POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

Postmodern Christian...how hard it is to be...

For anyone out there who has heard the ever increasing choir of those "who are emerging" "who are reimaging - church, evangelism, spirituality" "Who are in the next wave" "Who see all things as dance" proclaiming judgment upon everthing "of modernity" let’s do this as an exercise in “PoMo/Emerging Christian” understanding – This is a good one to use as an exercise - http://www.theooze.com/articles/article.cfm?id=825 Read it first at the link above, then go below - I’ll comment on this as we go in bold, to show how much of this is just language games and silliness and we really need to get on with something much more productive for the Kingdom of God. Your modern, no your modern, no I'm postmodern...yada, yada - is getting waaaaay old. The "Rule of Pinky" by John O'Keefe Saturday July 24, 2004 PAGE: 1 While I would never say there should be a “litmus test” (such tests are wrong for the “postmodern”– because they imply certainty – in other words – they don’t like things so tightened down)for being a postmodern/emerging community of faith, I will say just claiming to be one does not make you one. I am Irish. I could claim to be German, learn the language, learn the culture, and learn to like the food (I all ready like the beer), but I would not be German (he is stating a combination of two principles known as the law of identity – something IS what it IS and the law of non-Contradiction – Something cannot be what it is and NOT what it is at the same time and in the same sense – these are logical maxims that PoMos usually deny, but then use in their arguments – as he will do – ie I’m not going to give you a test – I don’t believe it that – but here is a test). At best, I would be an Irishman who appreciates German culture. And at worst, I would be a person seeking to be what he is not for some alternative gain.The same is true within the postmodern/emerging conversation. For example, if Willowcreek or Saddleback (the always hated mega church) today decided to call itself "postmodern/emerging" that would not make it so. If a church calls itself postmodern/emerging, just because it is trying to reach a "younger crowd," that self-imposed label doesn’t make the church an actual postmodern/emerging community of faith. Let me restate my opening line again, while I would never (there it is again) say there was an absolute "litmus test" for a postmodern/emerging community of faith I do have to say that there are “standards.” (what is that but a rule to judge by? – putting it in quotes does not change this – now we all really believe in standards to judge something to be what it is – so why play games and act like we do not) There has to be something that marks a postmodern/emerging community of faith. These “standards” may be loose, “unofficial,” and even questionable, (then how useful are they) but I think they are central (read core to their identity – can’t be one without it – so they are not so loose and unofficial after all) to all postmodern/emerging communities of faith; you can see them as a kind of “rule of pinky” (thumbs are too modern) (that is just silly, I would say stupid, but my daughter won't let me use that word any more) that I think we can use to determine if a community of faith is, or is not, postmodern/emerging.How it came to be:At ginkworld.net we receive over 100 requests a month from different communities of faith to be added to the “community of faith listing” (which is vast and growing). And out of those, we may add only 10 to 15. Most of the requests are from churches that are very modern, very "willowback" (read 666) in structure and style. Some of these churches desire to call themselves “postmodern/emerging” not because they are, but because they see “postmodern/emerging” as the “new thing,” the “next-wave” in ministry, the “edge,” or the “cool thing to do.” They have no idea what it means to be postmodern/emerging (who does?). They read Kimball, Sweet, or some other author, and they feel if they don’t catch this wave they'll miss the beach all together. (Well, most of these authors tell people that they are “Missing the point”, that Christianity must change to mirror the culture or be irrelevant etc. There are books, convergences, web sites, conversations, experiences, ad nauseum which say precisely this – change or miss the beach all together) Others desire to be added to our list because they want to “attract and fix” people with a postmodern/emerging mind. One church asked that we add them, and when we sent them a email explaining that they would not be added (we have now stopped giving rejection emails) to explain why we did not add them – they got mad. They were not angry because they were postmodern/emerging and we missed it—they admitted as much. All they wanted was to be listed so they could minister to, as the senior pastor put it, “the lost postmodern believers who are being tricked into thinking that anything but ‘the true church of Christ’ is the answer.”This led us to ask some very important questions:

  • Just because they desire to call themselves "postmodern/emerging," must we agree and post them?
  • What would we see as central to a “postmodern/emerging” community of faith?
  • If we did post those that were questionable, are we being honest to our call?
  • Are we being honest to those who are looking for something different when they come to our site to find a “postmodern/emerging” community of faith?
  • If we left to a committee (very modern idea) (gasp) to decide, who would be put on?

