Postmodern. Postliberal. Post-Christendom. Postchristian. Although we debate the aptness of these terms and their illuminating power, they reveal something significant about our culturethe times, they are a-changin'. Add to this cultural flux the difficulty of developing an ecclesiology for evangelicalsPresbyterians, Baptists, Pentecostals, Anglicans, Independents, parachurch organizations.
Addressing the current cultural situation and applying it to evangelicals is what David Fitch takes on in The Great Giveaway. It is a daunting task: to make the case for a particular interpretation of our culture and at the same time develop an evangelical ecclesiology. Fitch is well-prepared for this dual task by his Ph.D. (Northwestern) and his years in pastoral ministry in the greater Chicago area. His aim is appropriate and admirable. It provides many moments of illumination and passages of sustained analysis and direction for "reclaiming the mission of the church" (as the subtitle promises). Overall, the book is a mixture of strengths and weaknesses that reflects the complexity of our times, the topic of the book, and the task of faithfully fulfilling the church's mission.
The Postmodern Milieu
For Fitch, we live in postmodern times. Fitch makes the case for this interpretation of our culture not by arguing it but by presuming the postmodern condition and by using it as a hermeneutical key and guide for the church's mission. Thus, as he addresses various aspects of the church's life, he demonstrates how, under the influence of modernity, the church has "given away" its mission. Modernity has infected our definition of success, and our practices of evangelism, worship, preaching, moral education, and more, so that we are ...