from my notebook

My head is full of thoughts, and I have to write them down.

Archive for the category “postmodernism”

Contemporary or Relevant

Two words you’ll hear quite often in the church world.  Contemporary was the buzz word in the 90s.  Relevant became the buzz word in the new century.  Many of us have grown tired of referring to our services or music style as contemporary, but since the Christian music community has grabbed on to it so firmly, it is hard to avoid.  And what’s the difference between contemporary and relevant?

I suppose the best place to start is the dictionary.  Here is the common meaning of each word:

Relevant – closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand.

Contemporary – belonging to or occurring in the present; following modern ideas or fashion in style or design.

And what’s the difference?  Contemporary takes on more general terms applicable to society or an entire generation.  Relevant is, well, relevant. It is more specific to a group of people or situation.

Relevant applies not just to generational differences, but to personalities and preferences as well.  (Remember personal preferences are not always a bad thing.)  We all have preferences, and if they helps us worship and connect with God better, then they are also relevant.

How does all this apply to the church?  It means each congregation of people has its own relevancy.  The music may be traditional and or contemporary.  The instruments may be organ/piano, or a guitar/drum driven band.  (By the way, “blended” is another buzz word I had just as soon see us lose.)

What songs, styles, and presentations are relevant to one group may be completely wrong for another group across town.  For a church to be relevant, it has to look inside and outside.  What methods and styles will best reach those attending and those trying to be reached?  Relevance is all about preferences, just not in a selfish, demanding way.

We Have To Show Them

In Josh McDowell’s new book The New Tolerance, he speaks to the issues of the postmodern society we live in. He summarizes the basic theme of postmodern belief as that of tolerance. Not the kind of tolerance many of us were taught as children as part of loving others. Today’s tolerance says we not only allow others their opinions, but we also must not tell them they are wrong. That would be offensive.

This kind of thing makes me ask myself why. Why do we live in a time where people feel the need (very strongly, I might add) that we should accept every one’s beliefs as being right? What has driven us to this point? I think the answer lies in what the world sees, or perhaps I should say doesn’t see, in those of us who claim to be Christians. We claim to have the real purpose for life itself, the key to happiness, the one way to heaven. We even say our God is love. But do we show it? Can anyone look at our lives and see anything different from the average Joe or Jane? Are we happy, peaceful, and loving people even when things don’t go our way?

The world is looking for what we claim to have. When we prove to them by our every day lives that we do have IT, most of them will stop looking elsewhere.

Don’t Let A Bad Thing Make You Miss A Good Thing

It isn’t enough that we find exciting, new creative ways to teach the Word of God and worship Him. The ultimate goal is to be holy as He is holy, and that isn’t something we wait until we get to heaven to accomplish. We must be pursuing holiness at all times; therefore, we must guard against things of the world that have the potential to corrupt us. When the church encourages reading immoral literature and watching R-rated movies for “enlightened discussions,” it has opened the door to impurity. David declares in Psalm 101:3, “I will set no wicked thing before my eyes.”

The church should be a wonderful creative outlet for us, but our methods and content must not contradict the Word. While true spirituality can be mystifying at times, the Bible is clear about areas of mysticism we must stay away from (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).

The church should be a place of frank, open discussion, but for the purpose of defending our faith; not confusing it. I experienced a time of thoughtful exploration during college, but because I didn’t have the proper guidance, I found myself confused about my faith before I knew what hit me.

The terms emerging church and postmodernism have broad meanings. When you begin to ask those who claim to be part of it what they believe, you will get a wide range of answers. Kind of like asking the average person what it means to be a Christian. There are extremes within this movement that Christians should beware of, but at the same time, the traditional church could stand to learn some lessons here on how to effectively minister to today’s culture. Most anything can be faked or misused, but that doesn’t discredit the real thing.

Satan has been very successful over the ages at holding the church back from experiencing God in depth and fullness. He knows when we see abuse and counterfeiting of gifts and methodology, many will react by running as far away as possible. This reaction has left the church cold and Spiritless. We must continually explore new avenues of communicating the gospel while spurring believers on to holiness and trusting the Holy Spirit to control what happens.

A Responsible Revolution

While changes occur continually, the change currently taking place in the Christian church community is one of a greater magnitude. One that could completely change the face of the local church as we know it today; thus the push back from those who don’t understand. George Barna states in his book Revolution, “Energetic resistance by the established church has accompanied every significant episode of growth in the Kingdom since the time of Christ.”

The success of the revolution (and by success, i mean making effective changes that lead more people into committed Christian lifestyles) depends largely on our reaction to the push back. Our godly behavior in all aspects of life is vital.

Many churches are searching for the balance between the extremes of the traditional and the emergent. As we incorporate advancing technology and other unique approaches to ministry in our church services, we must also be careful not to commercialize the church. Many churches that have taken on a more postmodern, emergent look have become mega churches. It is easy to get caught up in the bigness, the “success”, the media attention from Christian as well as secular sources. Paul speaks of “peddling the Word” in 2 Corinthians 2:17.

