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Benjy Oliver (the "pomo/emerging" pastor)

chick to read Chris Monroe's responses 


1.  how would you define the postmodern/emerging conversation? Personally, I see a new paradigm shift happening in both the world at large and in the body of Christ. Call it postmodern, emerging, second reformation, alt. worship or whatever. Labels are not as important as what is actually happening. Its a shift away from a purely rational, linear, logical, scientific approach to life and spirituality. There's a new focus on experience, emotion, art and mystery.

I think its probably God's way of letting the current way we know of church existing to die, so that something much better can be resurrected. Its implications are philosophical, theological and social. There's a much more holistic approach to living our lives and trying to really live out, grasp and wrestle with what it means to be a follower of Christ, wherever we are.

2. What do you see as the most productive way of reaching an emerging generation?

To be honest, I don't like the word reach. I think connecting is a much better way of describing evangelism. When we speak of reaching, we think of ourselves in one place, and the goal is to bring others to where we are at. And that's why so many people are turned off by churches in America.

The gospel that Christ came with is that people can connect with God, no matter who they are or where they are at. So we aren't trying to be successful or productive We are simply trying to connect with people we come in contact with. Its an incarnational, relational and interactive approach to ministry.

3. Why "paradox?" (not the name, but the concept.)

The concept of tensions, of seeming contradictions, really appeals to us (and to postmodern people). There are so many aspects of our faith that don't make sense from a purely rational view. So instead of trying to explain away or avoid tensions, we embrace them by faith. Besides, we are living in a world where reality seems to be both/and, instead of just either/or. We have come to discover that questions are often just as important as answers.

4. What makes paradox different from a modern church?

The better question would probably be in which ways are we the same! There are many differences. We have 2 founders and co pastors, instead of one. There is no pulpit or sermon during our times of worship. We use lunchboxes to collect offerings. Instead of a sermon or lecture, we have an interactive learning environment, where people ask questions, comment, and even disagree with us. We place as much importance on the atmosphere and environment as we do on the topic being presented. Each week looks and feels different.

We try to invoke all 5 senses through multisensory, experimental worship stations. The schedule is not the same each week. There is always something happening on the big screen and around the room, whether powerpoint, video or art. Our worship gatherings also take different forms. We may have a night of all music, or make sandwiches to go hand out to the poor. We may all get together for a meal.

5. how do you build community at paradox?

I think this is one area many postmodern communities of faith are struggling with. People in our society today crave authentic relationships yet aren't willing to do what it takes to have them. And many churches don't know what to do either.

What has worked best for us is spending time together. Whenever we have a group of guys or girls hanging out for a guys day or girls day, when we spend time with each other before and after our weekly worship gatherings and during the week, that's when it happens. Its a process and takes time.

Our small groups have also helped tremendously. Also serving and volunteering together.

6. how does paradox put to action "the great commission?"

Our vision statement is summed up in 3 words: explore, engage and emerge. We have intentionally created an environment where people are loved and accepted, unconditionally. We have Mormons and others who are a part of our community of faith. The guy that has the most piercings in our town is a regular part of everything we do. Its in our spiritual DNA. We just try and connect with people where they are at. paradox is about people having time, space and freedom to test out Christianity.

We also get out in our community. We work with the poor and homeless and give to those in need. Each year, our community has a Mardi Gras parade. We entered a float this past year, our first ever. Our theme was monks and punks. We had people dressed like punks and monks and they were carrying a cross. We also had cool lights, decorations and a live DJ spinning records. 3 or 4 floats after us, was a church that was screaming and telling everyone they were going to hell. 2 very distinct methods of evangelism were in effect that night.

 7. what does the future hold for paradox?

Only God knows, right? We just celebrated our first birthday (Jan. 2004). We will most likely become a church plant in the next year. If we outgrow our current building, we will have to offer more than one worship gathering per week, until we find another facility to meet in.

Our website has recently been redesigned and we look forward to inspiring others online like we were inspired. We live in a community of about 60,000. And Barstow does not have the best reputation in California. But if we can do this here, God can use people anywhere! When we first started, our vision was our community. God is now starting to pull our hearts to connect with those on their way to and from Las Vegas each weekend.



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