Exegeting Your Community4 min read

Exegeting is the process of critically explaining a Scripture text by investigating the historical, grammatical and cultural context of the passage in order to properly interpret and understand it. So, “exegeting” your community is the equivalent of using a number of tools to understand the community.

In order to exegete your community effectively there will be 3 areas to pay close attention to as you do your research: community, your local church, and yourself. There is a logic to approaching things in this particular order, so please bear with me.

Three Areas

First, exegete your community. Research the history of the community by talking to the residents who have been around for multiple decades. Engage both community and civil leaders in what they see as needs, strengths, and weaknesses of the community and your church. (Prepare to be humbled in the last part.) Be ready to ask for the last 10% of their interpretation as this is the kind of truth that most individuals hold back so as to not hurt feelings. Do not make excuses for how the church has been or currently seen, simply repent and strive to change. Also, use the tools provided by the Michigan District, LCMS in the form of MissionInsite, United Way, Census reports, and other online resources to supplement your research.

Secondly, exegete your local church. Understand the church’s history, its strengths, weaknesses, priorities, and members. Take time to learn the gifts, strengths, and talents of its members. Speak to the members who have been around for 0-5 years, 5-20 years, and 20 years or more. Ask them about the high/low points, the relationship with the community, strengths/weaknesses, and what they think the future is for the congregation and its relationship in the community.

Thirdly, exegete yourself and understand this might be the hardest of the steps to complete. It requires a self-reflection that can only happen by digging deeper into God’s Word through regular worship, Bible study attendance, and accountability found in small groups. It is in these experiences that God’s will, desire, and plan for you, your local church, the community, and all of creation is revealed.

Pray And Be Open

This process of exegeting your community effectively must go hand and hand with a meaningful and intentional prayer life that is sincere, humble, and open to God’s direction for your life, the church, and the community. In each step of exegeting you will be opening the door for criticism, affirmation, and reflection that may or may not be in accordance with your view of the environment. Remain open to all of it, process it, and use it when determining the next steps. In the end, always be true to who you are and faithful to God’s direction in your life, the church, and in the community.

How this plays out is different in every situation. This may bring about a change in direction in the way you’ve always done things. It may reveal some strengths or weaknesses that were blindspots previously. It may or may not result in change in the ways worship is conducted. There is no hard and fast rule as to where this exegeting of your community will lead.

I leave you with two final thoughts: 1) Going through this process means you have opened the door to some sort of change or new ministry direction. Once you have this information, you have to do something with it. To go through this process and do nothing is the equivalent of being an unfaithful steward of what God has entrusted to you. 2) Finally, remember that the only constant and unchanging component of this entire process is God’s Word which shows us our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier at work in every facet of our lives, church, and community.

What’s Next?

If you want to know what comes after this step, connect to StartNew, the Michigan District’s process to help you start on the right track so that what you start expresses the presence of Jesus in your community.

Also, don’t miss the webinar Key Steps in Starting a New Ministry, hosted by Rev. Dr. Rob Kasper and Rev. Bill Woolsey on March 31 at 2 p.m. To register, click here.

Photo (c) Erik Khalitov/iStock

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