It’s not a new thought that incarnational mission in Western contexts is fraught because we cannot assume that towns, cities, schools, or even neighbourhoods have a relatively uniform culture. Most practice of incarnational mission involves taking on aspects of the culture I am serving, and affirming the aspects of the culture that are Christ-like. But cultures are not monochrome,¬† not even within a neighborhood. Even in the small housing commission where I live it’s impossible to incarnate in accordance with a dominant culture. Different friendship groups have different norms, there are transient groups, stable groups, elderly, youth etc. And within these groups splintering occurs.

I’m nowhere near working all this out, but one initial thought is: perhaps we need to be a distinctive community that is consistent with Jesus, but endeavouring to be ‘not inconsistent’ (whenever we can) with the norms of the multiple subcultures we are faced with, while at strategic points being deliberately ‘of’ that culture or neighbourhood, and at other points being critical and standing against it. Our practice of incarnation needs to go beyond following the ‘pattern of Jesus’ so that a desired outcome will occur, and into “place-sharing” (Andrew Root) that hopes for transformation but is not beholden to it.