I apologize for the lack of blogs this week. My employer sent me on a special project in another state, which consumed nearly every waking moment at my disposal. Having returned back home, I now take time to catch up with some of the thoughts I started a week or so ago. I have read numerous articles and have found these to provide the best insight.
- Re-imagining evangelism in a postmodern culture by Miroslav Pujic
- A Clash of Cultures: Evangelism in a Postmodern World, Part 1 and Part 2 by Daniel B. Wallace
I found it difficult to find many articles that provided insight and instruction in how to best reach out to others in a post-modern world, raising my concern that few Christians seriously seek to engage this culture. One article I read echoed my growing suspicions in regards to how the evangelical community responds to this growing trend. We tend to think in one of three camps regarding the post modern movement. Please keep in mind, one could write an entire book about each of these groups and barely touch the surface of strengths and concerns of each. I simplify each one for the sake of brevity.
The majority (myself included, until recently), stick by our modernistic guns, regardless of what others think. We are so convinced that the modernistic, logical, rational approach to God, we essentially answer the change around us by attempting to argue and debate it to death. This direction only hits the post modernist as arrogant, so they walk away from us that much faster. One only needs to look at the declining number of young people in church attendance to see the impact of this approach. While I have little doubt most Christian modernists love God and their fellow man, their actions (consisting mostly of preaching and teaching) speak louder than their words. The people see this as truth without love, which Paul warns us about in 1 Cor 13.
The second Christian group embraces post-modernism with no critical thought to the eventual implications that such an approach brings. At its logical end, post-modernism results in a form of universalism, or that all paths lead to God. The message of the Gospel gets lost in a desire to reach across the aisle and attempt to make everyone comfortable as possible. The seeker-sensitive church movement demonstrates this most strongly. The Bible warns us that we must worship the Father in both Spirit and in Truth. Jesus makes it very clear that “No one comes to the father but by me.” In essences, this love without truth, is not love at all, and falls short of the gospel message.
The third Christian group, by far the minority, seeks to walk the fine line between both. They make radical changes, pay high costs and take significant risks to live the life of God’s love to others in truth. In 1 Cor 9:19-23, Paul said, in essence, that he would become all things to all people that he might win more for God. Paul clearly invested himself fully into his culture to do just that, paying whatever price in terms of time, money and talent to make that happen. In a post-modern society, that means critically examining the approach and techniques we have used for centuries to bring people closer to God, and changing those which no longer work, while holding to the truth of the Gospel and God’s Word. I believe 1 John 3:16-19 summarizes this approach nicely.
So, how does that work out practically? How can we reach a world with the truth of God, when the basic premise of the culture rejects the idea of absolute truth?
The first article I linked above suggests a three throng approach. First, “Belonging Before Believing” describes how we must reverse the order of evangelism. Traditionally, we preach the truth first, look for change in the individual, than welcome them into our family and/or Christian circles. Today, we must integrate with the culture where they meet. We must welcome them with open arms first, build genuine relationships, and show them the truth with our love and lives lived out in faith.
Second, we must focus on process evangelism. In the past, we would bring our friends to a crusade, have them listen to a good sermon, and expect them to make a decision for Christ. Yet, as Jesus started his ministry, he did so by living with them for years. Their faith grew as he ate with them, shared time with them, and ultimately died for them. In a world where we expect everything to happen instantly, Jesus often took a lot of time to ‘working the fields of faith’ and growing the next generation of disciples.
Third, and the approach which interests me the most, Miroslav speaks about story evangelism. When Jesus did speak to the masses, he rarely (if ever) did so without using parables. Stories have a way to connect truth to both the heart and the mind at the same time. Story evangelism moves beyond just story telling, however…it also extends to a story lived out. Each day of our lives constitutes a page in a story others see played out before their eyes. What story does your life tell? In a post modern society, to live differently than the ‘turth’ you preach constitutes the greatest offense of all. Brennan Manning said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle.”
Where do you fall? How do you respond to a post modern world with the truth of Christ? I would love to hear from you!