Series - Postmodernism

Postmodernism 11 - Preaching to Postmoderns

From Sunesis. Posted with permission. Read the series so far.

The postmodern church began as a reaction to the megachurch movement and the impersonality of the big churches. The emerging churches all started small and promoted the superiority of their smallness. That is not heard so much anymore, now that some emerging churches have become the next megachurches. Some of the postmodern church members and leaders may not be believers; this is obvious as you look at some of their beliefs. There are, however, some believing postmoderns; there should and could be many more. Most postmoderns are outside any type of church. We have a great opportunity to evangelize them.

Postmoderns like groups, and there is much to be said for the use of small groups in reaching the postmodernist. Those who are truly postmodern still value the group and the group mentality. Small group Sunday Schools (perhaps too formal for some postmoderns) and home-based small groups (more inviting for the postmodern) can be used effectively to reach this group (and moderns, as well).

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Postmodernism 10 - Theological Declarations

From Sunesis. Posted with permission. Read the series.

Because there are no absolutes in postmodern religion, identifying a specific theology for the movement is essentially impossible. So rather than try to develop a comprehensive theology, here are some statements from emerging church leaders that might help at least give us an idea of where they are and where they might be heading.

God

“God can’t ever really be an object to be studied.”—Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christian

“I am not sure I believe in God exclusively as a person anymore either…. I now incorporate a pantheistic view, which basically means that God is ‘in all,’ alongside my creedal view of God as Father, Son, and Spirit.”—Spencer Burke, A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity

“The Christian faith is mysterious to the core. It is about things and beings that ultimately can’t be put into words. Language fails. And if we do definitively put God into words, we have at that very moment made God something God is not.”—Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis

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Postmodernism 9 - Spirituality

From Sunesis. Posted with permission. Read the series.

In premodern and modern times, religion frequently included a debate over facts, such as:

There is a God or there is not;
Jesus is the Son of God or He is not;
Miracles happened or they did not.

In postmodernism, however, religion is a preference. Since there are no absolutes, aesthetic criteria replace rational criteria. We hear people say, “I like Jacob’s Well.” “Why do you like it?” “I don’t know; I just do.” Or “I like the verse that says God loves me.” What about the verse that says here is a hell? “Oh, I don’t like that one.” People no longer choose a church because it is theologically or biblically correct, but because of the color of the walls, the music, the women’s groups, or some other relational or emotional reason.

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Postmodernism 8 - Churches, Relationships, and Programs

From Sunesis. Posted with permission. Read the series.

One of the differences between “modern” churches and “postmodern” churches is the way they seek to “do church.” The modern churches have been heavy on programs—Sunday School, children’s church, youth programs, camping programs, visitation programs, and on the list could go. The postmoderns are more interested in relationships. They are generally not interested in separating the family during church times or conducting visitation campaigns or developing similar programs. Postmodern church events, as well as the spontaneous gatherings of church members, are less about learning, doing, or accomplishing some specified goal and more about just being together. The emerging church is willing to take the time to develop relationships.

The postmoderns have reacted most strongly against the two ultimate kinds of “modern” church philosophy—the megachurch and the seeker-sensitive church. The megachurch, however, is not a recent evangelical invention. In the mid- to late-20thcentury, fundamentalists worked at growing their churches through a wide variety of programs, especially the bus program. Elmer Towns kept track of the fastest growing churches in America in the 1970s and later. Today Outreach Magazine continues to track the fastest growing churches in America. The modern mindset which views bigness as success continues. There is nothing wrong with a big church, as long as the goal of the big church is not simply to be bigger.

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Postmodernism 7 - The Postmodern Church

From Sunesis. Posted with permission. Read the series.

The quotation below is from www.vintagefaith.com. (This site is currently down, with a promise that it will be revised and restarted January 1, 2013—yes, that’s the correct date; even the postmoderns struggle with maintaining relevance.)

