One skill most professors and seminaries are good at teaching pastors is exegeting scripture. This is a needed and necessary skill. Most pastors or weekly speakers at evangelical churches are fairly adept at this.
I want to post here for a few minutes about a skill we need to improve in. That skill is the exegeting of culture.
It needs to be said, though, we start with theology and scripture and let those direct and drive our sermons. In addition to that, we’d do well to do a little anthropological digging as it regards our people and where they are coming from related to the biblical message and walking in faith.
For a case study loosely based on this premise, see Acts 17 and how Paul approached the philosophers and other thinkers on Mars Hill.
This skill has to do with knowing the context of the culture around us and what society thinks or believes (and our congregation specifically) regarding different biblical texts or topics. Some would call it “knowing your audience.”
That being said, we do need to be careful and not put too much sermon prep time or stock into this. In the past, most communicators have relied heavily on recent surveys or statistics. We can spend too much time on it in an effort to be trendy or hip. Or we can put too much stock in it and be discouraged before we step up to share God’s Word. So we need to be balanced in our approach.
With some of the tools available to us today, however, we can get information from our own people that is more fresh and more current than the latest Gallup or Barna poll. Investing 10-15 minutes in some well-worded questions to be sent out to people within our congregations in preparation for a sermon can uncover a wealth of information and insight for us as communicators.
Our goal in this is simply to find out where culture and our people are at so we can lead them through the text and to where God wants them to be. And when I say “them,” I mean their thoughts, their attitudes and their actions.
I like to use the analogy of GPS or a mall map. Before we can find out where we want to go, we need to find where we’re at.
Think of exegeting culture as the “You are here” dot on a mall map.
Let’s do this alongside the needed and valuable biblical exegesis; not in place of it. If we do, I think it can assist us in helping God’s people to grow and walk humbly with God.
What are your thoughts on this topic?