Increasingly, those of us doing evangelism in North America must think like cross-cultural missionaries. It is vital that we understand the people whom we hope to reach with the good news.
I recently did some research on my ministry context using a new tool called Mapping America, an interactive map that combines U.S. census data and Google maps, along with some simple internet searches on Wikipedia, and Census.gov. Here’s what I discovered.
Fall Creek Wesleyan Church is located squarely in the middle of census tract 110801, an area of about 9 square miles, which is home to 34,150 people. the population is 83 percent white, 6 percent black, 4 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Asian, and 4 percent people of other races.
We’re located within the town of Fishers, a northern suburb of Indianapolis. The population of Fishers is 84,489 with a median age of 31. There are currently 25,725 households in Fishers. Fishers has grown by over 1,000 percent in the past 20 years.
Fifty-nine percent of the adult population has completed bachelor- or masters-level education; 85 percent has had some college-level training. The median household income in Fishers is $75,638 compared with a 2008 median household income of $46,520 for Indiana.
That’s what I know about this ministry context. These are the conclusions I draw.
We Must Meet Latent Needs
The people we hope to reach are generally well educated and well to do. While they may have few perceived needs, everyone has latent needs for purpose, significance, and community. We’ll need to meet those needs, rather than providing programs or services they simply don’t need.
We Must Go Where They Are
Life in Fishers is over-programmed with work, commuting, school, sports, and entertainment. It is unlikely that we can convince people to add one more thing to their schedules. We’ll need to find the places where they already are in order to communicate with them.
Intellectual Honesty Is Imperative
Simplistic answers to tough spiritual questions will not fly among people used to critical thinking. We must be ruthlessly honest in addressing the tough questions that skeptics, agnostics, and the de-churched bring to the table.