Making Room for Postmoderns

Over the last fourteen years, having worked in Europe and in many churches around the US, I have noticed an interesting, and rather sad, phenomena – babyboomers seem to be pushing postmoderns out of existing churches. There is an upside and a downside to this… The upside is that new churches are being started; with new opportunities for leadership development and new kinds of churches that will reach diverse cultures and subcultures. The downside is that postmoderns would, I think, rather be mentored and discipled.  Having interacted over the last several years with churches, postmoderns, and my own four children (ages 25-30), I have developed a list of perspectives that will help in a dialogue that, I hope, may bridge the gap.  Many existing churches are distinctly missing the 18-35 age groups.  It is a pity because they have a lot to offer.  Here’s my list…

  1. Modern and postmodern[1] worldviews are ebbing and flowing within our culture – and churches.[2] This will be true of the next several years, if not decades. Church leaders will need to be informed and be able to serve as interpreters among the generations.[3] Leadership teams will need to obtain a growing understanding of postmodern thinking.[4] The following is an excellent launch point for dialogue: a core postmodern mindset embraces the absolute willingness to discuss the absolute knowledge of the absolute truth.
  2. In consideration of the above – we (boomers) need to learn how to listen better.  We gain the respect and attention of Gen-Xers/postmoderns when we ask them about their story/journey and truly listen.
  3. Don’t make Gen-Xers/postmoderns earn your respect; give it to them (until or unless you see otherwise).
  4. Boomers tend to get infuriated with postmoderns because they ask a lot of questions.
  5. Authenticity – any hint of inauthenticity, religious, or “happy-clappy” Christianity will run them off – especially the seekers.
  6. When speaking to Gen-Xers/postmoderns about sin define it as building their identity – their self-worth and happiness – on anything other than God.[5]
  7. Social networking and technology.  It’s very much a part of their world.
  8. Celebrate art. Art is often a backdoor to truth. C. S. Lewis said that his imagination was baptized when he was still an atheist because of excellent Christian art.[6] Additionally, the artists tend to be the first to see and feel a truth. They bring it out of their subconscious and into their art. But most of the time they have no idea what they are really doing and cannot fathom the truth their art is expressing.
  9. Proactively connect the local church to the significant glocal issues of our day (i.e., poverty, genocide, AIDS, human trafficking, multiculturalism, creation care, globalization, immigration, etc.).  Encourage dialogical learning communities and activate the church into glocal service.

[1] While postmodern thought is not limited to age, the general age range of postmoderns is mid-to-late thirties and below.

[2] The current cultural milieu includes a growing contingent of postmodern, post-Christian, post-seeker-sensitive (Kimball: 26), post-literate (Gibbs: 124) and post-Constantinian (Webber: 117) followers (and seekers) of Jesus. Webber referred to them as “younger evangelicals,” Gibbs identifies them as “Gen Xers,” and Kimball utilizes the term “emerging generations.”

[3] Eddie Gibbs, Leadership Next p. 53.

[4] Postmoderns view the nature of knowledge as a perception that is relative. Additionally, the postmodern view of knowledge (and reality) is pluralistic and fragmented wherein knowledge is derived through a combination of intuition, feelings, and/or experience.

[5] Tim Keller speaking to postmoderns about sin – it isn’t only doing bad things, sin is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. Sin is primarily idolatry. http://www.monergism.com/postmodernidols.html. See also his new book – Counterfeit Gods.

[6] Surprised by Joy pgs.180-81.

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