Monday, July 18, 2005
It's not really about postmodernity
After spending a good amount of time this weekend with several different sets of friends from our old church, I started to notice two things:

1) It's hard to avoid talking about the politics at our old church when we're with those people.

and

2) There seems to be a mis-perception on the part of others at my old church that one of my big concerns is/was to preach postmodernism to people.

As to the first issue, I have to plead guilty. As scripture says, "a dog returns to his own vomit", and for some reason all the stuff that happened and continues to happen at our old church just seems to come up (pun intended) whenever we're around certain friends. I don't quite know why. I don't really spend much time thinking about that stuff when I'm not with those people. I'm pretty well over it. I think maybe it's just because those are points of shared common experience that we have with them, and so its something that we can all relate to. But truth be told, I need to discipline myself more often to not even go there. It's not healthy or helpful to rehash any of that garbage anymore.

As for the second issue, it bothers me that people think that I made it my mission while at our former church to convert others to postmodernity, or to serve as an apologist for it or whatever. I really do think this is a huge mis-perception and mis-understanding. Until people at our old church specifically confronted me about my "postmodern" views I had never directly brought it up at church, nor to the students. We never taught lessons about postmodernity. I can't remember ever having even used the word specifically on a Wednesday night with the teens - and if it came up in other contexts, it was either only tangentially, or because a teen asked a specific question about it. In fact from the very beginning of our ministry there Julie and I had as an explicit value that we weren't going to talk about "postmodernism" per se.

In truth, we never really talked about it much until others at church raised it as a specific issue and pressed us on it. Then all of a sudden, and then ongoing until we left the church, it seemed like that was all anyone wanted to talk about with us. And of course we felt obliged to explain our convictions, so we did end up talking about it a lot those last few months. So I can understand why some people might think that it was what we were all about, especially since so few adults in the church made any kind of an effort to find out what else we were "all about" prior to that big controversy (despite sending out copies of our lessons week after week and repeatedly inviting leaders at the church to sit in on our activities). I want to hope that if people had bothered to pay attention they would have seen that the content of our teaching with the kids was much more about helping them to understand grace and forgiveness (for themselves and for others), to have compassion for the poor and downtrodden, to find an authentic personal faith and commitment to God for themselves, and develop a passion to share Christ and his kingdom with others. (Notice nowhere in that list is anything about abstract philosophical theories.)

Now don't get me wrong, I am a postmodern. And contrary to popular misconception, I can define postmodernism. For me at least, it's not just a meaningless label that can be randomly applied to whatever a person happens to really like or really fear. I have studied the postmodern philosophers and understood (most of) the concepts of postmodernity, and so for me postmodernism describes a specific set of answers to a specific set of philosophical questions, questions that I had and that were (and still are) important to me, but that obviously are not going to be that important to many other people who are not as concerned with philosophical questions as I am. And because those questions are not important to most other people I never really felt the need to raise the issues very often with most people at church or in youth group. It's just not necessary. Yes I'm postmodern, but no, I don't need to convert anyone else to postmodernity unless they happen to be struggling with the same kinds of questions that I was.

So why do I raise this? I guess because as I move now into church planting I don't want people (especially people from my former church) to think that we're just going to plant a "postmodern" church. I don't want them to think that the church we create is going to be primarily defined by those issues that caused our departure from our previous church. They aren't really what are most important to us, they were just what became important to those who wanted us gone from our previous positions. The church we plant is going to be defined by the same values that we had for our youth ministry that I mentioned above. Those are the things that we are truly passionate about, postmodernism was merely a tool that helped guide us to those values, and probably not a tool that would be useful for everyone.
 
posted by Mike Clawson at 11:12 AM | Permalink |


2 Comments:


At 7/18/2005 02:55:00 PM, Blogger gerbmom

I want to hope that if people had bothered to pay attention they would have seen that the content of our teaching with the kids was much more about helping them to understand grace and forgiveness (for themselves and for others), to have compassion for the poor and downtrodden, to find an authentic personal faith and commitment to God for themselves, and develop a passion to share Christ and his kingdom with others.

We saw. :)

The church we plant is going to more accurately defined by the same values that we had for our youth ministry that I mentioned above. Those are the things that we are truly passionate about...

And that is exactly why I think this ministry has opened up to you. And why I feel it will truly be a church that God will work in and use beyond what we dare to imagine. I have seen the results in the lives of the teens you have touched, which is why I'm convinced God chose to remove you from that limited capacity and has given you the opportunity to share your vision, your passion, and your compassion with many more and help them understand what it really means to be a follower of Christ.

I don't need to convert anyone else to postmodernity unless they happen to be struggling with the same kinds of questions that I was.

:D

 

At 7/18/2005 07:46:00 PM, Blogger Erin

Mike, you have a gift of expressing truth clearly and convincingly. I was very blessed by what you wrote. (You should write books, Mike...seriously.)

Looking forward to seeing you guys later this week...

 

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