A Church Planting Network That Makes Me Want to Throw Up

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

Here is an example of an overreaction to postmodern critiques of Christianity. Consider this video from the TransFORM “Missional Community Formation Network”:

TransFORM: Missional Community Formation from TransFORM on Vimeo.

This video makes me want to throw up. To those who are offended by this statement, please don’t force your beliefs on me. If there is no metanarrative, you’re correct that there is no absolute truth from which to judge others, but there is also no metanarrative to save you from my “judgment.” You cannot have it both ways. When experience is the source of our theology–whether this experience is mine or the experience of a community–we are subject to the opinions of men. It’s better to be subject to Scripture, since God will judge us based on obedience to his Word. If you reject Jesus Christ, you will go to Hell (John 14:6). This is true regardless whether you or your community believe it. Our “journeys” therefore are irrelevant if they reject the truth of Scripture. Our journeys only lead us to God if they follow His revelation in Scripture and the Logos. The two do not contradict one another, for the written word is the word of the Word, Jesus Christ. Repent and believe the good news of Jesus Christ–that He lived, died, and rose from the dead to forgive your sins, to reconcile you to His Father (1 Cor. 15:1-4; 2 Cor. 5:16-21)–or perish forevermore.

Now, on to offering some positive suggestions for reaching postmoderns with the gospel.

What are postmoderns looking for?

The simple answer is that Postmoderns are looking for authentic Christianity. They are not asking of Christianity, “Is this true,” but are instead asking, “Do Christians believe this is true, and should I believe as well?” The answer for them is found in the authenticity of other professed Christians (their “journeys”) and their own subjective authentic experience (their own “journeys”). In other words, in order to reach postmoderns, Christians must realize that their Christianity should be expressed not suppressed. There are numerous Scriptures we could point to where Christians are commanded to live out their faith. Jesus lived out His obedience to God.

Unfortunately, when feeling, emotion, and experience are the primary emphases concerning whether or not an idea is worthy of belief, those who lack these postmodern qualifiers at the level defined as “authentic” by the postmodern, will be deemed inauthentic or fake. In other words, to the postmodern, your Christianity is only as real as your “authentic” expression of it–as defined by them instead of Scripture. If you don’t express your Christianity according to their definition of “authentic,” you’re inauthentic, and thus, your beliefs are unworthy of belief (it’s their metanarrative).

So, if we want to reach postmoderns with the gospel of Christ, we must not merely believe, but we must also express our Christianity. We must not be cowards in worship or in daily life, for we must be “authentic” to the point of our Christianity being tangible and able to be experienced by others. Our Christianity must impact the sense experience of others. In other words, others should be able to “feel” our Christianity.

This does not mean that you and I should be fake, or that we should cease to preach or teach truth. It simply means that you and I should seek to be distinctly Christian on a daily basis in all that we do. We are not merely Christians during worship or Bible study, but we are Christians every second of every day. We must put hands and feet on what we profess to believe. Postmodern people will indeed read you before they read the Bible.

Furthermore, I don’t know about you, but when an unbeliever tells me that the reason he or she is an unbeliever is because of an inauthentic Christian, I tell him or her, “What does that have to do with Christ?” What you and I must understand is that to the postmodern, our authenticity has everything to do with Christ. Prior to belief in His claims, these postmodern sinners have never experienced Christ, but they have experienced those who claim to have experienced Him. Thus, they judge Him based on their perception of our authenticity.

Finally, since postmoderns start with the wrong question, “Do Christ-followers believe the claims of Christ?” it means a simple gospel presentation will often prove fruitless. Postmoderns do not have the framework to accept the gospel apart from witnessing the authenticity of those who profess to believe it and share it. God, of course, can save anyone at any moment. This is largely why door-knocking is so ineffective today. Postmoderns may open the door, let you into their home, and allow you to share the gospel with them, but they cannot determine if you are authentic or not in a mere 30 minute conversation. It will take much longer and many more conversations for them to “discern” your authenticity, and thus, “discern” whether or not they too should believe what you believe. Nevertheless, the power of Christianity is in the reality that it’s objectively true. Where the Bible speaks, God speaks. I’m telling Christians to live out their Christianity, but I am not saying that our authenticity will save anyone, even postmoderns. Only repentance and faith in Christ will save sinners. We must give postmoderns the message of Christianity. Repent and believe the gospel.

