do you define the postmodern movement?
let me say that I have the “gift’ of disorientation
as I travel. I
have had some wonderful adventures being lost all over
the world. Some
who read these ramblings may well feel that my
“gift” has also influenced my writings as well.
But in any case I am very much looking forward to
the conversation around some of John’s very
I hope you find some of my answers equally
more info on our unusual views check out our web site: www.msainfo.org
I am deeply concerned that numbers in leadership fail to
take the future seriously regarding how the culture, the
economy and the church are changing and how we will need
to creatively engage these new challenges.
Business as usual is a dead end.
I am even more concerned that leaders aren’t
emphasizing the importance of taking the scripture
seriously... not just for the spiritual compartment of
life but for all of life including our lifestyles, our
response to modern and postmodern culture and even our
economics and politics.
Young leaders in England have helped me
distinguish between postmodernity as an intellectual
movement determined to deconstruct modernity’s
pretenses and assumptions and postmodern culture that
shares certain p.m. values such as tolerance and moral
Retrofuture Gerard Kelly indicts the established church for working
overtime attempting to create a rational prepositional
faith in order to become acceptable to modern culture.
Young postmodern leaders no longer feel obligated
to dance to modernity’s tune and I think they are
does the church need to change to more effectively
engage a postmodern generation?
the bad news. The
church in all western countries including the US is
losing the under-35 at an alarming rate, which has
ominous implications for the future of the church as the
boomers retire from 2010 to 2030.
While there is a growing spiritual hunger among
the under -35 they are not beating the doors of the
established church down to satisfy it.
They don’t seem to be attracted to what we are
the good news. In
the eighties God began raising up a new generation in
the UK that began re-inventing the church in a way that
much more fully engages a post modern generation.
This movement began in Australia and New Zealand
in the mid- nineties.
And in the past five years young leaders in
Canada and the U.S. have also joined this movement.
Check out the cutting edge description of the
postmodern church and their alternative forms of worship
in The Prodigal
Project by Mike Riddell, Mark Pierson, and Kathy
Kirkpatrick published by SPCK in the UK.
understand how the church needs to change to more
effectively reach a post modern generation allow me to
offer my contrast between what I call the “established
church” and the “emerging church.” This brief sketch is a generalization but I believe it
contains some sense of not only how the established
church needs to change if it serious about reaching a
younger generation.... but it also suggests how we will
need to support the young as they seek to create some
new church plants that connect more effectively with a
of a rational propositional gospel
of an institutional character
conforming to modern culture
focused on in-house needs
inclined to cookie cutter programs
of gospel as story or narrative
of a relational or organic character
questioning of modern culture
focused outward in mission
inclined to create options for their context.
many established churches you have to be 40 and male to
be taken seriously.
One of the reasons we are losing our under-35 is
that they are not willing to hang around middle aged
congregations until they are middle aged and their ideas
are finally welcomed.
The key issue we need to address is how to invite
the young into ownership
in our churches much earlier.
Frankly there are very few models that represent
a positive direction.
Let me share one.
Yearly Meeting of Friends is one of the few groups that
take their young people seriously.
They offer a leadership training camp for junior
high kids run by high school students.
When they reach high school numbers of them are
put on both local church but denominational councils.
For example, two high school people who are on
the denominational Mission Rally totally re-invented the
annual gathering and blew the older adults away with
their multimedia presentation on their global mission
is the difference between doing discipleship on a
two-legged and a three-legged stool?
question shifts our attention from the challenges of
inviting the young into leadership to examining how to
raise the bar for all generations concerning what it
means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. We are not only losing our young from our churches at an
alarming rate but we are also seeing a serious
hemorrhaging in levels of spiritual practice...
including time for prayer, scripture reading, church and
witness and service.
Declining per capita giving also concerns us.