Peddlers sell things cheap. In the case of the church, peddling refers to cheap grace, as I like to call it. In other words, we put on a show for entertainment purposes and then water down the Word to make it acceptable to more people. Now I’m not accusing any mega churches of doing this, but inevitably some do, and the temptation is definitely there.

This revolution must be a responsible one – sincere to the Word of God, producing mature, committed followers of Christ. Who can legitimately argue against a movement like that?

Is The Church Headed For Demise?

It doesn’t have to be. George Barna states in his book Revolution, “Existing churches have a historic decision to make: to ignore the Revolution and continue business as usual, to invest energy in fighting the Revolution as an unbiblical advance, or to look for ways of retaining their identity while cooperating with the Revolution as a mark of unity and genuine ministry.”

Even the early church came together under appointed leaders to worship, pray, and learn. And yes, they met in homes but out of necessity not choice. God Himself established the house of worship in the Old Testament with the tabernacle. But, with all that said, we must change the way we do church. We must find the balance between tradition and emergent that meets the spiritual needs of the current culture. The future of the local church depends on the local church.

Balance is the Key

Have you noticed the typical response to an extreme is the other extreme? In the corporate world when a new CEO steps in or there’s a buy-out/merger, the new boss seems to always try to “fix” the former’s mess by shifting to the other end of the spectrum. Teenagers don’t want anything that remotely looks like something their parents would want or like if the parents seem unhappy or unsuccessful. Postmodernists take a similar shift in their views, being all-inclusive rather than exclusive.

Likewise when extremist in the Christian faith blow up abortion clinics, respond in hate to homosexuals and others engaged in sinful lifestyles, and otherwise give Christianity a bad name, many want to distance themselves as much as possible. A common reaction is to shift to the other extreme i.e., take a pro-choice view or call homosexuality an acceptable alternative lifestyle.

Just as two wrongs don’t make a right; going from one extreme to the other doesn’t make it right. Peter tells us to be alert and well balanced because our adversary (Satan) is eagerly looking for an opportunity to destroy us. Many traditional churches have become pharasaical in what is appropriate, while many contemporary churches have crossed the line of freedom (or teetering on the edge) into compromising God’s Word. Both extremes stifle the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

There are awesome things happening within the emerging church that we must strongly consider in order to reach the emerging culture, but we must do it with the proper balance. We must avoid the extremes of tradition as well as the extremes of the postmodernist.

It’s Revolting

I see basically two reasons for the current emerging church and postmodernist movements. One is certainly a change in culture with advancements in technology at the top of the list. Communication methods, media, and technology in general demand change. Baby Boomers wouldn’t go back to horses and buggies any more than a teenager will ask for a cassette player for Christmas. But I also see another reason for the radical shifts in society and the church – it’s a revolt against tradition and the status quo.

The emerging church seems to embrace everything contrary to the traditional way of doing church. They boast of freedom to worship and express yourself, being group led instead of listening to one person each week, diversity, synergism in beliefs and worship practices, a lack of structure, and a contemporary incorporation of multi-media (Powerpoint is frowned upon!). I am reminded of the Beatniks of the 50’s and 60’s when the younger generations rejected everything the older generations did because it didn’t seem to be working.

Likewise, the way we do church today is being rejected by those (especially young adults) who want something real. When the church focuses too much on what kind of music should be played, how long the service is, what is acceptable expression, and all the other “political” bickering that takes place when two or more are gathered together, those who are truly seeking God will look elsewhere. Now let’s think about that for a moment. Which type of person do you prefer to have in the pew next to you?

What Do They Want?

You only have to look at the nearest teenager or young adult to get an answer. The basic theme throughout the younger generation today is one of disillusionment. Disillusionment with the older generations. Why? Because they see very little authenticity. While we claim to be Christians and Bible believing people, we seem to have forgotten Paul’s admonition to let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” In other words, he’s says for us to say what we mean and mean what we say or, in the practicle sense, “practice what you preach.”

Dishonesty, infidelity, and overall lapses in integrity are prevelant from the homes of so-called Christians to well-known clergy. We say one thing and do another, and then promptly judge those who do the same. We go to church claiming to love God and family, but we leave unaffected to a busy life with little time for each other.

All of this falsehood shuts out the presence of God and the working of the Holy Spirit both in our church services and individual lives. And without God, church and life become meaningless. Do we expect bright young adults to embrace this kind of life?

Those that are disillusioned with the church and religion want to see something real, genuine, authentic, and every other synonym in the dictionary. They desire a holistic spirituality; one that pierces every aspect of life, not just Sunday morning. They want unity and love, not divisiveness and judgement. They want freedom to seek God and experience Him in real ways, not in mechanical, orchestrated, dogmatic programs.

If they don’t get it from the established, they will look elsewhere. They are revolting. Have you noticed?

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