How to Know Your Community

Outside resources are helpful, but they can't trump meeting with people face to face

Matt Chewning and his wife, Beth, planted Netcast Church in 2010 with the intent of reaching greater Boston with the gospel. When Matt began the planting process, he found that discovering his target community through outside sources gave him an inaccurate demographic picture, so he decided to take learning his context into his own hands. 

Matt's project for learning the context that would become Netcast's target community meant asking three simple questions.
  1. What do you believe?
  2. Why do you believe it?
  3. How has this belief system impacted your life?

Do you feel that you know the people outside of your church? What have you done to get to know and interact with potential church goers?
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If you were to perform a similar survey, what questions would you ask?
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Besides the practical learning you would receive from these kind of meetings, what spiritual good will it do for you and those with whom you have these conversations?
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Matt said that reaching people in this way is "about understanding your culture and bridging the gospel evangelistically to it according to whatever the idols are." What does it mean to build a gospel bridge according to a person's idols?
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Whether you are a missionary in a third world country or a pastor in the suburbs, it is crucial that you learn the people you will minister to. Knowing who they are means knowing how to communicate, and the Spirit will help you use these things to effectively share the gospel.