I first encountered the pastoral cycle during my study year, 1981-2, at the Urban Theology Unit. In those days theology was still seen as something studied at university and the idea of 'doing theology', as an activity available to all, was new and exciting. Central to this was the idea of praxis, that interaction between action and reflection at the heart of the pastoral cycle.
The simplest form is the two words action and reflection joined by arrows in a cycle. Usually it is pointed out this is not really a cycle at all. It is better to think of it as a helix. Action followed by reflection will result in new action. It is not a return to the old place but to the old place transformed.
More complex versions put in extra stages and key to it is reflection on scripture. The community regularly reflect together, reading scripture in the light of their place and time.
This type of theology is sometimes called contextual theology and these days theology students take exams in the pastoral cycle.
Still, it is world away from attempts to believe literally and indeed from the type of belief which cannot move for fear that every last full stop has been analysed through historic, form or redaction criticism. Belief without life is sterile, life without faith lacks purpose. Too often our beliefs are used as a bulwark against the spirit. Belief becomes an attempt to make the world like it should be. This is futile. God is working God's purpose out, we have a role but the strategy is God's not ours.
It is this approach that accounts for Christianity's success as the world's largest religion. Any place and any time can be read through the scriptures. They are a lens for the here and now. The variety of observances of the faith through time and place is evidence enough of this strength. The rapid growth of evangelical churches around the world, as described by Lamin Sanneh, is ample evidence that Christianity is still able to fill this role.