Future Church?!

I just finished reading "Carpe Manana" by Leonard Sweet. Sweet is one of the "emerging" voices in the Emerging Church movement, and is thought by many to be the spokesperson for the future of evangelicalism in America. Sweet is an excellent communicator who points out what he sees as ways the church will have to change its methods in order to reach the postmodern generation in which we live.

You won't agree with everything Sweet writes or insinuates in this book. But this book illustrates that the church exists in a different world than the world our grandparents grew up in. Teenagers today have more power and information at their fingertips than the most learned scholars had access to a hundred years ago. My grandparents had to travel 30 miles to church, which started at 11:00am in order to give them time to milk the cattle before leaving the house. Today, I can listen to my choice of John MacArthur, Charles Swindoll, Chip Ingram, or a thousand other pastors while I'm milking my cattle if I wish.

Technology is still exploding rapidly. I'm only twenty-five, and when I was a teenager in order to spend time with my friends, we had to go to the mall, or meet at one of our houses. I would go door to door in my neighborhood to see who could come out and play. Today, I just have to login to AOL Instant Messenger, where I receive instant community with whomever else is logged in. The times, they are a changing.

Like I said, you'll disagree with some of what Sweet deems necessary steps in order for the church to Carpe Manana, "seize tomorrow." I certainly did. Sweet believes that the church needs to become more like the culture in order to attract and reach out to the culture. In a culture that values relative truth, moral obscurity, and a reliance on experience over intellect, the ramifications of such a change in the church's philosophy are downright scary. The entire hope of the evangelical church is based on absolute truth, moral law, and the fact that we will not experience the ultimate realization of our hope until after the clock stops ticking.

If the church attempts to reflect today's culture, it really won't be "seizing tomorrow" as Sweet's title indicates. Postmodernism is a passing trend, just as modernism, premodernism, and all other culture isms throughout history. To seize upon the postmodern culture would be to seize today. To truly seize tomorrow demands that we look beyond the postmodern culture to see where it is leading us.

The church doesn't need to be postmodern. The church must transcend secular culture. In fact much of the problem with today's church can be found in that it has decided to reflect secular culture rather than reflecting on that culture. If Peter, Paul, John, Apollos, Silas, and others had attempted to fit the church into the mold of their culture, the church would have died before it left Jerusalem. Why should our understanding of the relationship between church and the culture be any different from theirs?

Despite the differences I may have with Sweet's conclusion and its underlying philosophy, this book was a tremendously helpful read. Although the church should never become postmodern, it must understand postmodernism, and use that understanding to help its influence.

Use of the tools and technology given to us by a specific culture or trend does not indicate the church has identified completely with that movement. For example, my uncle the Pyromaniac disagrees vehemently with the postmodernization of the church, and is definitely not cool enough to be postmodern, although he keeps a blog - the ultimate public diary for the postmodern generation. The difference may seem subtle, but it is monumental.

It is important to recognize that it is completely possible for the church to use the tools of a culture without selling out wholesale to a change of identity that the proponents of the postmodernization of the church seem to want.

The biggest problem in the church today is not that the church is not becoming enough like the postmodern culture. Rather, the biggest problem in the church can be found in the mindset of those who want to model the church after secular culture instead of allowing the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ to affect life-change in individuals who will make an impact on their culture.