Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Transformation, postmodernity, and Presbyterians

Tomorrow, I'll be attending an all day event for ministers of the Presbytery of Cincinnati -- it's a workshop featuring Jill Hudson, the author of When Better Isn't Enough (see the review at the bottom of the Amazon listing page). The main thrust of this event, as I understand it, will be to help pastors grasp and understand the new environment in which we do ministry.

It's interesting because the first two chapters of her book (and I suspect that the bulk of our conversation tomorrow) deal with the movement from the modern era to the postmodern. This is not new territory for me -- I've seen much more in-depth analyses of this shift and its ministry implications (Stan Grenz had a great overview in his Primer on Postmodernism. Mark Driscoll's The Radical Reformission is another fine work. Consider the whole catalog of works by Len Sweet for another spin. Pretty much all of Richard Pratt's Introduction to Theological Studies Class at RTS was focused on preparing us for this environment). Indeed, simply because of my generation, a lot of the concepts are old hat (such as the preference for story, new media, consumer mindset,individualistic, yet also very into peer relationships). She sums up her cursory introduction with this quote “Much more could be said about postmodernism, but these are the important points for a discussion about the church. The integration of rationality with imagination, intuition, and faith; the understanding that truth is socially constructed; and the ability to hold contradictory beliefs are the primary keys for our continued discussion about what makes for effective ministry.” (11)

Therein lies the rub -- the postmodern mindset is pretty hard to pin down -- it's almot like being invited to a chineese buffet with 80 items on the menu: no-one has all 80 items on their plate at any given time -- in the same way, no two "postmoderns" look alike. I love what the folks down at Portico Church in Charlotte have to say about this: "True 'post moderns' don't particularly like the term because it's of little or no value beyond marking the time in which we live". It is far to vague of a term connoting far too many things for it to really communicate anything other than we live in a new era of communication and thought process.

The real value that Hudson's book has is in being an introduction for the person who looks about and suddenly realizes the world, unbenknownst to them, has changed. She likens it to the experience that Dorothy has anymore when she lands in Oz -- away from the familiarity of families and friends and struggles with which she was familiar. Now she has to deal with things that make absolutely no sense to her: a talking scarecrow, a horse of a different color, and the lollipop guild (aka -- the Munchkin Mafia).

The majority of the people who read this blog are already steeped in postmodernity in some way (though there are a few who have never encountered it before). Why don't you join in the conversation here -- what does it mean to be the church in an era that we call postmodern? In what ways do you consider yourself postmodern? comment away.

I'll try to post a synopsis of tomorrow's seminar tomorrow night or Friday.

Soli Deo Gloria

PS -- if you haven't yet -- check out the Library Thing feature that I've added to the right column (the books I'm currently reading) -- you can go see my entire library (or at least the portion that I've cataloged thus far -- probably about a quarter of the way done). It's a very fun website. Enjoy!