Navigating Cultural Currents
Postmodernism is an idea that is bandied about so much these days that it has been stripped of its edge. Gen-X pundits use it to speak about the relational style of today's young adults. Conservative commentators use it to describe today's rampant relativism.
But trying to put a sharp definition on postmodernism is a very "modern" thing to do. Try to categorize it and it loses its postmodern essence.
For many churches, trying to ride the currents of postmodernism has become an obsession, a rationale for throwing out the Sunday-morning dress code or forgoing the hymnal in favor of PowerPoint. But reaching postmoderns is more than using pop-culture sermon illustrations or changing your music.
As pastor of an urban-based church comprised mostly of college students, I find myself smack in the middle of questions about postmodernism. I have to stay up-to-date on what's happening, but the question is: Having identified the trends of postmodernism, what do we do with them? How should they inform our ministries?
Rather than mimic the trends of the postmodern world, we do better to figure out what those trends say about the needs and desires of our culture, and then use those insights to strengthen the incarnational nature of our ministries. Like Christ, the church is called to live in the world, to engage it, to love it. For my church, being "incarnational" has meant responding to the postmodern desire for close-knit community by adding a second service and discussing the possibility of a new church plant rather than moving into a larger building, which would take us out of the inner-city neighborhood where we've been developing a physical presence. For other churches, it will mean examining themselves to determine how they must live out the gospel in their unique situations.
Head, heart, and hands
Strip away the dependency on technology, the cynicism, and the relativism often tied to postmodernism, and you have a yearning for something more, something spiritual that only God's people can supply.
We planted Cambridge Community Fellowship in 1996 with the support of my former church in Maryland. We began with about eight people and have steadily grown. Today we have 250 regular attenders.
For services, we rent space in a small Nazarene church in the Central Square neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Located off Massachusetts Avenue, between Harvard and MIT, we are two subway stops away from Tufts University and a couple of bus stops from Boston University. Many of our attenders come from these four colleges. Another contingent comes from Wellesley College (about 20 miles away), a handful from Northeastern University, and then the rest is our post-college population, people who work in the Boston area year-round.
The building next door to us is a low-income housing project. Government subsidized housing is sprinkled throughout the community, along with apartment complexes and rowhouses occupied by young professionals and students.
Because we draw so many ...