While teaching my Contemporary Worldviews class, we wrapped up the semester with Postmodernism. While Postmodernism may not necessarily be considered a worldview, as it is the absence of any absolutes, it is a common approach to life in 21st century America. With each successive worldview I sought to help the students think about engaging others with the Gospel. I think each class we teach should have a missiological bent. In concluding the course with postmodernity, we dove into the discussion on taking the Gospel to the postmodern generation. The one idea we all agreed upon was TIME. It takes time.
Postmodernists approach life from a different direction; they deny any objective knowledge or reason. JP Moreland said, “According to Emergent church leader Brian McLaren, making absolute truth claims becomes problematic in the postmodern context.” In quoting McLaren, Moreland wrote,
“I think that most Christian’s grossly misunderstand the philosophical baggage associated with terms like absolute or objective (linked to fundamentalism and the myth of neutrality)…. Similarly, arguments that pit absolutism verses relativism, and objectivism versus, subjectivism, prove meaningless or absurd to postmodern people.”
A postmodernist often rejects the notion that rationality is objective on the grounds that no one can approach life in a totally objective way or without bias. Postmodernists also deny objective absolute truth. No absolute truth exists. Therefore, we as Christians claiming to have “the truth,” are only seeking power, authority, and abuse. They assume we are self seeking, because their approach to life is driven by self construct. You can define who you are, or want to be. You can make any words mean anything, and no one can tell you otherwise.
So, as the class thought through the foundational ideas of postmodernity, we discussed our approach to reaching them with the Gospel. As mentioned above, we began with the idea that it won’t be quick. It will take time, and probably significant amounts of time to break down the walls of postmodern thinking. In an effort to take the time, we concluded that instead of the one on one, confrontational approach, we thought the best idea was to befriend this person. In fact, we went so far to say that it may take some time to build a legitimate friendship with the person(s), nothing platonic or artificial, but a genuine new friendship. Through that friendship, and life on life time, one must intently seek to interject and discuss Gospel ideas. In the introduction to the class we discovered that individuals reveal what they truly believe about life’s tough questions when they encounter a trial or crisis. While spending time getting to know your new postmodern friend, you will eventually walk with them long enough to encounter such a tragedy.
As I personally thought more about the class discussion, I began to think about much of the current day approach to evangelism. The thought that kept coming to mind is that we aren’t equipped to spend the time investing in a person’s life for the sake of the Gospel. We teach all these methods, FAITH, GROW, EE, etc, and each one is designed to be a one on one confrontational immediate presentation. We don’t have a long term plan for reaching someone with the Gospel. We don’t teach folks to intentionally engage in new friendships with a LONG RANGE goal of reaching them with the Gospel. We teach an approach that says, ASK THEM NOW!!!
We didn’t figure it all out in the class, but I think we began to ponder a more accurate, biblical approach to our evangelistic efforts. TIME, invest time in the lives of people in order to reach them with the Gospel. With the postmodern generation, when you start with the absolute notion of truth in Christ, they will certainly shut you off. However, I think if you begin with sincerity toward friendship, and investment, they will over time be softened to listen to what you have to say. Who knows, maybe not; that work is ALL THE HOLY SPIRIT anyway, but I think we need to take the best approach to reaching the current generation for the sake of the Gospel.