While per capita incomes increased 90% from 1968
to 1998 for American Christian per capita giving
declined almost 20% during the same period according to
the Empty Tomb. I
am convinced that a major reason for these serious
declines in levels of spiritual practice and Christian
giving is that many of us operate from a seriously
flawed notion of what constitutes a biblical view of
Let me explain the problem.
who has milked cows by hand know that you can use a
three-legged stool or even a one legged stool but a
two-legged isn’t very stable. Most of the discipleship offered by the church is, I believe,
based on a two-legged stool.
One leg on the stool is getting our spiritual
lives transformed which is essential.
The second leg is getting our moral act
together... also essential.
But the missing leg on the stool is my belief
that the scripture teaches God not only wants to
transform us spiritually and morally but culturally too.
I don’t believe it is possible to do biblical
discipleship over the top of the individualism,
materialism and consumerism of American culture and wind
up with anything that looks like biblical faith.
It is time we put a third leg on the discipleship
stool and call all believers to whole life discipleship
and stewardship that challenges modern culture instead
of conforming to it.
other words, I believe, the established church has
largely settled for a very compartmentalized faith in
which we allow modern culture to define our sense of
what is important and of value.
For too many of us the real focus of our life has
little to do with our faith and much more to do with
getting ahead economically... getting ahead in our
careers and in the suburbs.
Too many of our churches tend to sanction this
kind of compartmentalized accommodated faith and are
content with discipleship on a two-legged stool. What kind of discipleship is taught in your church?
light of the horrific events of September 11 many
Christians do want to put first things first.
The only problem is because of the kind of
compartmentalized discipleship many churches teach most
Christians have no idea how to connect their Sunday
faith to their lives seven days a week. We believe that
one way to help believers to make the connect and begin
the journey towards a whole life faith is to help them
draft biblically shaped mission statements.
Then serious disciples can use their mission
statements to reinvent their timestyles and lifestyles
to create a more festive whole life faith that is more
concerned with making a difference than a dollar.
We want to help people discover how God can use
their mustard seeds to actually impact the lives of
are two things that Christians need to keep in mind in
terms of worldview?
one... I am very concerned that many American Christians
operate as though all the important theological
questions have been asked and we got all the answers
right... decades ago.
I seriously question whether many of the answers
we operate from are as biblically grounded as we assume
they are... from our assumptions about what it means to
be a disciple of Christ, be the church and do the
mission of the church.
I am convinced we need to spend much more time
reflecting on “why we do what we do.”
We need to re-visit our fundamental theological
assumptions to insure that we are working from
assumptions that are clearly biblical. We need to
particularly assess the extent to which we have allowed
the values of modern culture to define our sense of what
is important and what is of value.
My central passion is to enable Christians to
rediscover the kingdom of God not only as doctrine we
embrace but as an alternative cultural vision of what is
important and of value to the one offered us by the
modern global culture of consumption. Anyone interested
in reawakening this kind of biblical imagination?
Let me suggest a few books to help us revisit
important questions that still deserve much more
reflection and discussion. To re-discover a biblical Jesus who isn’t singularly
preoccupied with the comfortable but is focused much
more on unleashing subversive movement destined to
transform our world check out Tom Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus. Instead
of accepting the implicit assumption of many churches
that they exist primarily to meet our needs of the
flock, take a look at Rodney Clapp’s Family
at the Crossroads.
He contends that the scripture teaches that
the church is intended to be “the first family” to
share God’s love beyond the church with others.
Beyond mission that focuses almost exclusively on
evangelism and church planting in the 10/40 window, take
a look at a new biblical call to the integration of word
and deed mission called the “Micah Statement on
Integral Mission” formulated last fall at Oxford by a
group of Christian leaders from all over the world at: www.micahnetwork.org.
If you share my frustrations with a “Left
Behind” eschatology check out my article entitled
“Who is Tim LaHaye?” in Sojourners Oct. 1, 2001:
two... I am very concerned that a number of American
evangelical Christians not only fail to question the
assumptions underlying faith and culture issues but our
political and economic views as well. We are seeing a
growing reliance on nationalism, political and military
power and the pursuit of empire to set the world right.
