more mister nice guy
always seek agreement, to be polite, to be
‘nice,’ to never make waves or fight for your
convictions; this might be a safe way to live, but
it will never get you counted among the great.”
came so that you could have life to the max.”
does it mean to live; to truly live?
To suck all the marrow out of life and come
to its end knowing that you have experienced it
such life possible outside the willingness to
grasp hold of the adventure with a tenacity that
befits heroes and kings? And why do so few people
experience life to the max?
Is it because that to truly live is too
a willingness to live fiercely and to take risks,
without a willingness to face battles and collect
our fair share of scars, the awesome depth and
beauty of life will always elude us.
Life is more about faith and risk than it
is about safety and being ‘nice.’
would telling people to be nice to one another get
a man crucified?
What government would execute Mister
Rodgers or Captain Kangaroo” – Philip Yancey
people are everywhere, polite, courteous, and nice.
But are nice people the
kinds who inspire you - the kind who are known for their greatness?
Would a ‘nice guy’ lay
his life on the line for his country, for
strangers? I know a noble and courageous man would. You see the
world doesn’t need more ‘nice’ people.
It needs people who are willing to
give their all and fight for what
is truly valuable. Maybe that’s why nice guys
finish last; winning requires a will to fight . .
. at least that’s what Jesus demonstrated.
entered the temple and turned over the tables of
the money changers.
The religious leaders were afraid of him
and started looking for a way to kill him.”
I hear you exclaim.
You see churches often portray Jesus as a
good moral teacher who told people to
love each other.
Not a revolutionary.
Not someone willing to fight
But this is exactly the truth of who
Jesus was. Although
Jesus did encourage people to love and accept
others, he was not just some ‘nice guy’
telling ‘nice’ stories and teaching people to
be ‘nice’ to each other. He stood
against the powerful for the sake of those who were
marginalized. Once he even chased
prestigious people out of a building because they
were abusing the poor.
He told the religious elite that they
were whitewashed tombs; looking good on the
outside but dead on the inside. He got
angry; he lived dangerously, and eventually died
because he refused to back down from those things
for which he stood. Jesus’ courage demonstrated that he knew how to truly
l live. He knew that it meant giving
your all for what was right and just, and being a
voice and strength for those who were in
one point, while Jesus was hanging out with a
bunch of sailors, he asked them ‘Who do people
say I am?’ Hmmm… now there’s an
Based on what you sometimes see in
Church one might answer “You’re a sap, a wimp,
a momma’s boy.”
But as John Eldridge wrote:
is no pale-faced altar boy with his hair parted in
the middle speaking softly and avoiding
He works with wood and commands the loyalty
of dockworkers no question about it, there is
something fierce in the heart of God” – John
was not just some softhearted goody-goody; he was
no Mr. Nice Guy.
He stood for something, and refused to back
down from his destiny. He lived with gentleness and mercy in one hand, fearlessness
and determination in the other.
He knew how to balance these two extremes
and spent himself on behalf of others.
No small feat, no easy ask, but life to the
inspiring…I sure think so.
The other side of knowledge is that the postmodern
is uncomfortable explaining everything about God.
God is not fully explainable, imperfect man trying
to describe infinite God, ya right!
I believe this is why the narrative is so important
to the postmodern; because it helps life stage the things
of God in picture form.
In light of how God has been revealed down through
time, the postmodern looks for Him to continually reveal
himself and thus open himself up to being moved upon by
God. If there
is a wind of God’s Spirit blowing, the postmodern
desires to be blown away.
Postmodernism did not just show up!
Postmodernism has been running in parallel with
modernism for sometime, but with changing entities such as
education and media, and more recent arrivals like the
internet, the postmodern worldview has become much more
previously mentioned, postmodernism is more than a life
stage, and its current form is every bit as monumental as
the transition from medieval to modernism.
