Progress In A Postmodern Culture
The world in which we live changes more than it stays the same. The Church, on the other hand, has a tendency to stay the same more than it changes. This pattern of be-havior, however, is nothing new. The Children of Israel modeled it and chose rather to stay the same instead of obeying the Lord. They chose to wander around in circles for 40 years, until finally, a new generation arose, and a new leader emerged that would move the Congregation of The Lord into the Land of Promise. This new generation em-braced the command of the Lord and began to see the world in a whole new way. This move represented a major change in their journey; a shift in their thinking and their ac-tions. Where they were going they had never been before. Everything that was modern to them would be replaced with the postmodern. They stood at a crossroad and chose to move forward. Their choice, mixed with their actions, resulted in progress.
The Church today is once again standing at a crossroad. The world and the culture has changed. We have to ask ourselves, “Will we embrace the command of the Lord and enter into the Land of Promise, or will we continue to wander holding on to what has been familiar?” Today is a new day filled with new opportunities, new possibilities, new challenges, and new obstacles. We, too, must choose to see the world in a whole new way. We must understand that, regardless of this change in culture, we are still called by God, and we will be held responsible by Him, to reach this postmodern world. Like the Church in the Old Testament, our choice, mixed with our actions, will also result in progress.
Postmodernism: The description of a contemporary intellectual and cultural climate as a stage beyond modernism. It is marked by a rejection of “objective truth”, and the powers of reason, and claims of universality. Texts and symbols are emphasized together with a corporate understanding of truth that is relative to each community in which one par-ticipates.
• Postmodernism: After modernity; Extremely modern
Postmodernism is the view that the second half of the 20th century heralded a signifi-cant cultural transformation. Most theories of “post-modernity” attach significance to things like the growth of mass media, the growth of consumerism, and the erosion of traditional values. Probably the main theme is that postmodern culture is one of con-stant unrelenting change, that the idea of a fixed material reality has broken down due to things like TV and the Internet and that as a result of this our identities are in a state of constant flux and rootlessness.
“The clearest way to see through a culture is to attend to its tools for conversation.”
In his book, The Millennium Matrix: Reclaiming the Past, Reframing the Future of the Church, author Rex Miller says that our world has experienced Four Historic Cultural Shifts.
1. The Oral Culture–Our first culture was oral, based in the spoken word. The air was filled not by radio waves or the instant connections of cyberspace but by human voices: person to person oral communication is not only about speaking but also about hearing. In fact, the ancient Hebrews considered understanding to be a type of hearing.
2. The Print Culture–When Gutenberg set the Bible in movable type around 1454 and created the first mass-produced book, it literally spelled the end of oral culture’s domi-nance and the rising of print culture. Until then the Word of God was passed from mouth to ear; now it was available for everyone who could read.
3. The Broadcast Culture–When an army of youth took over the culture in the 1960’s, it was more than a generational turf battle: it was spiritual war that could only be de-scribed by the Apostle Paul’s words to the Ephesians (Ephesians 6:10). The young adults and adolescents who stood on one side and the confused, befuddled, and even scared adults on the other might as well have been from two different planets.
4. The Digital Culture–The oral world trusted in God’s hidden wonders. The print world was confident in its ability to know, through reason, the what, and why of the world. The broadcast world is interested in what we don’t know, as a flood of fresh images blurs our once fixed and stable thought boundaries. The work of the coming digital world–whose birth we have recently witnessed–will be in synthesizing our past into our desired future: shaped and influenced by the integrated character of digital media.
Six Common Reasons Why Churches Do Not Make Progress
1. Isolation: Many Churches and denominations are isolated from the realities of their
communities and the larger culture. Many have turned inward to build support
services and a culture cut off from the larger community.
2. Fragmentation: Many Churches are so fragmented and activity-driven that they have
little opportunity to develop strong relational bonds. This results in a high turnover
rate. The turnover rate is the number of people who enter, leave, or change roles
within the Church.
3. Lack of Identity: Part of this lack of cohesion stems from a lack of clear identity.
Community and corporate identity are not the same as being purpose-driven or
having a mission statement. Leaders and members have to spend time together in
meaningful fellowship and service in order to develop both identity and cohesion.
4. Lack of Innovation: Many Churches do not tolerate fringe or eccentric elements, due
in large part to their emphasis on the Sunday event. When a Church finds something
that works one time they beat it in the ground and refuse to try anything new.
5. Central Leadership: The leadership structure of many Churches can prevent
anything new from taking place. They operate like a central command post, instead
of developing a leadership culture where people are trained to lead and then are
given the liberty to do so.
6. No Margin For Error: Many Churches are so tightly stretched with their time, their
personnel, and their resources that they have no margin for error or the flexibility to
So, what do we do and where do we start to begin eliminating these hindrances and making progress? We must choose to see the world in a whole new way. We must see the bigger picture and not give in to the “Quick Fix” way of thinking and doing. Progress is always a process and it doesn’t happen overnight. Postmodernism is here to stay, but God is empowering His Church, to connect with, and reach this Postmodern Culture. After all, this Postmodern Culture could be the generation that ushers in the return of our Lord Jesus Christ!