The question for us became, “How do we decide who to add to a list of “postmodern/emerging” communities of faith and still be honest, open, and direct concerning it? Over time, we developed the following criteria that works for us (always add the “for us” – that eliminates sounding like you are making an absolute judgment – but why can’t a modernist church be a postmodern/emerging church if these are just “their” standards – who are they to judge who is and who is not postmodern). But with all that being said, let me share with you that at some level this is still something each and every person needs to ask him or herself (it is person relative, or “community relative” for the more academically sophisticated postmodern). These are basic criteria, and not, by any means, to be taken as “written in stone.” (can’t do that, can’t be certain – but heck, God did write some things in stone – and those things can be understand by human beings – God reveals by writing some things in stone, and he did give us a book, a Bible – am I WRONG?)

“the rule of pinky” (playful and being cute are postmodern trademarks – they could not say “The Rules that Make You a Postmodern/Missional/Emerging Community – because that would be too “modern” of them.)

  • A postmodern/emerging community of faith needs to have a willingness to encourage it’s participants to extend the self to the world around.
  • As a gathering, they need to have a desire to see “community” as something more then a collection of small tribes, and they need to be able to see past their own tribe to that of others. They need to move from inside the community to a place of “uncomfort” and be in mission to all.
  • A postmodern/emerging community of faith needs a willingness to move past what is, and redefine what will be. While we would never ask them to be innovators, we would expect them not to be imitators. If what the community is seeking to do is imitate another community, then that is not seeing what can be – but only living what is. When people “imitate” that tells us they see this as another “church program” and not a true expression of community and self. (This is a key problem I have with some in this movement – God’s idea was the church – it is not ours to make up as we go – there better be some imitation through the centuries, in fact for all of time, else the gospel is completely washed away by expressing “self” and “community” – Jude 3 tells us differently – that there is something once for ALL entrusted to us)
  • A postmodern/emerging community of faith needs a willingness to treat all people as equals. When we say “all people,” we mean all people, regardless of age, race, gender, belief system or any other “box” we can think of, are equal in the eyes of God. (AMEN!!! Equal in God’s eyes because of what we are – made in his image. But let’s not let this thinking degrade into universalism as I have seen on many a pomo message board – Jesus taught that there are sheep and goats)
  • A postmodern/emerging community of faith has a willingness to hear the voices of others. The idea that we accept people is cool, but if you are not going to hear them, we are simply speaking empty words; it is not just “hear” it is “listen.” (Sure, this is just being a kind and courteous person. But what does it mean to listen to someone who denies that Jesus is who Jesus says he is – I will love that person, hang with them, but I will not listen if listen means accept the truth of what everyone says – or that everything that someone says is even valuable.)
  • A postmodern/emerging community of faith has a willingness to not be driven by programs, building or budgets. It does not center on what it has but on what it can do with that it has. (Again, this is not very thoughtful – if one goes to “do something” one has to take action. If doing it together, it must be organized otherwise you cannot do something “together” – scrap the building – fine by me, but if money is given to the elders of a community of faith it better be stewarded – God requires this – and spending what you do not have is bad news – so you better have a budget. Perhaps what needs to be said is “not by programs, buildings, or budgets” which leave God out, which are prayerless, which give not thought to the Spirit and Word of God.) The idea that there are no standards to be a postmodern/emerging church is just not the case. There may be no “hard and fast” rules (then why exclude others from the PoMo club), and it may be hard to apply the standards. To be honest, all of them do not have to be 100% on the line; there is room for grace. Just keep in mind, I don't think anyone who has written any book with a postmodern/emerging slant has ever suggested that there was no standard. (Good, now let’s just give up the game and talk about what is good, right and true – from our tradition and faith given to us by God)

Anyway, let God (the Trinity) be true, and may our hearts and minds seek after he who is the truth.