It is difficult for us to describe fully what is
going on mainly due to the fact that this type of
transition has not been evident for the last 500 years or
can be said that the construct of the postmodern mindset
has been gleaned from the perceived inefficiencies of
modernism; conquest/control, analytical thinking,
secular/scientific limitations; mechanism and objective
That being true, then it is obvious that
postmodernism was not formed on a whim but has incubated
during the time of modernism.
No less angry than Luther’s Reformation,
postmodernism now sees itself as the formative answer,
with its strengths lying in conservationism and anything
to do in conjunction with the word post - post mechanistic
(ecosystems, organisms, social systems), post analytical
(systems thinking, holism, passion), post
secular/scientific (spiritual/scientific) and finally,
post objective (intersubjective).
Intelligent design is just one of the emerging
realities of science that points directly to a Divine
enterprise (God) that is being widely embraced within
secular realms as a viable alternative to evolutionary
other words, science and religion are on the dance floor.
There is no commercial, infomercial, packagable model to
is good news, because it should cause us to become
proactive in further research on multiple levels, such as:
implications of postmodernism on ministry, (study of
internet sites and getting in the heads of some of these
writers is a good starting point, even a cup of coffee at
Starbucks can be a learning experience); community focus;
theological constructs and cultural church traditions.
The models of church ministry the last few years
has focused on two levels, the development of the leader
and church structures, such as the Purpose Driven Model.
These models will not necessarily convert to
postmodernism, but with anything, these successful models
of the nineties and early 2000’s can be scalped for
regards to leadership, Brian McLaren said, “believe what
you’ve learned from leadership, and the opposite.”[ii]
From the Christian standpoint, presenters such as
John Maxwell and George Barna have served us well with
furthering our appreciation for human dynamics and
wonderful treatises on great leadership.
But to the postmodern, laws on leadership do not
adequately describe the interdependence that many of them
leadership laws come off being plastic over time.
simple rules or how to guides will not build the church of
the future. The
current models of postmodern worship services are diverse,
except of course for the amount of earrings worn by men
and the ever-present goatee.
Again, this should be recognized as a strength due
largely in part to the purity of intent, which is to
create a refuge for the world, not just for other
Christians. At its heart, the postmodern movement sees many of the
difficult or programmed stages of modern churches as its
ace in the hole. Consider
evangelism, with modern constructs and verbiage as soul
winner or crusade smacking of modernism and lack of
turn, postmodernism treats evangelism as a natural
outgrowth of their existence.
This engagement has become a focal point of most of
the emerging postmodern models, along with community, the
worship/the experience, and participation.
The fun part for any senior pastor will be to dream
the great dream once again.
Frankly, being a senior pastor is sometimes a dream
a test, how many of you have ever said something like
this, “ministry would be the greatest job in the world
if it weren’t for people.”
If you have, then recognize that the “job” has
taken us away from our calling of serving Christ with
If you are a modern pastor, you do not have to hire a
young guy with a goatee.
Why? because there are plenty of sharp postmodern
guys out there without goatees!
My assessment for any church leader of either a
thriving, stalled or anything in between church, is to
begin building bridges to this new world.
Currently, the postmodern world is still in its
minority stage, but the day will come in the next 20 years
(no one knows for sure how long) that postmodernism will
be a the forefront of thought processes in our societies.
Typically, many churches are already behind the
times, so this type of bridge building will allow several
leaps ahead in time.
Senior pastors must learn to engage the world and
understand culturally what is going on, or they are going
to see fewer people connecting with Christ.
I recognize that for some this is a scary premise
and many will choose to stay their current course.
Surprisingly, that course may actually serve
incredible growth for the next number of years, but what
will become painfully obvious is the complete disconnect
from those that have faith and those that do not.
The gulf is widening, and many senior pastors are
helping in the dig towards antiquity.
Erwin McManus provoked my thinking with this,
“the church begins its decline at its peak.”
Our nation is full of mega-churches, many of them
billing themselves as the fastest growing in the nation.
That will end some day, and American churches will
begin to look like some of the empty cathedrals of Europe.