Like it or not, postmodernism is the air we breathe. Regardless where you live in the United States, you are surrounded by postmoderns (you probably even see a postmodern in the mirror from time to time). At the very least, we need to rethink how we carry out evangelism in a postmodern world. Remember Jesus’s words, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Our love for one another reveals the authenticity of Christianity in a premodern world, a modern world, a postmodern world, and in the coming post-postmodern world. Authentic Christianity, tangible Christianity, transcends all epistemological assumptions. Therefore, if you and I are to reach postmoderns with the gospel of Christ, our Christianity must be expressed not suppressed, able to be affect the sense experience of others, we must love with a tangible Christ-like love that permeates all we think and do, and we must tell postmoderns the gospel. In other words,  our Christianity must go beyond mere affiliation with a political party or submission to an arbitrary list of “do’s and don’ts” while we ignore other unrepentant sin. Our Christianity must always appeal to and share the absolute truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

How will we respond?

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

Comments

  1. Christiane says

    it looks like these people value ‘community’ highly . . . and they seem to be ‘inclusive’ in a way that is starkly different from Southern Baptists’ doctrines

    However, if there is anything in the video that does NOT ‘make you sick’ then
    you might have an opportunity to start a rapport with this population and build some trust with them . . .

    if you feel total contempt, that closes all doors

    essentially, the post represents how difficult it must be to approach a group for whom contempt is strongly felt . . .
    difficult for the ones holding that contempt and difficult for those who are the objects of it

    I think the problem starts there: how do Christian people go among others in this world to bring healing for their spiritual suffering ?
    I think I know the answer, but I also know what must be given up for a Christian to be able to care for others in need. And I do know how hard that can be, but also that it is made possible with grace.

    • says

      Christiane,
      What makes us sick is that we see people here who worship their sin and call it Christ instead of hating their their sin and recognizing that it is atoned for by Christ. The question is how to lovingly let them know that their sin should be hated instead of worshiped or if it’s even possible to communicate that effectively. You can’t communicate that sin should be hated while condoning the sin. Postmoderns don’t think that hating sin is very loving when it is the most loving thing we can do since sin separates them from God, and their love of sin separates them from us. So we are investigating a way to dialog with them while maintaining a hatred of sin, both theirs and ours.

    • Dave Miller says

      According to Jesus, Paul and pretty much every other NT author, it is foolish to believe that everyone who calls themselves Christian, is in fact a follower of Jesus Christ.

      There are wolves amongst the sheep, false brethern (and sistern), false teachers.

      To assume that every group that calls itself Christian is goes against scripture.

  2. Max says

    Well, I didn’t throw up … but felt nausea settling in as the video progressed. Unless I missed it, I didn’t hear the name of Jesus raised in any of the comments. As I reflected on what these folks were saying, some nagging questions popped up. Has their religious experience drawn them closer to the Lord or distanced them from Him? Why are they doing all these things? For what purpose? For whose glory?

    Unfortunately, I have observed some of this “community” and “missional” mumbo-jumbo and methodology in certain SBC church plants in my area.

    • Bart Barber says

      “I didn’t hear the name of Jesus raised…”

      Oh, you missed the “Jesus dojo” line? That was among my favorites.

      • Max says

        Jesus dojo … not exactly raising the name of Jesus that I had in mind!

        I wouldn’t fit in well with this crowd since I don’t have a pierced nose or lip, tattoo, or oreo cookies embedded in my ear lobes. I know we are not supposed to look at the outward appearance, but …

        Greg Laurie had a couple of good lines at the SBC 2013 Pastor’s Conference: “In our attempt to crossover, we need to make sure that we take the Cross over” … “Let’s not trade reverence for relevance.”

  3. says

    I actually did choke back some vomit.

    But your premise is good, Mike. Postmodernism is strongly influenced by the Romantic idea of emotionalism. I’m a man, but I’ve learned that when my wife sighs she might be saying something. There’s a language of emotion that postmoderns speak and we need to learn it in order to communicate the gospel effectively and call them to forsake the shifting sands of relativism they are standing on and find a home on the solid ground of God’s certain revelation to us.

