Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Upcoming Event for Our Church

Hey, check out this upcoming event our church is hosting for men and their children. If you are in the area, come on by and have fun!!!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Deconstructing Postmodern Discipleship - Characteristics Part 2

Deconstructing Postmodern Discipleship - Characteristics
The Rise of Experientialism

This one is probably the most interesting to me. The appropriation of sensory experience to the individual carries as much weight in defining personal existence as the scientific method. The deluge of sources available to people today has flattened the world back out. Think about this. I am 30 years old. In my lifetime I have witnessed the computer move from filling out an entire room to that same computer capability being carried around in my pocket. I am sitting at a computer that would fit in my lap that is more powerful than the ones that put men on the moon. While I had to convince my mom to let me have a phone in my room, today's kids are fighting to get their text message rights back. I can log on to the internet 24/7 and meet someone around the other side of the world and communicate. I can send a picture that I took with my cell phone around the world in a flash. The connectedness of this world has allowed the younger generations to experience a broad spectrum of ideas, beliefs, and faiths. Many of these things would never have intersected their culture/world before the technological advances of today's society.

As previously discussed here, the blind faith in man's ability to progress culture through rational thought led to a great disillusionment amongst the young. This disillusionment found fertile soil in an arts movement labeled postmodernism. To boil it down to a point in a time, when Hiroshima experienced the horrors of a nuclear attack, the young members of the world's culture saw the disastrous consequences of man's ability to reason left unchecked by experiential wisdom. The nuclear attack on Japan didn't just end a war, it also ended an innocence long favored by the youth of the day. The backlash is still being dealt with.

The Rise of Modern Scientific Rationalism
In the previous characteristic we discussed the infamous arrival of the pinnacle of modernist rationalism in Rene Descartes known as "I think therefore I am." The next guy that solidified the impact of rationalism is Immanuel Kant. Kant believed heartily that one ought to live an orderly life because God created an orderly world. He actually divided man's cognitive world into the phenomenon and noumenon. Phenomena is the world as we experience it, or how our rational mind explains and understands something. The noumena is that same sensed, or rationally experienced, thing independent of the sensory experience. It is the "thing in itself." It is the real object of human congnitive understanding independent of the experience. For Kant, the noumena is unknowable by us. By placing God in the noumena Kant created the possibility of a creeping agnosticism seen ultimately in the works of Friedrich Neitzche and Charles Darwin. Kant made God unknowable to mankind's highly developed skills of reason. Seems ironic. I am reminded of the scene from Jurassic Park where the scienctist points out that God created dinosaurs, God destroyed the dinosaurs, God created man, man destroyed God, and then man created dinosaurs. Kant basically elevated modernity's belief that if it cannot be verified by scientific reason it does not exist, or can't be known anyway so why care. Enter all sorts of things. Why do you think the Jesus Seminar can decide 2000 years later what Jesus actually said? Why do you think Rudolf Bultmann had no problem applying the term demytholigization to our theological vocabulary? (note that Bultmann's critical time of scholarship develops in the middle of the planting and sprouting of the movement we know call postmodernism) The rise of a focus on the individual's ability to reason, and an inability to know God for real, created a decline in several key virtues of society. In this time we find declines in personal morality, responsibility to community, and a sense of purpose and commitment. It is exactly this declined that has led to the quasi-revolt (I would actually like to coin the term "reevaluation") by the postmoderns. Modernity turned God theoretical to the world. God became what we make Him to be. He can be manipulated and redefined multiple times. He is no longer trasncendent and supreme. He is only a creation of our own mind, whose purpose is to satisfy our doubts, our fears, and lack of understanding. As Karl Marx pointed out, God became a crutch to the weak minded.

The Conversational Response of Postmodernism
The loss of innocence caused by the ending of WWII and magnified by Vietnam created a vacuum in which the fledging movement soon to be known as postmodernism would find fertile soil, take root, and sprout. Suddenly, man's ability to think and reason was not as attractive anymore. Individualistic reason allowed mankind to find personal justitification for their actions. The world lost its belief that there is something out there beyond us. In response, the postmoderns elevated experiential knowledge as a legitimate source of truth. They became interested in the conversation. The plus side to this is that they begin to seek out classical doctrine and belief, much of which had been shunned by moderns. They discovered newfound freedom in a relational model of Christianity. They turned from a self-centered focus to a focus on social causes and campaigns. They seek to make the world a better place because they were there, instead of expecting the world to make them a better place because they are there. The drawbacks are found in an increased appropriation of foreign doctrines and belief systems. The fine line between cultural relevance and cultrually influenced is often crossed or missed all together. Truth can sometimes fluctuate with the latest book read or podcast heard.

A postmodern discipleship must learn to capture the core value of experiential learning in order to spur spiritual growth among the younger generations. They aren't seeking another program to be a part. They are seeking a mission to change the world. They are far more interested in a significant life rather than a merely successful life. The postmodern will regularly join you in community assistance projects well before he/she joins you in faith. They want to see your faith lived out in your life and ensure it is not just another telemarketing scheme to get their money. They will walk side by side with you in an effort to clean up the city, but won't stand with you in faith until they know your faith makes a difference in you personally. Quite frankly, they have to see Jesus in you, before they will ever see Jesus in themselves.

Previous Posts:

Monday, February 05, 2007

Deconstructing Postmodern Discipleship - Characteristics Part 1

Characteristics of Postmodernism
The Loss of a Cultural Metanarrative

For the purpose of this series I will identify three main characteristics of postmodernity, which have the greatest impact on the church's attempt to evangelize and disciple younger generations. I, in no way, calim that this is a perfect or definitive list of postmodernism's traits. It does, however, offer a glimpse in a summary fashion at basic realities that each church must face, understand, and traverse in order to establish an ongoing evangelistic conversation with the youth of our society. The first is found below. I will offer the next two over the coming days.

Loss of a Cultural Metanarrative
A metanarrative is an all-encompassing account or story of the historical record on which personal experience and belief is and can be built in order to explain the surrounding world, society, and individual culture. Essentially it is the foundational truth on which you construct your personal worldview. History is generally divided into three distinct periods each of which maintains its particular metanarrative.
The Classical, or Pre-modern period featured an inherently God-centered metanarrative. The world was explained, understood, and defined through the church. Most know of the dangers of ecclesiastical/papal rule. Anyway, the world and humanity was seen as innately sinful and in need of redemption from sin.
The Enlightenment, or Modern period found its apex in Rene Descartes' cogito ergo sum. We know this phrase as, I think, therefore I am. The full phrase actually goes, I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am. And they call postmoderns skeptics. The prevailing rationalism of the day held that mankind would progress to a euphoric utopia through the exercise of his own ability to think and reason. Society would experience continual progress in moral, social, and ethical norms. Well, the world did progress. The advances that make our current world possible find their genesis in this time. As I alluded in a previous post in this series, postmillenial thought ruled the day as the world witnessed the power inherent in the human mind. What many failed to remember is summed up aptly by Martin Luther, Reason is the Devil's greatest whore. Something got in the way of this progression to utopia. We now call it World War 1. If that wasn't enough to nail shut the coffin of humanistic optimism the world decided one massive war wasn't enough so it launched into World War 2, which accounts for some the greatest atrocities the world has ever seen or experienced. Needless to say, doubt crept into society's ability to rationally bring about utopia. Some subcultural movements housed within this period are Marxism, Captialism, Freudian Psychology, Communism and Socialism.
The current period, Postmodernism, finds its metanarrative in not having a metanarrative. I would dare say that the root of this reailty is found in modernity's inability to secure its own true metanarrative. What happenned when man put all his faith in his own thinking ability is that a multitude of ideas and -isms developed. The chaotic result led the youth of the current generation to reject the need for a metanarrative at all. It isn't a full scale rejection, but a general skepticism towards blind acceptance of an overarching explanation for the way things are. To be frank, the postmodern generations have watched the reality of the prime of modernistic thought bring forth selfishness, foolishness, moral relativity, Watergate, Whitewater, Monicagate, Vietnam, Irag, Enron, Worldcom, world poverty, AIDS crisis, and so much more. Postmoderns look at all narratives as holding equal weight. This is not totally true. Basically, the postmodern is willing to entertain the veracity of Hinduism just as easily as Christianity, but will make an individual choice that could be one or the other, or even some of both! The postmodern has seen what the modern did to the world and society, and has little interest in conintuing down that path. Unfortunately, they don't tend to find a path very easily. The influx of scandal to the church, a la Haggard; Swaggert; Baker; and more, coupled with the reality that church people have taken a do as I say, not as I do mentality had driven much of the young postmodern generations out of the church building to parachurch, pseudo church, and other ministries. Barna has done plenty of work on this. Read about it here.
Their loyalty is closely guarded and not easily won. They haven't rejected God, but have walked away from the god often preached in today's churches. Today's church, in its quest to reach postmoderns, must help them identify with and personalize a Christian biblical worldview. It is imperative that the church recognize the postmodern's need to search out truth on his own and to take an attitude of guiding, or leading, that person to faith in Christ. This is most often done, not through a sermon on Sunday morning, but by that sermon being lived out through faith during the rest of the week. If you, or your congregation is uninterested in living your faith out loud Monday through Saturday don't bother opening on Sunday. We must seek to help them take ownership and apply their loyalty to accomplilshing God's purposes in and through the local church while making a significant impact in other people's lives and the surrounding community.

Previous Posts:


The Evangelism Shift

The Disillusionment

Friday, February 02, 2007

Is the Cooperative Program on Life Support?

I am sitting here in my office drinking coffee and eating Skittles. This will turn out to be a fun morning. I was flipping through and reading my current Winter 07 edition of Leadership Journal from Chrisitianity Today. There was an article in there titled: New Ownership on page 19 by Eric Reed. In that article he makes the comment that the church has lost in many ways the face that went along with their support of missionaries. No longer does the congregational member hear personally on a Sunday morning/evening from the missionary/ies their dollars support. This is the subtle negative of the Cooperative Program amongst the thousands of positives. As culture continues to evolve more to a "postmodern" (however you choose to define that) mindset, what will be the effect on the Cooperative Program? Gen x'ers and Millenials are much more interested in the face to face, side by side experiential reality of the world and society. Does the CP stand at the edge of cultural denominational irrelavance? How can we prevent such a collapse (and I am not intending to say there is one on the near horizon) from happenning (that is not a resolution passed at a meeting)? I am curious about this. I believe strongly in the CP and what it has allowed the SBC to do and accomplish, but what if I am in the minority in my age class (I am 30) and younger? How do we bring back the missionary face to the CP?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Leadership Void

I believe the greatest issue facing the church and her ability to impact the world is a void of godly leadership. I’m not talking about a void of people who enjoy the power of leadership, but a void of those gifted and called to lead. A great example of leadership is found in the book of Job where he says that before his sufferings, “Where I led, people followed.” I believe that is a great picture of what leadership is all about.

There first must be a passion that leads to a vision. Too many so called leaders have no passion. Their heart doesn’t break and therefore they have no vision. A leader without vision is a person who seeks to gain or maintain power. Leadership isn’t about power, but influence. Leadership isn’t about pride, but sacrifice. Leadership isn’t about gaining, but giving. Leadership isn’t about selfishness, but selflessness. Leadership is the ability to see what God is doing and communicate that vision with people in such a way that they become committed to the vision.

The next key of leadership is people. A leader can’t sit aloft from people. A leader has got to be one of the guys. People need to know that the leader knows them and cares about them. As people experience a leader’s life, they are transformed by what they see. Jesus is the great example of a leader becoming one of us. God took on flesh and that of a servant to lead us. Too many potential leaders aren’t willing to let go of their comfort and safety to serve in the mire of people’s lives.

The last key to being a leader is a leader sets the example for others. People follow what you do more than what you say. Many potential leaders fail not because they don’t see the vision or can’t relate to people, but because they don’t live out the vision themselves. A leader has to be a person worth following for people to follow him or her. I encourage every leader to live with integrity by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In closing, I believe 95 percent of the problems faced in the Southern Baptist Convention, our churches, and our world would be solved by filling the leadership void with godly leadership.