival assessment. Each of these would also have a distinct set of sub-cultures. The above list only represents about half of the communities that we have worked in. Discipleship in these contexts necessitates an adaptable manner of delivery, but a firm message. So, in answering the question, ”How can we take what you’re doing in your context and make it work in ours?”, I would ask in return if any of these descriptions fit your context? Surely there are some similarities. Disciple Making is rooted in the Gospel. The Gospel is neither pre-modern, modern, or post-modern. The Gospel is trans-generational, trans-cultural, and trans-modern. We likewise do ourselves a disservice when we get bogged down in arguments of Eastern vs. Western and Hebraic vs. Greek thought because we are a people who are being transformed by the renewing of our minds. There is no magic decoder ring for discipleship. It’s simply being in and amongst people in motion while gospelizing and loving them and God.
What two-word description would you use to describe the context(s) you’re working in?