We have to enter into our culture and minister to it
This letter is for Wendy Wight. She and her husband, Rob, founded the M.A.D. (Make A Difference) House in downtown Jackson. They are my heroes.
You have made incredible sacrifices for the benefit of others, investing your personal resources into our city and her inhabitants. You have educated our people, motivated our people, cried with them, laughed with them, shown them how to survive and be happy, how to cooperate and achieve more together than they ever could have alone. You’re an example of how big a difference one person can make when they focus on accomplishing God’s purpose.
One of the questions I’m routinely asked about my work at Westwinds is: How do I start? You probably hear the same question. When people see what you’ve done, and the incredible results you’ve experienced, they must ask you how to begin.
I have fancy names for what we do at The Winds. I refer to our process alternately as “exegeting the culture” or “kerygmatic anthropology.” I know, I know. Those are quite possibly the worst names for anything ever. It takes a PhD in gobbledygook just to pound out the syllables. But, as I explain them, I bet you’ll recognize some of your own process at work.
Whenever we interpret the Bible, it’s called “exegesis.” To “exegete the culture” means to study the world around us, to discern what makes it unique and where those uniquenesses come from. In the simplest terms, it means to accurately determine what our world is like and why.
Kerygma is the Greek word for preaching. It doesn’t just refer to oratory, but to any means of communicating the gospel message. Anthropology is the study of human beings and their societies. So, “kerygmatic anthropology” refers to the kind of preaching different kinds of people need in various contexts in order to make sense of the gospel story.
Here’s why I think you and I are often doing the same kinds of things: it all starts with people. We look at the people around us, and we ask God what they need. Sometimes those needs are obvious—hungry people need food, apathetic people need purpose, sick people need medicine, lonely people need friends—but sometimes those needs are far more complex, and far less visible. And sometimes people have needs that are so specialized, so individual, that we have no hope of figuring out what those needs are without help from God.
It is, after all, God who motivates us to help them in the first place, so it stands to reason that God can be trusted to give us wisdom and insight while we do the work he has prepared for us to do.
After we begin with the people around us, we have to figure out what’s available to us for them. Are there other people out there—organizations, charities, good-intentioned corporations—who want to help the very problems we’ve identified? If so, we ask God for grace and favor to bring the helpers together with those in need.
This kind of cooperation is one of the major themes in this book, the idea of God calling us to draw together the resources of Creation, to bring wise order to the garden, and to release human potential. We all have the potential to do good and to rise up and become better shadows of God in the process. We all have some resources that can be leveraged for acts of creative goodness working to heal the world. What we need, what the entire world needs, is more people like you.
You’re the connector. You’re the risk-taker. You’re the visionary. You’re the entrepreneur. You’re the agent of God’s transforming kingdom, cooperating with him to heal the world.
We’re proud of you. We want to be infected by you. And we want to celebrate all you have accomplished, even as we try to figure out how to do it ourselves.