Monday, November 13, 2006


Desert pastor over at paradoxlogy has a post on contending with modernity. He writes [His words are in italics, mine are not]:

Istock_000000708675small_smIt's exhausting.

The seemingly endless struggle with people -- steadfast in their modernity -- who do not see, do not understand, and therefore do not appreciate or welcome the reforms which are changing our culture, our churches, and even the ways we live out our faith.

That is not to say we shouldn't question those changes / reforms.

In particular, I have the sort of modern sensibilities in mind that convince many Christians that "contemporary" understandings of worship are especially enlightened, anointed, and free from the "religious" shackles of the past. We moderns are somehow further along in Christ than our predecessors, whose faith and practice had become little more than dead orthodoxy. We claim "relationship" with God rather than "religion", yet cannot see that our own churches and worship services are viewed by millennial/gen-y'rs as being just as worn-out and traditional as we used to claim of the older generation when we were young.

The diversity within Christ's body is beautiful and worth celebrating -- racially, socio-economically, generationally, etc. -- yet the differences I see emerging between modern and postmodern evangelicals (in particular) may prove to be one of the most formidable barriers dividing the body of Christ in coming decades.

I wish the body of Christ was more diverse. We are still pretty white. We were at Promise Keepers on Saturday - not one member of the worship team was a person of colour - that bothered me that out of gathering of 6500+ men, there were was not an mix of races leading us in worship. I am not saying that we should have X white; X black; X asian or anything like like - that sort of thing is more about tokenism than it is about reflecting the diversity of what God is doing in southern Ontario.

Many younger evangelicals are increasingly being drawn to the ancient teachings and practices of the Church. As both-and postmoderns, they feel right at home blending the old with the new. Older, "modern" evangelicals, however, often reject the reclaiming of practices such as the use of lectionary readings, common prayers, use of icons, creedal confessions, and following of the liturgical calendar. For them, such practices "feel" far too much like their religious upbringings (often Roman Catholic, but sometimes Lutheran, Episcopalian, or Presbyterian), reminding them of the "deadness" they had experienced and.... finally broke free from.

I think there is something here: the both-and. I am really getting tired of complaints about worship [which the majority of the time is about music style]. It's not about counting the number of older vs newer songs [can we drop the term chorus to refer to newer songs... most are not chorus] - that's a wonderful way to destroy worship... let's hand out worship score cards.

As a shepherd of God's people, I realize that Christ both loved and died for "moderns", and everyone else for that matter. How can I lay claim to a missional, incarnational understanding of ministry, if I'm not willing to roll-up my sleeves and do whatever is necessary to bring both moderns and postmoderns along in their journey of faith? With God's help, I desire to reach both groups, both mindsets, but I'm finding it's not as easy as I once thought.

Tell me about it! It's not easy. We try to have, for lack of a better term, a blended style of worship. I tell you it's not easy. It's probably the best way to displease everybody! And therein lies the issue. We want to be pleased rather than please God. We want to sing our favourite songs... but we don't ask God what he wants.

There's no road map for what lies ahead. We are definitely in new and uncharted territory here. I want to reach the moderns in our congregation and bring them along with other others. If every part of the body is valuable and indespensible (1 Cor. 12:14-25), then I cannot afford to play favorites. Yet, at the same time, I don't know how long I can go on wrestling with modern brothers and sisters who are living in and defending a different reality.

So, here are a few of the questions for which I'd love some answers:

  • How can I jetison the consumeristic tendencies of modern evangelicals, while leading our congregation into paradigmatic changes that most our people will welcome or at least try?
    Let me know when you find the answer to that one!

  • What guidelines should I use in restoring certain ancient faith practices to our worship gatherings (e.g. the use of lectionary readings, common prayers, icons, credal confessions, and the following of the liturgical calendar) without giving people the feeling that we're turning (C)atholic, embracing dead religion, or giving up our spontaneity?
    I think the answer here is giving good introductions to why an element is being used. And repeating that practice, and the introduction multiple times.

  • Is there a resonable (and defendable?) limit to how much cooperation and unity can exist between moderns and postmoderns within the Church? Is eventual and further segregation inevitable?I sure hope we can learn from and accept each other before we get to heaven.

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