Thursday, November 11, 2004

Repairing, Reforming or Repainting?

Is it possible that many who think of themselves as "progressive" within their own religious tradition are simply rushing to emulate the mistakes of other denominations? I know I may sound like an "old-shcool conservative" here, but trust me I'm going somewhere completely different. I run in fairly progressive circles inside the churches of Christ (the use of "progressive" and "churches of Christ" in the same sentance just caused uncontrollable laughter in some readers from other traditions), and it seems to me that what some of my contemporaries are really saying is "what we really want to be is a Baptist Church from the early '90's" (though they obviously wouldn't phrase it that way.) Now, I have nothing against Baptists (indeed their tradition has enriched my faith and taught me countless things about God), I just think they are in the same kind of boat we are, alghough it might be painted a different color. Most mainline denominations seem to be suffering from the same root problems: a self-centerd gospel (which isn't acutally good news at all), a slick marketing version of evangelism, and the unnoticed blinders of modernity. Until these issues are addressed and changed, anything else we are doing is simply repainting a ship with a broken mast.

5 comments:

Brandon Scott said...

Adam-
You are so right! It's a systemic problem...a vision problem. No matter what the marketing may look like, as long as it stays about us it ends up in the same heap. Yuck.

c said...

This seems to run true in other circles as well. "We want to be postmodern church," they seem to announce. "We want to have a postmodern service." But it just seems like they are singing a different tune but are not changing the lyrics. What needs to happen first is a changing of the words. And this is what is so hard. Its easy to change the style of our worship, but it is difficult to change your theology. I believe once we understand what the Kingdom of God is or at least have a general concept, then our methodology will change. Your theology determines your methodology, and I hope we can be a people that practice that theology as a group in the coming days.

I guess my question is, "Will a postmodern (apologize for using this ambiguious word, but seems to fit the discussion churches are having) church really look different on the inside?" By that I mean our form, or will our difference come with our outwardness?

I guess we should determine what God's calling us to become in our context? Jeremiah was told by God to "Stand at the crossroads and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls."

Fajita said...

I wonder if trying to be progressive, postmodern or being anything is only a reflection of the depths to which modernism has saturated our thinking. Only a modern would try to be postmodern. I fear that so many Christians think they are being postmodern when in reality they are being modern in a different way. A rush to postmodernism is likely to result in finding something and getting happy with it...making it the new modern and thereby losing everything that's good about the searching for something. The question is not whether the skydiver will hit ground, but rather will he or she jump again. I fear most people will be satisfied to jump, but just once.

Steve F. said...

One day, an a burst of frustration, I defined the difference in this crass way:
Modernism: in the end, if we study and pray and meditate enough, we *can* know God's private cell phone number.
Post-modernism: even if we *had* the number...in the end, we can't *know* if God will answer our call.

(Of course, like all generalizations, this one's not really worth a *$&%, either.)

I agree with Adam, that if there is not a fundamental change in the way we seek to "know God" and "do church," then a mainstream church "having a postmodern service" or "going postmodern" becomes nothing more a blind man with a new pair of really cool Oakley sunglasses. It may very well look good, but nothing fundamental has changed in how we see things.

However cheap and simplistic my definition above, I hope it *does* at least show the difference between a desire for intellectual knowledge *about* God and a desire for a relationship that can survive past the caller-ID readout. As little as I understand on this topic (and trust me, it ain't a lot), I believe this change is also about a changed lifestyle or discipline: perhaps the image I'm seeking is the difference between my knowledge that "fitness is good" and having a weekly walking and eating plan to which I adhere.

As a person on the outer-limits of middle-age, I have seen the empty husks of spiritual modernity lying around the church for, well, a long, long time. Decades of alliterative three-point sermons and whipping congregants to "learn all you can about Jesus" simply have not transformed the spiritual countryside...and it's not for lack of trying.

The more I hear, and the more I learn, the more I know that I've been seeking "the emergent church" - outward facing, Acts 2:42-focused, bounded only by two Great Commandments and one Great Commission - ever since Vatican II. Let it come quickly, Lord!

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