The church planter called me up from Salt Lake City, Utah.
He needed to talk about his culture.
99% of the nice side of town was affluent mormons, while the other side of the tracks was a shame based culture of failed mormons.
He had been spinning his wheels for three years, trying to make a dent, and not getting any clearer on what to do.
I told him that the #1 problem he was facing was that he was in a culture that defined itself by religion.
As a church planter, he was struggling against trying to get people from a bigger culture of religion to join a smaller subculture of religion.
He wanted to reach both people I described, so I explained to him that the city’s shame based culture of religion was the big culture represented by a large circle. His church’s subculture was a smaller circle of religion. Trying to get people to leave one big circle to join a smaller circle was problematic if you were relying on attractional methods like door hangers and the like.
So I asked him to draw a picture with the bigger and smaller circles overlapping and call the overlapping culture the middle culture. In other words, if he could create a middle culture that wasn’t defined by religion, then he could make relationships there, and open up gospel conversations. People from the Mormon culture were never going to come to his church, but they might come to a crossfit he started, or a coffee shop. They might come to a graphic design class he taught at the library, or a pastry chef class that his wife taught as a pastry chef herself. All of these places are middle culture, where the planter can engage people in a neutral, middle culture.
Then, in the middle culture, without having to leave their culture, ministry can begin to take place.
This is true for everyone in every area of life.
And it’s so hard for people in churches to understand.
The middle culture can be a reading group, or a mountain biking club. It doesn’t matter.
And it doesn’t matter where you live. This will always be part of the equation.
What matters is meeting people were they’re at. Like Paul. Like Jesus.
And engaging them with the gospel…on their turf.
I talk more about this in Reaching The Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art.
You can pick it up here: www.reachingtheunreachedbook.com