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Five Ways to Learn Culture

The following are notes taken from a talk given by Gailyn VanRheenen of Mission Alive.

When the apostle Paul visited the secular city of Athens in Acts 17, he preached to the highly educated philosophers. He began by saying:

“Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way…”

Paul knew his audience very well. This was no accident. He intentionally sought to understand them because he wanted to meet them on their terms. His actions are a tremendous example for us. It is imperative that we learn about the culture with which we plan to share the love of Jesus.

  1. Demographic studies. These are helpful for understanding the economic, social, and racial composition of the culture. There are lots of good resources such as the US Census Bureau or City Data.
  2. Watching and Listening. This is face-to-face participation. We are trying to understand the culture from an insider’s perspective.
  3. Ask Good Questions. This is accomplished by asking questions from people who intimately know the culture. We can talk with community leaders and citizens from all walks of life.
  4. Logging People’s Stories. This is asking people to describe their life histories. Share your story with them. Another way to do this is to do a “ride along” with the local police to discover the people who are disenfranchised and hurting.
  5. Prayer Walks. This is intercessory prayer as you walk through a community. Ask God who needs his hand. Ask God what he is doing in that community.

From the information gathered, develop a needs inventory that describes the brokenness in the culture.

What do you need to know about your culture?

One Comment Post a comment
  1. terrydorn #

    I was a minister that had a mental breakdown. During my time Ill I prayed for a way to help the people I met at the mental health facilities. By faith in my loving Heavenly Father I recovered. I just published a book telling my story, “The Streets,” by Terry Dorn. I am now known as the Chaplain to the Streets. Find my book at Thanks!

    January 17, 2012

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