    I would also add that there are some positive aspects of Postmodernism that we should draw on. Communicating the gospel to an unreached people group means identifying aspects of their culture that they understand that is aligned with aspects of the gospel. The account of Peace Child relates a well-known example of this. The fellowship that these postmoderns talk about requires a healthy amount of submission and humility. While they end up tolerating what should not be tolerated as a result, they have a basis for understanding the submission of Christ to the Father and to the need we have as a result of our sin. They have a basis for understanding the humility of Christ to leave heaven and dwell among sinful men. That’s a good place to start. What we should understand is that these are lost people who at least have some kind of a desire to know Christ and simply haven’t had the true gospel communicated to them yet.

  4. says

    Pastor Jared Moore: “Finally, since postmoderns start with the wrong question, “Do Christ-followers believe the claims of Christ?” it means a simple gospel presentation will often prove fruitless.”

    That sadly true observation was more depressing than anything I saw on the video.

    “… I am not saying that our authenticity will save anyone, even postmoderns. Only repentance and faith in Christ will save sinners. We must give postmoderns the message of Christianity. Repent and believe the gospel.”

    Given the above, i.e., “it means a simple gospel presentation will often prove fruitless”, how do you really give postmoderns the message of Christianity: repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

      • says

        Has anyone ever seen a postmodern repent of their epistemology? Pastor Jared, if you have, what did it look like? What was it that caused them to re-examine their faulty epistemology, repent of it, and which then ultimately led them to repent and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

        It might be worth duplicating and giving it a try.

        ——-

        I have seen the following before:

        A: Show the skeptical postmodern the contradictory and self-refuting nature of his/her arguments.

        B: The skeptical postmodern either shrugs or gets mad at A.

        A: Feels helpless but prays for B.

        • says

          Truth, postmoderns are constantly repenting of their epistemology in order to live and function in God’s world. I contend that you and I are constantly repenting our epistemology as well… the presupposition that we know better than God.

          • says

            Yes, quite agree.

            If you know a former postmodern skeptic who repented of their epistemology, a barrier which hitherto had prevented him/her from repenting and believing in the Gospel, what would the former postmodern skeptic say was the tipping point in leading them to abandon their damning epistemology?

    • Nick Horton says

      Perhaps the line of dialogue we take is different with post-moderns, but I would disagree with the notion that the gospel is not enough. That said, certainly our conduct affects our evangelism. If a church is known for its hypocrisy, a closed hand to the community, and arrogance, it will rightly be negatively viewed and avoided.

      Perhaps Jared means that we have a lot of misconceptions to cut through, a foundation of truth that must be arrived at, before they can understand the gospel?

  5. says

    I agree wholeheartedly that the post modern epistemology (taught in most public arenas) is idolatry pure and simple. Many now worship their own knowledge, such as it is! God’s condemnation before the flood was that “they did what was right in their own eyes.” They really believed that what they were doing was “right!” We need a few more Pauls in society today. We need to lovingly “confront” our society with scriptural truth! I truly believe that we need to build a relationship like Ed Welch speaks about in “Homosexuality in Culture”, but we are to “preach the Word and be instant in season and out of season! The Holy Spirit is not hamstrung by the postmodern worldview!

  6. volfan007 says

    This video made me think of the “weirdo fringe” that used to be in a lot of Churches across the land….especially in the larger Churches…..the “wierdo fringe” that used to be tolerated, but not listened to. You know, everybody just thought that their ideas were just strange and out there, but no one ever took them serious….or else, they’d look at the person, and say, “Yea, right, okay.” And then, the leaders would just ignore what they said, and would do the wise and sensible thing. And now, the “weirdo fringe” are apparently starting Churches, which actually do the strange, weird stuff that’s not only out there….out there, even beyond sound doctrine.

    Good gracious.

    David

  7. Jim Lahey says

    I watched the video but fail to see postmodernism as the problem behind what they are doing. By their own admission, they believe they are following scripture, Jesus, etc. Why is this a problem of postmodernism? A simpler explanation is that they have bad theology, read the bible wrongly, etc. I would suggest their are not postmodern at all. They just think that traditional interpretations of Scripture are corrupt and somehow miss the mark.