I am concerned that so few American believers are
questioning the assumptions underlying this new effort
to shape the global future.
I believe that we need to ask questions like:
“are the aspirations of empire and the goals of the
kingdom synonymous?” If American believers are open to
discussing these important questions from a biblical
view point I suggest we begin by seeking the view point
of Christians in other countries.
I would urge that we ask our friends in other
countries how they view the most urgent political and
economic issues in our world and how they believe
scripture calls us to respond to these issues.... and
really listen. You
might take a look at a new controversial release by
Joseph Nye, The Paradox of American Power: Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t
Go It Alone.
we look at our world we see vast human need, how can the
mustard seed possibly make a difference?
are rapidly moving into a new global economy which has
high pay off for the upper 20%.
In fact, more millionaires and billionaires were
created in the past ten years than in any decade in the
history of the world.
The upper 20% have increased their percentage of
global income while the bottom 20% have actually seen a
decrease in their share.
In a recent conference in Mexico on global
poverty leaders concluded that the new global economy
wasn’t nearly as effective in bringing prosperity to
our poorest neighbors as advocates had hoped. Neither North America or Europe have responded to Kofi
Annan’s challenge for Western countries to increase
their current level of foreign aid from .22% of national
income to .70%. Oxfam
predicts if Annan’s goals aren’t realized by 2015,
56 million children could die of starvation,
malnutrition and preventable diseases.
Those of us who are committed to issues of life,
justice and mercy must do much more to change our
lifestyles and our church priorities to free up much
more of our resources to help the poor to develop the
assets to successfully participate in this new global
the mustard seed make a difference?
Visit the shalom community built on a garbage
dump in Mexico and you will discover a church helping
the poor to start small businesses. In Haiti you will find a group of people in the Plaisance
Valley, who were a part of a Christian development
project sponsored by World Concern, pooled their
resources and bought a truck to take their own coffee
beans to market. By
bi-passing the middle man they increased their profits
mean more kids could have a better diet and more kids
could go to school.
It also meant some of the poor earned enough
extra to start their own small businesses.
Phil Wall, a young leader in the UK deeply
concerned about Aids orphans in Africa created yet
another mustard seed.
He talked his wife, Wendy, into taking their
savings out of the bank.
And several other families in his youth church
did the same. They held their first banquet for aids orphans in which they
didn’t ask for money but they gave away their savings
$15 per person and invited them to test out the parable
of the talent and invest the $15 and bring back the
increase in two months to support aids orphans.
They had a ten-fold increase in their investment.
Last year at a major Christian event in the UK
they gave away over a half million dollars and the
return on this investment is making a huge difference
educating tens of thousands of aids orphans in Africa so
that they have a future and a hope.
is never too late for any follower of Christ to discover
the remarkable ways that God can use their mustard seed
to make a difference in the world just like Phil and
and I recommend, in our new book, that the way we can
find the potential of the mustard seed is to discover
how God wants to use our lives to make a difference and
then reinventing our timestyles and lifestyles to put
first things first.
Are you ready to explore serious whole life
stewardship for God’s kingdom?
can the church contend with some of the challenges of
modern and postmodern culture?
only battle that the evangelical church has with modern
culture is personal morality issues like porn on the
we tend to treat the other values of modern culture as
though they are values neutral.
Naomi Klein documents in the important book, No
Logo, how the marketers of this new global economy
stepped up their efforts to shape the values of the
young in the nineties to derive their sense of identity,
purpose and even sense of meaning from what they
consume. Also check out Adbusters at adbusters.org.
I know of no Christian curriculum to help the
young decode the fraudulent messages that their self
worth is derived from their extreme cool purchases.
Any one interested in working on this project?
hear a lot of alarm among evangelicals about post
modernity because of their opposition to all
metanarratives and their contention that all things are
morally relative. Many don’t seem to realize the
opportunities that postmodernity presents the church.
I grew up in a world in which modernity had
insisted that everything was scientifically explicable.
