Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Preaching to Postmoderns

America is rapidly becoming a postmodern culture. Postmodern people think differently and act differently than past generations. Many churches are struggling to reach people who come from a postmodern world view.

How does a postmodern person think?

A synopsis of postmodern thinking can be found in George Barna’s book, The Seven Faith Tribes, on page 209. Barna writes, “This is the most commonly held worldview in the United States today. It maintains that there is no “metanarrative” or grand story that explains life and reality or gives it purpose. Each person makes decisions about how to live based on feelings and experience. Nobody has the right to dismiss any of those decisions as wrong or inappropriate. Morality is a private matter, and if a choice is deemed right by someone, it is therefore right for that person and others must be tolerant of that choice. Life is a random series of subjective experiences, and a person’s ultimate purposes are comfortable survival and personal expression. The things that matter most in life are having experiences and relationships. One may believe in the existence of God but cannot compel anyone else to do so.”

In light of this viewpoint, when preaching to postmoderns:

1. Don’t be afraid to use scripture. Most postmoderns are biblically illiterate and are not sure about inerrancy, but they are curious and they do generally think God knows more than mankind does. Postmoderns expect something in a sermon other than the pastor’s opinion or some flimsy pop psychology disguised as a sermon.

2. Go deep. During the “baby boomer” years of church growth, many sermons were watered down to meet baby boomers’ felt needs. Postmoderns are not interested in a light devotional. If they have made the effort to come to church, it means they want to wrestle with the tough questions about life and discover deep answers to life’s perplexing problems.

3. Use some interaction and experiential methods. Postmoderns do not just want to sit and listen to someone else talk. They want to experience something, so interact with them in a sermon. Interview one of them or ask questions for them to answer. In the music, make sure it is them talking to God not just listening to a choir talk about God. Let them clap, hold hands or dance.

4. Use technology well - videos, power point, etc. Most postmoderns grew up surrounded by technology. It is the only way many of them know how to learn. Use this to your advantage and become good at utilizing these tools.


5. Use some “liturgy” without being ritualistic. Most postmoderns have enough connection with “church” to grasp that the Lord’s Prayer, candles and communion are all part of worship, even if they don’t know the meaning of it all. Using some of those elements from a liturgical experience that post moderns may have had as a child, connected with modern technology and music, helps postmoderns relate to the worship experience.

6. Use stories of your own life, especially about your failures and weaknesses. Most postmoderns grew up in a culture of brokenness, so they relate well to your own journey toward wholeness.

7. Use “we” and “us” statements instead of “I” and “you” statements. Most postmoderns want to “belong.” Use statements that help them feel part of the group.

8. Don’t ask them to make a commitment to something on the spot. Instead challenge them to think deeply for a period of time and then act on their reflective conclusion.

8 comments:

  1. Good stuff!

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  2. Hershall StricklandJune 23, 2009 at 1:12 PM

    Thank you and great job on this article. It helped me to understand *******, my exchange son, much better. It helps me to see the challenges we will face at Lyndon much better. Please keep up the great leadership.

    For us to reach the Northeast Kingdom we have to have a clear understanding of post modernism, even though most of our members are traditionalists. While some of the older people in the congregation cling to the historical patterns, it seems to me that the more "educated" tend to be post modernistic. We have a challenge to reach them all, but we have a God that is up to any challenge!

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  3. Dr. Stan AlbrightJune 23, 2009 at 1:16 PM

    This is excellent! Thanks for the info.

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  4. Great tips!

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  5. A Radicallly Postmodern PersonAugust 29, 2009 at 9:39 AM

    Excellent advice. I do however have a small suggestion.

    Rather than reading a "synopsis of postmodern thinking" like that of Barna, why not go straight to the source and read a synopsis written by a postmodern thinker like Jameson or Baudrillard?

    I feel that you're going in a good direction, and very much appreciate that you have acknowledged and are attempting to tackle the postmodern situation, something that many churches have yet to do.

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  6. Thanks for the advice. I will order one of those books today from Amazon.

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  7. Looking for practical ways to put some of the principles in this blog post into action? Purchase my book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. The first part of the book explains why bivocational ministry is biblical, normal and missional. The second part of the book explains how to mobilize the laity to do high level ministry in a team setting with the pastor so that the church can be effective in reaching its community for Christ.
    The book is published by Crossbooks and you can buy the book directly from them at:

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    If you live in Central Vermont, you can purchase a copy at the Faith Community Church in Barre, VT.

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