    • says

      Just because someone believes they are following scripture doesn’t mean that they are. While orthodox Christians may differ on the finer hermeneutical principles, we agree on the more foundational hermeneutical principles. These are demonstrated by the Apostles in their handling of the OT text, are well-reasoned, and time-honored by various schools of historic theological thought. Call that mere tradition if you will, but not all that may be deemed as tradition is bad. Paul encouraged the churches to pass on those traditions that he gave them, which include a particular and perspicuous gospel, which even in his day he had to defend against false teaching. We have false teaching today that distorts this gospel and the Holy Spirit writing through Paul demands we speak against such false teaching.

      Postmodernism is one of the current iterations of the same false teaching that Paul faced. What’s at stake is people’s eternal condition and we are called to minister the gospel to them in their error out of the same love that Jesus demonstrated for us when he atoned for our sins on the cross. To make a claim that the gospel can be whatever we want it to be and that’s okay is precisely postmodernism. To say that orthodox Christians are unloving for speaking against it is a lie.

      • Jim Lahey says

        1) “Just because someone believes they are following scripture doesn’t mean that they are.” Yes, but the fact that they think they are, and the fact that they think there is a way to follow Jesus (who was a real person, died, and rose again) implies you are not dealing with postmoderns. That was my point.
        2) “Postmodernism is one of the current iterations…” I don’t disagree that the people in this video probably have some terrible theology. I disagree that postmodernism is to blame precisely because the issue is not postmodernism. These people are not postmodern. They are simply liberal Christians. No need to go after postmodernism because, quite frankly, your more likely to encounter a gray wolf than a postmodern. For some reason Christians are enthralled by postmodernism when everyone else has long since dismissed it as an incoherent and failed thought experiment.

        • says

          “…the fact that they think they are, and the fact that they think there is a way to follow Jesus (who was a real person, died, and rose again) implies you are not dealing with postmoderns. That was my point.”

          A) Obviously what we have been doing isn’t overly effective. That’s precisely why we are discussing it. However…
          B) We need to present the truth in the most effective way we can without compromising the truth we are trying to communicate in the process. That’s my point.

          “These people are not postmodern. They are simply liberal Christians.”

          You appear to be using a narrower definition of “postmodern” than most everyone else in this discussion. “Postmodern” and “liberal” are not necessarily mutually exclusive under the definition of “postmodern” being used here.

          That said, “postmodern” is a rather loose term. So I usually don’t use it unless the current discussion already does. Then I look for clues to determine how it is being used and try to stick with that definition. Perhaps it would be helpful if you did the same.

  8. Stuart says

    I share the foundational concerns about the hermeneutic expressed by many of the comments in the video. The video does seem to illustrate an epistemological shift that is taking place on a macro level and affecting “evangelical” theology (more in some segments and less and others).

    On a micro level, there’s nothing new here under the sun. Sin is sin. Granted, nobody wants to to admit their own sin (we’re human aren’t we) and every generation thinks it is somehow less narcissistic than the generations that came before and after.

    So on a certain level, there’s something here that doesn’t look or sound all that different than segments of the 1970s’ and 80s’ “Church Growth Movement” or segments of the “Seeker movement” of the 1980s and 1990s. There’s nothing all that new or terribly innovative about appealing to people’s narcissistic whims and felt needs. (Just exchange the Christian hipsters and homely-looking women in cardigan sweaters for suburban Yuppies and homely-looking women in cardigan sweaters.)

    Ironically, for all the talk about authenticity, to me most of the video felt decidely “inauthentic” and polemical. The only person in the video who came across as genuine is Shane Claiborne. I believe he is sincere and excited about what he’s doing and what’s happening in sectors of Christianity (even if I believe he’s sincerely wrong about alot of stuff).

  9. Stuart says

    Jared and truthunites,

    If a “postmodern” were to “repent” of his or her epistemology, to what would/should they turn instead? Modernism? Pre-modernism?

    • says

      Stuart, They should turn to “By Scripture Alone.” Scripture is the foundation; not my experience or the experience of my community. All ideas must be subject to Scripture, and should be willing to be constantly subject to Scripture.

