Taken with permission from David Lose's blog, "...In the Meantime."
What is postmodernism? Obviously, no single post can describe it. But one way to think about it is to recognize that we no longer live in a time or culture where there is a single agree-upon version of, or story about, reality. Instead, there are lots of competing stories about what makes the world go round. For centuries Christianity offered, if not the only story, at least the dominant one through which we made sense of the world. Now we live in a world of multiple worldviews and contrasting "grand narratives" that purport to offer the "truth" about the ways of the world, and that can be both exciting and confusing. Exciting because there are so many possibilities to help us make sense of our lives in the world; confusing because they don't all agree and it can be hard to discern and choose among them.
In this kind of world of competing stories and different options for making sense of our lives, we can no longer assume that people will go to church just because their parents did. Instead, they'll give their time and their money and their energy - and in all these ways their allegiance - to those activities and narratives that most inform and shape their lives. This, more than any other single factor, helps explain for me the decline of the Christian church (the mainline traditions over the last 40 years, but also Evangelical traditions over the last decade).
But sometimes I get worried that we live in something of a time-warp. That is, we know the culture has changed, we know there are lots of other options for your time and attention on Sunday morning, but we act as if we're still living in the 50s and people will keep going to church just because that's what you're supposed to do. Do we recognize, that is, that the current reality is that the church - and, indeed, the Christian faith - has a lot of competition. And just to be clear, that competition isn't always from other religions. Most congregations I know aren't struggling because their members have suddenly converted to another religion; rather, they're opting to go to their kids' hockey match or soccer game, or their using Sunday morning to catch up on work or spend some quality time with their families after another hectic week.
At the same time, however, there hasn't been a time or generation in recent memory where more people were curious about the spiritual life and had questions about the mystery of our lives and the possibility for an encounter with God. But the thing is, these folks won't just come to church because they're supposed to. They'll come - if they come - looking for an experience, hoping for an encounter with something that may transform them.
Are we ready for them?
In the following video, Pastor Jay Gamelin explores the possibility that we're not. That while we're set up to meet the needs of folks who came of age in a culture that assumed church attendance and denominational loyalty, today's seeker is looking for something different. So when folks come and want to know what we believe, we tell them about our denomination...or potluck. And when folks come seeking an experience of God, we invite them to become members of a religious organization (i.e., our congregation). How might we better meet the needs of a "spiritual-but-not-necessarily-religious" generation? Watch Jay's video and then chime in with your thoughts, questions, and suggestions.