In an earlier post I presented the E-Scale, which represents the cultural distance that Christians go, or need to go, when sharing the gospel. This post will look at the P-Scale.
The P-Scale represents the cultural distance potential believers must move in order to join a church. Though the scale is principally a missionary tool for describing unreached people groups, it can be applied to local communities as well.
P-0: People “at home” in a local church setting.
(no cultural barriers to belief)
These people have not repented and trusted Jesus for forgiveness and eternal life. They do, however, have a great portion of their social circles within the church and its culture. P-zeros would feel out of place without the church culture around them. The unfortunate TV show Good Christian Belles is probably a good example of p-zeros.
John the Baptist was reaching out to p-zeros (E-0 evangelism) when he said “Produce fruit in that shows your repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you, God can raise up children for Abraham from these rocks.” These people did not need to leave their culture, the needed to change their hearts.
P-1: People who could “fit in” at a local church with some adjustment.(1 barrier to belief, the micro-culture of the churched )
These people are those who don’t know or use the church vocabulary. They are not generally familiar with the church life of local churches and what these churches do. They do, however fit within the same cultural framework of many of the local churches. They may have many common points of interest and concern. (In Louisiana for example, Community coffee, Saints football, Crawfish boils, fishing, hunting, weddings and funerals in churches, etc.) In general, p-ones are firmly established as unfamiliar with the church, and may even have some antagonistic feelings towards church culture.
P-2: People who would have to sacrifice themselves culturally to belong to a local church, requiring a significant loss of friendships and family ties.
(2 barriers to belief; culture itself, and the specific church culture as well.)
People who must cross barriers of culture, race, and identity in order to join a local fellowship of believers are very unlikely to be able to do that. When a p-two hears of Jesus, he may even develop high regard for Him, but he cannot see a way to become His disciples and still remain within his natural community. Faith in Jesus can mean immediate, significant, and even life-threatening persecution.
P-3: People for whom there is no local church they could understand or in which they could reasonably participate.
(3 barriers to belief; language and communication, culture itself, and the micro-culture of the local church.)
Probably the most obvious and immediate example of p-threes are indigenous tribes who speak a language, that has no Christian work and whose culture has not developed a way of doing church.
How is this important to obeying the Great Commission?
There is something significant to take away from this.
Simply doing evangelism across these barriers (E1, E2, E3,and E4), is not going to be effective in reaching more than the occasional one or two over a lifetime of work. The call is to make disciples within the framework of a church and that can not happen if the only kind of church that exists is linguistically, culturally, and socially distant from the potential believer.
The only way P-2 and P-3 peoples will be reached is through evangelism and discipleship that has as it primary strategy, the starting of new indigenous churches among those in each culture. (By the way, this is the distinction I was making between daughter churches (p-0), church plants (p-1), mission churches (p2, p3) and church planting (p1, p2, p3) in the earlier post.)
No one church is going to reach its town or city for Christ, especially in modern-day America. There are so many different backgrounds, languages, cultures, and tribes that any one church that attempts to reach them all will not only fail, it will probably break itself. Wise churches find the appropriate means of reaching people across each barrier, and they work together with other churches to get the job done.