How to Engage Postmoderns in Your Church

Postmodernism - it's a buzzword that has been floating around Evangelicalism for years. For many, the mere mention of this word conjures negative emotions. The concept of postmodernity represents a spiritual battle that we see emerging in our churches today - a battle many churches are losing.

Some churches are adopting postmodernism in an attempt to "move with the times," while others are choosing to ignore the fact that it exists. Neither is an appropriate response because God's church is called to reach the people who live within culture.

Here are several principles that will help guide your church and ministry through the confusion of postmodernism:

Jesus commanded us to "go" to people in culture

We quickly forget that Jesus has not asked for them to come to us. This will require considering and adopting new approaches to ministry. What we are doing is not working. Postmoderns are not getting the picture.

Engage this culture, don't condemn it

It is a common practice for the church to oppose cultural change rather than to change its methods to reach people in a new culture. Some churches will choose to engage the culture in radically biblical ways - becoming missionaries to a culture that has traveled to them.

We need authenticity, not programs

Postmoderns are looking for something real and genuine. They are eager to see vibrant expressions of faith and fresh approaches to life and ministry, not pre-packaged, memorized-message Christianity.

Focus on postmoderns as people, not a philosophy

A clear distinction needs to be made between "postmoderns" and the philosophy of "postmodernity." We have lost our sense of urgency when discussing postmodernism because we find so many errors in the philosophy. That is why we have to separate the people from the philosophy.

Lift up Christ, don't tear down an axiom

Postmoderns are not looking for another voice of opposition, but for hope and inspiration. Soapbox preaching is not attractive to this culture. Young evangelicals succeed in ministry when they instill hope and truth in real and practical ways. Focusing on the disease doesn’t transform people. Focusing on the cure does.

Inspire artistic expression, don't hinder creativity

Culture historically (and even presently) is driven by the arts. In fact, the Church used to define the culture through art. Artists and composers were often inspired and actually employed by the church. Young evangelicals are seeking to renew this emphasis - to inspire and engage culture by encouraging artists to share their talents with the world, not just the Christian sub-culture.

It is easy to dismiss an issue when we do not understand it. We can do the same thing in our churches. If we don't understand something, we simply create another program to contain it. Instead, let's cultivate an active desire to reach this culture. How we respond to this changing culture will determine our effectiveness in expanding God's kingdom among the nations.

Ed Stetzer is Vice President of Research and Ministry Development for LifeWay Christian Resources. He is Visiting Professor of Research and Missiology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Visiting Research Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has taught at fifteen other colleges and seminaries. He also serves on the Church Services Team at the International Mission Board. His latest book is Transformational Church, co-written with Thom Rainer.

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