Many Christian leaders dealing with the younger generation of postmoderns keep telling us that we have to look at them almost in the same way missionaries regard people in Third World countries that do not have a Christian historical reference. We need to take into account that the postmodern generation really does not have a Christ/Biblical point of reference as in previous generations. D. A. Carson in the book, Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns, lists four implications for evangelizing the postmodern generation.
*The first one is the fact that when someone comes to Christ they will be expected to leave their postmodern worldly culture. However, he points out that the more people have no point of Christian-moral reference, the more traumatic that transition will be. We certainly need to remember this when individuals from this generation do come to Christ and happen to wander into our churches. Ingrid Schlueter at the blog, Slice of Laodicea has a post about this exact problem. She talks about Christians who were goths before they were converted and after a period of time are still coming to church looking like goths (goths are young people who have a culture of death and wear funny hairdos and lots of rings in all sorts of body places and have a lot of tattoos). She correctly points out IMO that these people are displaying a HUGE message - that of identification with their previous life INSTEAD of their present life in Christ. So far there are 48 comments to her post and many, from the 20-something generation, take issue with her. It's very instructive to read not only the post, but also as many of the comments you have time for. I give the link below after you finish reading this post. There is such a fine line here. The answer to this dilemma is strong prayer by the church for these new Christians. It's the Holy Spirit, not our ragging and nagging, that will change these people. And it is also our prayers as well as learning how to communicate with this generation that will bring them to Christ and into our churches.
*The second implication Carson relates is starting farther back with our story. The present generation doesn't understand who Christ is, what sin is, or why someone would be put to death FOR us. In other words, many in this generation do not understand what the problem is that Christ came to resolve.
*Third, many emergent leaders are trying to force us into a choice between a relational faith and a propositional faith. Here is what that means - this generation likes relational stories and events so emergents tend to talk about our relation to God and Christ, each other and the world. And that certainly is an important part of the gospel. However, many emergents do not like what is called propositional truths. We would call them Bible truths. That is, truth about sin, people being lost without Christ, and so forth. That tends to be way too definite for them as we have learned in my previous posts that the postmoderns tend not to adopt one truth as THE truth. This then presents problems for us in our witness. However, since they like stories, instead of stating these truths in a litany, we need to learn how to incorporate them into stories or in visual formats as they are from a media-influenced generation. However, we must NOT drop these truths and that is why many of us do not follow a lot of the emergent leaders. I will take this up in a future post when we discuss essentials vs. non-essentials.
*Fourth, and this is where many of the emergent leaders, most notable the Brian McLaren crowd, has gone wrong IMO, Carson correctly states that we cannot change or water down the gospel to "fit" into the postmodern's worldview. Sadly, this is also what the seeker sensitive movement tends to do.
As you can see, we all have our work cut out for us, in learning how this generation thinks and then how to communicate the gospel to them with caring and authenticity WITHOUT compromising the gospel.
Whew! That is a tall order.
Read Schlueter's post and at least some of the 48 comments to glean a feeling about the two positions. The post and comments are such a clear reflection of the generation gap between us elderly folks and the postmoderns.
Here is the link. The article is entitled, When Jesus Comes.
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