critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture.“the task of biblical exegesis”
synonyms: interpretation, explanation, exposition, explication“the exegesis of ancient texts”
If you are a pastor, you regularly wrestle with trying to better understand your people and communicate God’s truth to them.
At least, I hope you do.
Ask these questions:
– What is the other person hearing? What do they think when I speak/write?
– What are their historical lenses?
– What do they want to hear?
Some call this cultural exegesis and others exegeting your audience. I call it common sense.
Perhaps you’re thinking “This guy isn’t even connecting with me…”
Maybe you’re thinking “Why can’t I just say what I want to say and leave it up to the Holy Spirit to convict?!”
If this is you, stay with me. And don’t worry–I fully believe in the Person and work of the Holy Spirit.
The truth is, I don’t know all there is to know about my audience.
I don’t know what’s on their mind 100%.
I don’t know who they are meeting with after hearing or reading my words.
I don’t know what big challenges they face at work today.
What I do know is that cultural exegesis is tough, hard work. Some would say it’s near impossible to consistently do well. Pastors must strive to communicate better to their audience (especially if they truly believe their message is life-changing, from the Lord, and needed to reach their community).
My colleague received an international letter recently. It had a complete disregard for the importance of cultural exegesis.
1) The writer assumed HIS categories were the same for my colleague (also occurs in poor cultural exegesis)
The cover of the envelope had 5 titles for my colleague. You read that correct – five.
5 incorrect titles. Talk about clearly not knowing their audience.
Anyone with a computer could have easily Googled his name and figured out many different ways to address my colleague. Even if the writer had included a million dollar check in the envelope…very few people would have actually opened it.
2) The writer assumed information never changes
The writer used the wrong company name. When you speak, do you refer only to the metaphors that you are most accustomed to? The writer probably knew the previous name of our company; however, the writer assumed that the previous information he had was still accurate today without thinking about his audience.
3) The writer showed disrespect by not paying attention to detail
The envelope not only had the wrong company name, but also the wrong company address. The minor details that this person didn’t pay attention to communicate to us that our time isn’t important to him/her. The words would have been better received if the writer would have noticed the details.
These tips can help any communicator to better connect and ultimately communicate with an audience. If our message is of eternal importance as Christian leaders, how come we so often neglect the work needed to study, understand, and effectively communicate to our audience?
Perhaps what we have claimed as important really isn’t as important TO US as we’d like to think.
What details are you missing? What information are you assuming hasn’t changed? Which of your categories need changing or at least need a different name?
Most gut-wrenching: How has your “packaging” of God’s Word potentially miscommunicated the truth you intended to communicate?
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Brad Bridges is the Vice President of the Malphurs Group, the premier boutique church consulting firm. He is a leadership coach and strategy consultant at the Malphurs Group, blogger at bradbridges.net, husband to Lindsey, and father of 3. Contact the Malphurs Group team for questions about church vision consulting, strategic operations planning, or to simply get to know our church consulting firm. | @bradbridges | Website
Cultural Exegesis – Know Your Community; Not Just Your Text : The Malphurs Group. (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2017, from http://www.malphursgroup.com/cultural-exegesis-know-your-community-not-just-your-text/
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