One of the most eye-opening ideas for me over the last 10-15 years is the idea that God is already ahead of the church, out in the world, working through people—all kinds of people—to bring healing and wholeness to the world. Lesslie Newbigin calls this idea “the previousness of the gospel.”
The reason this idea was so significant for me was because it took the pressure off of me. I, as a pastor, wasn’t responsible for achieving God’s purposes in the world. What I was responsible for was to become aware of where and how God was at work and then join God in what God was already doing.
But how do you become aware of what God is doing?
In this episode of Spiritual Life and Leadership, Marcos Mujica explains how the process of “neighborhood exegesis” can help churches, not only get to know their neighborhoods, but also discover where God is at work and how God may be calling them to join him in his mission.
THIS EPISODE’S HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:
- Marcos Mujica is the President of Agrarian Craft, which does landscape construction and regenerative agriculture.
- Two books have had a big impact on Marcos:
- Exegesis is the process by which we derive meaning out of texts.
- Exegesis is about reading the narrative that is displayed before us.
- Texts can be not only in books or webpages. Our neighborhoods can also tell us stories.
- Churches who have been around for a long time in neighborhoods that have changed often find themselves to be exiles in their neighborhoods.
- Jesus is by very nature contextual. “The Word became flesh.”
- How can churches follow Jesus example if they don’t know their neighborhoods?
- Marcos’ process of neighborhood exegesis:
- Teach the leadership team about salvation.
- Start researching the neighborhood through online resources and interviews.
- Important to know the history of a neighborhood.
- Marcos seeks out what Luke 10 calls “people of peace.” These are people whom God is already using to accomplish God’s will.
- The goal is to discover the assets, the problems, and needs of the neighborhood, so that the church can discover how God may be calling them to serve their neighborhood.
- Marcos shares an example of neighborhood exegesis in a town called Three Rivers, California.
- It’s much more effective when the church itself is involved in doing the neighborhood exegesis, rather than just hiring someone like Marcos to do it.
- After they have studied the neighborhood, they lay it all before the Lord and pray for discernment on how God is calling them.
- Do the people of peace have to be Christians? No. God is not limited to working only through Christians.
- Each neighborhood has micronarratives and metanarratives.
- How has the metanarrative of their culture impacted who the people in a neighborhood are and how they live?
- Cities are growing more and more populous. The church needs to think about how to do urban ministry.
- With climate change a reality, we need to be thinking about how “green” our cities.
- Churches have in some ways become fortresses, where people are seeking shelter, rather than seeing them as being sent into the world.
- The most important quality a church needs when exegeting its neighborhood is a prayerful and expectant posture.
- God is the main character in this story and we are participants in it.
- The number one way to mitigate climate change is to cultivate bioactive soil that is rich in bacteria.
- We should be alarmed because of sin, but we also should be hopeful because God is in our midst.
RELEVANT RESOURCES AND LINKS:
- Agrarian Craft
- Books mentioned
- Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible by Ellen Davis
- Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ by William Cavanaugh
- The Open Secret: An Introduction to Theology and Mission by Lesslie Newbigin
- Planet of the Slums by Mike Davis