One of these Things Is Not Like the Other

So we’re trying to be more effective in sharing what we have with people who don’t yet have it. To do that we tried to understand God’s heart for people who are far from Him, and now we’re trying to understand the heart of those people.

So today I want to hit one of the stereotypes. There’s a lot of truth in most of the stereotypes so I wouldn’t summarily dismiss any of them. However I don’t think you can stamp everyone with the same label maker either.

So one thing we hear a lot about lost people today is that they are “post-modern,” and that is true. And it’s important to understand because there are. And there are other people who have done a great job at explaining post-modernity and the mindset of post-moderns, so I won’t do it here. If you want to do some research, the easiest to understand explanation I’ve heard is Erwin McManus’ “Telescopes, Microscopes, Kaleidoscopes” to differentiate between pre-moderns, moderns, and post-moderns (but I don’t know if it’s in print anywhere). The best book I’ve read is “A Primer on Postmodernism,” by Stanley Grenz, and Brian McLaren has also put out great stuff.

But here’s one point I’d add: All post-moderns are not the same, so let’s not paint with too broad a brush. Remember a few days ago we started this discussion by talking about shark fishing? One group went shark fishing with no idea how to catch sharks while the other knew how to do it… Well, even with shark fishing, different types of sharks swim at different depths, and so you need to know what type of shark you’re going after. And not every post-modern person thinks, talks, and acts the same. Ken Baugh, who has been ministering to post-moderns since before they were called post-moderns identifies ten sub-cultures of post-moderns in a book he wrote. And the truth is that there are as many sub-groups of post-moderns as there are post-moderns.

I think it’s because we throw all post-moderns into the same category that there is this stereotype of how to do church to reach them: candles, incense, liturgical worship. And it is true that some churches are using that style effectively. But I can tell you that others are reaching post-moderns without candles or incense, with a style that is absolutely anti-liturgical. If you’d like to see a great example of that, check out Gateway Church in Austin, TX (and definitely read the book their pastor, John Burke, wrote called, “No Perfect People Allowed.”)

So what’s my point? Well, study up on post-modernity but what would be far more powerful is to go hang out with post-modern people. Then, instead of reading what they’re like and hoping the author’s got it right, you’ll know what they’re like because they’re your friends. And instead of copying some guy’s church in Seattle, Austin, or Grand Rapids you can have a church that’s true to you and right for your friends.

Next time we’ll explore another stereotype.

Until then … start planning for Arbor Day.

– Featured on