(Will any of these mega-churches bill themselves as
the fastest declining churches in America?)
If McManus is right, then living at the peak is
dangerous stuff. Fortunately,
the postmodern is not worried about peaks, it is concerned
about getting others intimately involved with Jesus,
primarily in small clusters of people or community groups.
The measures of success are currently different
within the postmodern movement, though some of the same
trappings of success have begun to taint its idealistic
ventures and postmodern superstars are beginning to
Moving towards postmodernism does not have to be
expensive. Being a Senior Pastor, I have found the real value is in the
team of people you come to depend on, before, during and
after the transition.
The real cost as the church moves into the 21st
Century will come in the actualization of declining
membership if we miss the shift from modernism to
postmodernism. Upfront cost in the postmodern church will come with the
infusion of imagery and technology to serve an
image-driven society raised on visual hits.
Image is everything, high church, gothic, ancient
architecture are all hot, orange carpet is out, (it was
always way out).
As mentioned, upfront costs such as video
projection, broadband internet networks, lighting systems,
architectural features, have many grades as per costs and
may been seen by many as non-essential investments. The last 30 years or so, our investments have been directed
into programming that may or may not be giving us good
bang for the buck. It
may be time to scale some things back, such as Sunday
School, Youth Programs, (I’m an almost 15 year vet
here), large secretarial pools using old tech, ineffective
children’s ministries, (church oriented as opposed to
community oriented), etc.
Sacred cows but the fact is money is available if
we choose to trim in areas of ineffectiveness.
It is time to recognize that budgeting priorities
lay elsewhere and that pet programs of modernity need a
pencil sharpening. Postmoderns
will view spending habits with suspicion and may deem them
as a perpetuation of things that are ineffective.
One last thought in regards to cost.
Most churches spend more on themselves than they do
on the community at large and many churches are in the
practice of sending money to missionaries all over the
world, (I need to be careful here, I have a missionary
attempt to satisfy ourselves with programming that rarely
directs us to any form of evangelism, and to satisfy the
requirements of Christ’s call of going to all nations,
we write checks. The
dirtiest our hands may ever get is with ink while we sit
in monuments made for our comfort.
It is not necessary to compromise what Christ considers
is truly a loaded statement and to comment on all its
implications usually requires whole volumes.
I bring it up because there is clearly a gap that
is growing between professional clergy, the culture and
the emerging generation.
Helpful to me is the ongoing commitment of being a
lifelong learner, to take on the characteristics of the
Biblical tribe of Issachar, who it was said of, “they
were men who knew their times.”
Let’s face it, pastors are overworked, under
appreciated and have little time for add-ons, such as
seminars or extended learning.
But, as with physical costs, maybe, just maybe this
is an opportunity for leaders to refocus their priorities.
A few things that need to happen to work
effectively in the postmodern matrix are:
understanding of our times
leadership styles to accommodate new pressures and
to be honest about “sacred cows”, the separating of
our traditions from God’s truth
greater sense of faith that God is not through using us
reading this, perhaps you have entertained the thought
that your ministry direction has already started to flow
within a postmodern direction.
Or, your concern is that you will have to relearn
your profession. What I know to be true for my life is this, my journey to
serve God’s purposes will take me many places and to
many opportunities. But
most of all, my journey should take me to greater heights
of love and obedience to the things of God.
The place of ministry I currently serve is God’s
blessing for me to lead with purity of heart, purity of
intentions, and purity of motives.
As I listen to my community in which my
congregation lives, I discover what God has been doing, is
doing and is going to do.
This unfolding plan and the witness of God’s
Spirit in my life confirms for me, in my situation, that I
must embrace the postmodern matrix.
It further means that I must live in parallel
universes, serving the needs of the current church while
preparing for the new guests to come.
This is more than an observation, this is a God
given opportunity which requires more than a goatee.
Emerging Models of Church Ministry in the 21st
Century, sponsored by AGTS, Sacramento, CA., March