We were told if science couldn’t explain it, it
was nonsense and superstition.
Postmodernity on the other hand is open to
mystery, wonder and the spiritual.
Young leaders in England see this as an opening
for the gospel and I think they are right.
But it will require new ways to tell the story...
relying more on the arts, image and narrative than
Any imaginative ideas?
are some of the most important things the church can do
to minister to a new generation?
are 13 year olds who are starting their own web page
businesses...and yet numbers of churches run very large
youth activity driven programs for the young as though
they are incapable of running them themselves.
adults in Megachurches are running gen X & Y worship
services for them in a sincere effort to reach them.
But again I am convinced that instead of doing
for the young we need to invite them to start their own
alternative worship services and let older folks come
and learn. Again
the operative word is ownership.
example, Jonny and Jenny Baker have planted a church
within a church in St. Mary’s Ealing in the UK.
Older people can come to this service run by 20
year olds but they can’t mess with it.
The focus for worship one Sunday night was one
Jubilee 2000... forgiving third world debt. At the center of this very ornate Anglican church was a huge
block and tackle supporting an enormous block of ice
representing the cold hearts of Northern Europeans and
North Americans. As a part of liturgy 20 and 30 year olds brought candles and
placed them under the block of ice.
group of Christians have just created the first
Christian co-housing community in Oakland California.
They built nine units in an inner city
neighborhood near their Methodist church.
They have solar paneling on their roof which
supplies 85% of their electricity, they have an organic
garden and a common dining hall in which all 22 of them
share meals together twice a week. They are seeking to
move from a compartmentalized faith to a 24/7 faith.
They put on neighborhood block parties, art
installations and seek to be the shalom of God in this
We need this kind of fresh creativity from a new
generation in all areas of life including alternative
other words, instead of simply accepting without
questions the living situations handed us by modern
culture, the pursuit of whole life faith requires that
we re-examine all aspects of our lives in light of the
values of God’s kingdom... including how we house
a troubling number of the under-35 spend over 50% of
their income for rent or mortgage we advocate that older
more affluent Christians start revolving no-interest
mortgage funds for young people who want to make a
difference with their lives. This will enable them to
construct less expensive co-housing communities and get
in and out of the mortgage trap in 7 to 10 years instead
of 30. Any
interest... check out www.cohousing.org
and contact us at
best way we can help a new generation is to solicit
their ideas and invite them into leadership.
This will not be easy for many older males of my
of them keep talking about passing on the bat but
don’t seem to want to let go of the handle.
They certainly aren’t inclined to invite a new
generation of young men and women to share their ideas
on how to reinvent their churches and organizations to
engage the changing times.
The leadership of the Mennonite Central Committee
came up with the idea of inviting a small group of
twenty year olds to plant a new MCC within the existing
MCC to use their own imagination to create a whole new
model of how to empower the poor.
I don’t think they followed up on the idea but
it is still a great idea.
is time for all of us who are older to recognize that
God is doing something new through a new generation.
We should also to bring together groups of young
women and young men from our multicultural faith
communities and invite them to share their ideas and
need to not only invite them into leadership and serious
collaboration but encourage them to create new models of
churches and Christian organizations that more
effectively engage the challenges of our changing world.
We in Mustard Seed Associates are eager to
support what God is doing through a new generation and
find others who are willing to join in this venture.
& Christine Sine live in Seattle and they work with
churches, Christian organizations and with young leaders
in a number of different western countries through their
ministry... Mustard Seed Associates. They are also part time instructors at Fuller Theological
Seminary in Seattle. You can reach them at
and check out their website www.msainfo.org
newest book Living
on Purpose: Finding God’s Best for Your Lives
outlines a step-by-step process to create a whole life
faith by drafting personal or family mission statements
to put first things first.
It is designed to be used as a study book for
small groups in the church. Tom has also written a book
on new challenges that the new global economy presents
the church entitled: Mustard
Seed Vs McWorld: Reinventing Life and Faith for the
can order these books directly from Baker Books at