      • Stuart says

        I agree wholeheartedly.
        But I suspect that they would probably say they are the ones returning to Scriptire.

        I suspect that what we really have is a problem with is their hermeneutic, which is more the direction I was going with my question.

  10. Mike Ski says

    I will say that everyone of these folks have a very red irritated belly button due over self examination and introspection. I’m not a big Warren fan, but someone might brake it to them…”That it’s not all about you”

    I think you were very polite in only saying that this wanted to make you throw up.

  11. Christiane says

    These two things are true:

    1. In many who would minister, this video brings out a sense of revulsion

    2. Christians who would minister are obligated to ask their Lord to help them exchange that revulsion for compassion

    They are not mutually exclusive.

    • Dave Miller says

      So then, we can extrapolate that it is not necessarily arrogance or condemnation to identify those who hold to a false gospel? That can be done out of a heart of compassion and love?

      It is good to hear that, since so often, believing that Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven, that faith in Jesus is required for salvation, that false gospels ought to be identified and confronted – these concepts have been painted as hateful, arrogant and somehow contrary to the spirit of Christ.

  12. says

    One of the BEST Statements of All Time!
    “I’m telling Christians to live out their Christianity, but I am not saying that our authenticity will save anyone, even postmoderns. Only repentance and faith in Christ will save sinners. We must give postmoderns the message of Christianity. Repent and believe the gospel.”

  13. says

    And Nobody wants to do the dishes! So there!
    Seriously, I think some of these folks are trying so hard to be “Something Else” because they don’t think what we have been is working.
    Well, sometimes we have been petty, and a stumbling block and unChristlike. True. And thats not food.
    But we need to be more like Jesus than any one else, and proclaim His Gospel.
    I almost laughed at ‘we need to welcome people like Jesus did.’ What does that look like exactly? Telling people to go give everything away? Telling people that they will all die unless they repent? Calling people whitewashed tombs?

    • Max says

      “Telling people to go give everything away? Telling people that they will all die unless they repent? Calling people whitewashed tombs?” … “brood of vipers” … etc.

      You won’t find those passages in the PDV edition of the Bible (Postmodern Dojo Version).

  14. cb scott says

    Two observations relating to the gospel and dojos

    1). It seems to me that the folks in the video have had little or no exposure to the biblical gospel.

    2). It seems to me that the folks in the video have had little or no exposure to what happens in a real dojo.

  15. says

    So, I have an MDiv.

    I’m not a PhD student like Jared, so I can’t purport to be as much of an expert.

    However, judging solely from the content of that video, I didn’t see anything that would turn my stomach.

    Granted, they might not have been using all the correct theological terms.

    But, I do think they are trying to live out their faith. I liked the line about (paraphrased) — “We don’t just want to worship the guy [Jesus], but want to look increasingly more like him.”

    While I don’t disagree with the sentiment that repentance must not be downplayed, I don’t think the crux of this video was to justify a sinful life.

    Perhaps instead of saying another ministry makes you want to puke, a posture more conducive to constructive dialog would be:

    “They get a lot of things right in this video, but… {suggestions}”

    Also, to anyone commenting on the physical appearance of those depicted in the video:

    What do piercings (or tattoos, etc) have to do with the validity of what they’re saying?

    I wonder if they were all clean-cut and wearing collared shirts — or if the transcription of the video were just provided in plain text — if as many people would have taken issue with the message.

    By distilling the critique to “I’m not the target demographic because I’m male but don’t have earrings” or “This makes me want to puke,” it just further solidifies the counter-cultural stance. They want to be what you (we) are not.

    Let’s not forget that the original disciples turned the stomachs of the established religious leaders. Jesus and his crew offended the refined sensibilities of the experts, as well.

    They were “{X} inclusive” to a fault, inviting sinners to dine with them. It was a totally counter-cultural notion. One might even say TransFORM-ative.

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun.

    :)

    P.S.

    I’ve never met anyone is a self-described “postmodern.” I have typically seen it used as a label to describe someone who is viewed as having strayed too far from a presupposed norm.

  16. Just A Mom says

    btw: when I used the term “hideous” I was being sarcastic. Just in case there is any confusion there.