3 Reasons Regional Culture Steers Evangelical Strategies

3 Reasons Regional Culture Steers Evangelical Strategies

3 Reasons Regional Culture Steers Evangelical Strategies

So, whether you've lived in the same town your whole life or hop and pop all over the country like me, I pray you find the quiet time to reevaluate evangelism: what it looks like in your daily life (or whether it shows up at all) and discover fresh, grace-filled ways to reach those who have never walked in your shoes.

As a pilot's wife, I'm well-acquainted with opening my suitcase, packing up boxes of books and antiques, and hauling my entire life across the country. My husband and I have moved six times in four years of marriage. 

I'm exhausted. 

Yet, living in different towns, cities, and states has taught me a few vital lessons regarding evangelism. While the message is simple: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), the approach to sharing Truth subtly shifts depending on the locals' culture. As a woman who grew up in Georgia's deepest Bible Belt roots, moving to Colorado Springs, Colorado, was quite the culture shock. A career Christian school kid, my eyes were forced wide open to a world that doesn't make decisions because "the Bible tells [them] so."

The stereotype often holds true in Colorado: you smell weed daily, and it's nothing for a neighbor to talk to you while completely inebriated from marijuana. Churches aren't on every corner. Cults and paganism are common. People would rather hike Pike's Peak than attend a Christian concert at Red Rocks Stadium. 

You get the picture. 

However, this heartbreaking reality was the prime opportunity for me to share Christ's love. Though it took some time and prayer, understanding Colorado's culture benefited my evangelism. And even while the hubs' job is currently relocating us from Colorado to Tennessee, and the Bible Belt will be my home once more, I believe these three discoveries are crucial for each of us as we share God's hope with the world: 

1. A Person's Raising is Undeniably Important

While there are nearly 200 active Christian churches in my tiny hometown in Georgia (hosting barely 40,000 people), El Paso County, Colorado–which is home to just under 750,000 people–has less than 500 Christian churches. To simplify the stats, only 1/3 of El Paso County, Colorado claims to be "spiritual"–and not all of those "spiritual" claims are the truths of Christianity. 

Knowing these numbers is vital to sharing Christ's love because it allows room to understand where another person is coming from. After all, if you grew up in a Christian home, was it not more accessible for you to become a believer? With family and friends as support, your spiritual walk with Christ wasn't only approved of but rejoiced over and encouraged. On the unfortunate flip side, those in El Paso County have a high chance of being reared in a home that isn't grounded in Christian principles. So, as they grow up, become adults, and make their own decisions, they can't cling to God's Word when it was never read at home or discussed around the dinner table. 

It's much easier to extend grace in your witness once you understand how most people in your town grew up. It allows you to focus less on Christian lingo and heavy doses of Scripture, enabling you to love them on the level they understand. In Colorado, this often looks like embracing the undeniable dog culture. Sharing love is inviting a friend to go on a hike, dogs and all. The Gospel warmly accepts an apology from a vet tech who seems off-kilter due to fur-induced chaos. 

It's also quietly paying for a stranger's meal when you know they live a lifestyle Scripture doesn't approve of or making efforts to learn a few sentences in another language so you can make small talk with the bilingual barista you see each week. 

2. Knowing a Region's Definition of Everyday Life is Crucial

When I reflect on Jesus' earthly ministry and the evangelical tactics he used, it's impossible to deny that he centered unmovable truth on the subject matter at hand. In other words, he told the woman drawing water from the well that his love forever quenches the soul's thirst (John 4:14). He told Simon Peter, a fisherman, that he would become a fisher of men (Matthew 4:19). Often, spiritual truths are hard to grasp, yet, when these truths are explained using what we already know, they are much more comprehensible–and are more readily accepted as relevant, functional, and dire for the daily grind. 

My husband and I eventually migrated from Colorado Springs to Fountain, Colorado, a smaller town 30 minutes south of the big city. Fountain, Colorado, is home to Fort Carson, a large military base. Thus, we made friends with several military couples, and most of these young couples have kiddos. Though Josh and I don't have kids, most of my ministry looked much like loving on other mommas' babies, letting the sweetest toddler slobber drench my coffee cups and car keys. 

Ministry looked a lot like being present in the military culture, understanding that everyday life for so many women in my community was holding down the homefront while their husbands served our country. 

When we show love in another person's everyday life, they discover how crucial Love is to break the monotony and bring meaning to rhythms and routines that are meaningless apart from Christ. 

3. Recognizing that You Don't Know It All is Necessary

Though I am no theologian, I am quite sure man's greatest downfall is pride. Pride caused Adam and Eve to believe they knew better than God. It rooted jealousy so deeply in Saul's heart that God's presence left him even while he ruled the children of Israel. Pride caused Peter to argue with Paul and wrongly declare that Jewish custom was still necessary to access Christ's full grace. We like to believe we know it all, and this is where we mess up in the gravest ways. 

Coming from a town where it's nothing for a baby's first words to be Psalm 23, it was pretty easy to assume I had arrived in Colorado to save the wayward souls. My knowledge, wisdom, and fiery drive for truth would surely turn the town upside down...

Until our oldest dog, Alfie, decided to bite another dog and get us kicked out of our first apartment. 

Until medical problems I thought were over crept up once more. 

Until our Prius was totaled on a snowy day. 

Until life happened, and I realized that righteous or not, I was subject to a fallen world. Accidents, catastrophes, and hardships were still present, and my sin was still in need of being uprooted. 

After all, you can say no to pot and say yes to cuss words. 

You can refute paganism and still worship your works. 

You can be a saint trapped in a sinner's body. 

You can be righteous through Jesus' blood yet tainted in your thoughts and actions. 

The truth is, you can be a witness while remaining imperfect, whether you're the Bible Verse Queen, cinched at the tightest knots of the Bible Belt, or not. 

People are in desperate need of Christ's grace, not my pride. Recognizing that I don't know it all is necessary for others to see the One who holds all things together. 

So, whether you've lived in the same town your whole life or hop and pop all over the country like me, I pray you find the quiet time to reevaluate evangelism: what it looks like in your daily life (or whether it shows up at all) and discover fresh, grace-filled ways to reach those who have never walked in your shoes.

Photo Credit: ©Julentto Photography on Unsplash

Peyton Garland headshotPeyton Garland is an author and coffee shop hopper who loves connecting people to a grace much bigger than expected. Her debut book, Not So by Myself, was promoted by Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino and Endorsed by TED Talk speaker and creator of the More Love Letters Movement, Hannah Brencher. She lives in Colorado with her husband, Josh, and their two gremlin dogs, Alfie and Daisy.