There is a rising feeling among emerging church leaders and followers of Jesus, that in many modern contemporary churches, something has subtly gone astray in what we call “church” and what we call “Christianity.” Through time, church has become a place that you go to have your needs met, instead of being a called local community of God on a mission together. Through time, much of contemporary Christianity subtly has become more about inviting others into the subcultures of Christian music, language and church programs than about passionately inviting others into a radically alternative community and way of life as disciples of Jesus and Kingdom living. Sadly, we are now seeing the results of this. While many of us have been inside our church offices busy preparing our sermons and keeping on a fast-paced schedule in the ministries and internal affairs of our churches, something alarming is happening on the outside. A great transformation is happening in our own neighborhoods, schools, and colleges. What once was a Christian nation with a Judeo-Christian worldview, is fast becoming an unchurched post-Christian nation. Tom Clegg and Warren Bird in their book Lost In America claim that the unchurched population of the United States is now the largest mission field in the English-speaking world and fifth largest globally. There are many great churches ministering to modern-minded people, but we must be also be passionate about emerging generations who aren’t connecting with current forms of ministry and thinking. Yet, there are some exciting things developing and stirring. So many people are beginning to experience the same sort of unsettledness and beginning many positive and healthy conversations. More and more emerging leaders are re-seeking the Scriptures, studying the early church and church history and rethinking a lot of what we are doing. In our desire to engage the current culture and emerging generations, perhaps we need to spend time looking more to the values and ancient roots of our faith, instead of looking out primarily for what is “cutting edge,” the next “model” or the latest programs. Vintage Faith is simply looking at what was vintage Christianity. Going back to the beginning and looking at the teachings of Jesus with fresh eyes and hearts and minds. Carefully discerning what it is in our contemporary churches and ministry that perhaps has been shaped through modernity and evangelical subculture, rather than the actual teachings of Jesus and the Scriptures. We need to begin asking a lot of questions again. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. Too much is at stake not to.

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Postmodernism 6 - Politics

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From Sunesis. Posted with permission. Read the series.

Recent events of national importance prompt us to reflect on postmodern politics. While postmodern thinking has been around for a number of years, we have now in the White House America’s first postmodern president.

America was founded by people deeply engrained in the modern mindset. Individualism, with both the protection and encouragement of the individual, is at the heart of the American political system. Our country was established upon “self-evident” truths, an acknowledgement of absolutes. Because so many of our founders were Christian (and I’ll use the term rather broadly here—some were faithful to their denomination, but may not have been true believers) and others were deists who believed that Christianity was the best form of religion, we find numerous Scripture references and allusions in the founding documents and in the writings of our early patriots.

America was founded as a democratic republic. It was democratic in that each citizen (individualism) received a vote. It was a republic (absolutism) in that the democratic vote could not override established laws. The result was our system of checks and balances, which provided the citizenry with protection from any one element of government going amuck. This system worked pretty well into the mid 20th century. Now we wonder what’s gone wrong.

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Postmodernism 5 - Society

Posted with permission from Sunesis. Read the series.

How does a postmodern mindset affect the way we live? Its effects upon art, literature, and architecture are, to a great extent, merely “interesting.” We can ignore the postmodernism in these areas without it affecting how we live. When postmodernism changes the society in which we live, however, we take notice.

There is a great interest in multiculturalism in the postmodern mindset. An American family drives their Japanese car to a Mexican restaurant, returns to their English Tudor house, watches a western on TV and listens to African music on their Chinese stereo system. By doing so, they believe that they are experiencing a variety of “cultures.” We believe that we live in a global smorgasbord. However, is eating a burrito at Taco Bell really a Mexican experience? Does driving a Japanese car give me any cultural understanding of Japan? Are we truly multicultural, or do we simply skim the surface of other cultures like a tourist on a ten-day tour of Africa?

Modernism emphasized unity. Society was homogenized. Immigrants to America became Americans, without an attached prefix. National chains replaced home-grown businesses (the McWorlding of society). Malls and office buildings all took on the same look. For most of the 20th century, there were three television networks and they were pretty much the same.

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Postmodernism 4 - Art

Posted with permission from Sunesis.

Art brings philosophy down to earth. While this writer is not artistic, he does understand to a limited extent the philosophy of art. Modern artists believe in several concepts. First, modern artists believe in the uniqueness of the artist. The artist is the creator. Because of the emphasis on the individual, the modern artists are highly trained and elitist; there are only a small number of true artists. Second, modern artists believe in the integrity of the art itself. The product of the artist is singular, a unique product different from all other art works. Modern art is absolutist—pure form and disembodied beauty. Art exists for the sake of the product. Third, the art of the modern artist is a vision of truth. There is some connection between the art and the world around us. It may not look like truth to the viewer, but the artist himself had some intention of linking his art to the world.

Because artists tend to be countercultural, not every current artist is postmodern in his or her philosophy. Some artists today have reacted against modern art by using past styles and going back to human values, but postmodern art is distinctively different. First, postmodernism plays with art. There is no longer a distinction between what is artistic and what is not. Second, postmodern art is not individual. The postmodern artist is not concerned about himself, but focuses on the viewers’ reactions. Third, postmodern art rejects any concept of truthfulness. It makes no necessary connection to reality. It seeks for disunity. There is no truth; everything is fiction. Since postmodernism rejects any moral absolutes, art becomes political, not moral or philosophical.

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