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U:21 | Why Your Church Doesn’t Need to Fear Postmodernism

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Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series focused on engaging the emerging generations of faith leaders. Learn more about EthicsDaily.com’s “Emerging Voices” and “U:21” series here.

I attend a very conservative university in the heart of Virginia.

In many of my classes, professors will complain about our postmodern society. They see it as a threat to the church’s well-being – something to be feared and something that is killing Christianity.

Some of these professors see public schooling as something that is driving people away from the church.

These professors will say that prayer needs to be brought back into schools, completely ignoring the fact that people of all faiths have the right to pray privately in school.

Moreover, those who want prayer back in schools would most likely not be comfortable if a Muslim student faced east and prayed throughout the school day.

Why would a school impose a time of prayer for one particular religion during the school day? Public schools should not and, thankfully, will not do this again.

I am serving as an intern in a church in Toronto this summer in a largely post-Christian context. Blythwood Road Baptist Church is an authentic, intentional church.

I have seen honest Christians and honest non-Christians in Toronto. I have seen relationships between these two groups grounded in respect for each other and the realization that they have a lot to learn from each other.

Blythwood Road Baptist is focused on community outreach and building lasting relationships.

This church reminds me of the church described in Acts 2 that we hear so much about in the United States but do very little to attain.

The congregation is a body of believers who are committed to each other and to the work of the Holy Spirit in the world.

It seems that many U.S. Christians have forgotten that the apostles did not live in a “Christian nation.”

In fact, the first Christians were in an environment so hostile to them that the Romans used Christians as torches and as entertainment in the coliseums.

Whether they want to admit it or not, many U.S. church members seem to believe the myth that if the U.S. is not a Christian nation, then the church will die out.

This is a very low view of God. Numbers may decrease, yes, but the Holy Spirit will work with one Christian or 1 billion Christians.

The decline of cultural Christianity is a good thing. There is honesty in a postmodern society. People do not feel the obligation to be Christian.

This leads to real conversations and healthy worship. There is no façade of false believers inside or outside of the church.

I would rather have 40 members of a church who come because they love God and love their neighbor, rather than have 400 people in church who are attending to raise their status in the community or for political clout.

If people come to Christ in a post-Christian environment, one can trust that they truly have a relationship with him.

Voices that have previously been ignored or pushed to the side are now heard in the church, often for the first time.

The church will have to address the least of these mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 25 and must begin to be able to reconcile what they have damaged.

Real, respectful interfaith relationships can be formed in a postmodern context. In these relationships, we can listen to, learn from and love each other in a way that was not possible when the predominately white church had all the power in the West.

Postmodernism holds clergy responsible. Society will no longer accept half-baked (or non-existent) responses to injustice. Clergy will have to recognize and come alongside survivors of all kinds of injustice.

Postmodernism will not kill the church. Rather, it may, with God’s grace, kill cultural Christianity.

John DeWitt

John DeWitt is a student at Liberty University, and is a member at Second Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia.