March 11, 2006

Ten Distinctives of Postmodern Churches

At Titus Ministries, in their resource section, they have a list of ten distinctives of postmodern churches. The Blind Beggar says, "The vision of Titus Ministries is to inspire, equip, and enable churches in developing their potential for qualitative and quantitative growth for maximum impact in their communities."

Here are the ten distinctives:
  1. Be unashamedly spiritual. Most postmoderns are open to the spiritual. People are tired of the modern belief that everything can be answered by science and reason. They are open to something mystical and spiritual.
  2. Promote incarnational ministry. Authenticity is essential. Postmoderns are looking for persons who are genuine and transparent. Too often, postmoderns feel they’re meeting an alien culture when they encounter evangelical Christianity. It is not the job of the unchurched postmodern to enter our culture. It is our job to invade theirs (become incarnate) with the unchanging truth of the gospel.
  3. Worship experientially. Authenticity is valued above technique in churches reaching postmoderns. A dynamic worshipping community becomes a powerful apologetic to a generation open to the spiritual but not knowing how to connect with the Spirit. Postmoderns want to experience God, not just see a show about him.
  4. Preach narrative expository messages. Jesus frequently used narratives or stories in his preaching, and often the story was the point. Preaching biblical stories connects to a culture that sees stories as a source of truth.
  5. Appreciate and participate in ancient patterns. Postmodern leaders are spellbound by the ancient-future faith of the past. There is a new interest in ancient things: Gregorian chants, Celtic Christianity, ancient art, etc. The church can embrace those that promote biblical truth.
  6. Experience visual worship. Paintings, banners, candles and other imagery can help share the gospel message. In the postmodern age, truth can be expressed in images illuminating biblical truth.
  7. Engage in service. Churches can connect with postmoderns by offering them an outlet for their passion to serve. Genuine faith always expresses itself in ministry. As postmoderns see that faith produces service, the validity of the faith is proved. A wonderful outlet for this is to engage postmoderns in mission work.
  8. Connect with technology. “Technology is no longer an option in postmodern culture. It is part of the culture,” he says. Churches trying to reach postmoderns not only will use technology in worship, but they also will promote community through that technology, such as the Internet.
  9. Live community. Community is a central value in most effective churches reaching postmoderns. This is good news for the church; community is central to its mission. With a culture eager for genuine community, the Church can offer community with people and with God.”
  10. Promote team-based leadership. Leadership in the postmodern context tends to be dramatically different than it was in other models. In the modern context, the leader was penalized for transparency. Leaders who shared their struggles frequently regretted it later as it became an example in future arguments. In the postmodern era, struggle and consequently transparency is more valued.
In reading some of these things, I wonder how appealing these things are to those outside the church. I enjoy many of the things in the list, but I also wonder how many "outsiders" this approach actualy reaches. Do non-Christians walk in and think I like the candles and banners? Do they walk in and think I am not completely convinced of science?

Sometimes I think these elements are simply the wishful thinking of Evangelical Christians who discovered liturgy and want to bring some ritualistic (not dead liturgy, just form) to their worship. How much of this is actual observation of what people want, and how much is the vision and direction of the leaders? In reading the atheist's blog at off-the-map.com, I don't always get the impression that these observations are true, at least for some. For instance Hement seems intrigued by the mega-church; which has none of this.

I like some of these. In fact, I like most of them. I just have a passion for reaching the lost, and I wonder how effective this is in reaching the lost. I do think being incarnational, using technology, experiential and visual worship, and live community are important.

I think narrative preaching is in vogue. I don't know how effective it really is; just liked by many within the church. The article says that some believe the point is in the story, I agree, but most people don't get the point. If there is one thing that people complain about most after walkin out of a preaching service, it is that the message didn't have application. Narrative preaching doesn't have to be without application, but it often is. Most people are not biblical scholars so they need help making the connection between the Scriptural text and their every day life.

I also don't think I agree with the team leadership concept, if, by team leadership, they mean shared leadership with no lead pastor. I think the concept of the lead pastor working with a talented, commited team is invaluable. I don't, however, think a group concept of leadership works. Someone has to be the vision caster. Someone has to have final say on direction. This isn't egotistical or dictatorial, it can be, but doesn't have to be.

As always, I absolutely agree with serving. I think this is the biggest way the church is incarnational in the community. I take a different approach than most (Servant Evangelism), but I believe that regular, active service to the community in the name of Jesus is necessary. Even during a time when it was not popular (modernity) that didn't mean we shouldn't have been involved. Every historical, major movement of God in the church has been accompanied by a revival of social concern and outreach.

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