Mike Menning Loving Utah

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FOOTINGS FOR MINISTRY, Part 2                               Understanding Your Target Audience

By Mike Menning                                                                       Founder of Pastor to Pastors, which is now Loving Utah

So God has called you to plant a church.  Many years ago God called me into the political world and twenty-six years ago God called me out of the political world and into full-time ministry.  In the political world I found that when I didn’t understand my audience and I didn’t communicate that I knew them, I didn’t get elected to the office I was pursuing . The same is true in ministry. If we don’t understand and can’t communicate that we understand our audience, we will not succeed in the ministry.  

There is much evidence in Paul’s letters to the early churches that he understood the importance of this concept.  A Native American once said that we would not understand him until we walked in his moccasins for a day. Christian Community developers understand that until they move into the community they cannot understand or reach the community.

I have lived here in Utah for nearly eleven years and have been involved with polygamist families to some extend almost all that time.  Now God has called me into full-time work walking with men who are in or who are still connected with the polygamist communities.  I knew I had a lot to learn about understanding their situations. The more I am learning the more I am coming to realize how little I know. My friend, Dick, [not his real name] a polygamist, is teaching me much about the polygamy culture. You see, I dated my wife and chose to marry. Dick on the other hand was told by the religious leader to take his second wife.  He already had a wife and eight children.  Within 24 hours he had a new sixteen-year-old “second” wife and now has six children with her, in addition to his eight other children.  He is now facing cultural challenges since he was kicked out of the community.  The FLDS took all his property, his business and half of his family.  He got out with a broken down van and several garbage bags of old, not appropriate culturally sensitive clothing, heading into the outside world.  Many well-meaning Christians helping them sometimes treated them as aliens and someone to gawk at.

These fine people have accepted Christ, but this culture is almost TOTALLY foreign to them.  I guess Jesus knew what he was saying when he said the whole law hangs on two simple laws, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”

I cannot begin to understand my neighbor until I love them as I love myself. How do we do that?  That is what we need to understand before we can understand the audience God has asked us to reach. Reaching them for Jesus is the easy part.  Discipling those we lead to Christ, and disciplining our new friends is the hard part.  That is what we are called to do.

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