Posted by: Rodney Shaw | March 26, 2009

Where Do We Stand? Postmodernism, the Emergent Church, and Apostolics

There is a lot of shifting right now. We are on the fault line of an emerging age. Things are changing. Much of the change and unrest is directly related to the prevailing philosophy of our day, postmodernism. Postmodernism is the overarching philosophical framework by which many Westerners comprehend the world. Unlike the modern world that preceded it, which was built upon propositions, scientific law, and cause and effect, postmodernism denies absolute truth; distrusts authority, theories, and institutions; and has a deconstructionist approach to traditions and social conventions. Postmodernism has affected architecture, art, music, and most every other discipline including faith.

In a religious context, postmodernism challenges propositional truth, traditional expressions and institutions, and anything that is perceived to be too rigid. Postmoderns value dialogue, interaction, diversity, experience, transparency, and authenticity. We could spend a lot of time defining postmodernism, but we will leave it at that.

Many of these responses are seen in a variety of church settings, including megachurches, seeker-sensitive churches, and warehouse churches. A tendency toward a less traditional and more casual approach can be seen in many churches across denominational lines and seems to be simply a benign expression of an overall culture that is becoming more casual. But there are more extreme expressions of postmodernism that are alarming.

The extreme forms of postmodern thought are nowhere more clearly seen than in the emergent church. Though most young Christians do not identify with emergent theology, many are drawing heavily from emergent church literature and ideas. (Emergent is a technical word with a specific reference. See the review of Why We’re Not Emergent.) Let us now look at some common expressions of postmodernism and how it affects the church.

Self-flagellation

It has become vogue for Christians to criticize the church. It is common for people to talk about supposed corporate sins of Christianity, including political, ecological, and sociological shortcomings. It is akin to the bashing of the wicked West by political liberals. Whatever is traditional and institutional must necessarily be bad.

And to be certain, institutional Christianity has made plenty of blunders as has every denomination and local church. Christians are not perfect by any stretch. But to demand a total re-envisioning of the faith based on its failures is imprudent. “I love Jesus but hate Christianity” sounds chic and suave for a neophyte just out of college, but what he forgets is that he never would have learned of Jesus if it had not been for Christianity.

But it runs deeper than mere criticism. The loathing of the church is the intellectual basis for re-envisioning the church into a form that is acceptable to the age in which we live. This was precisely the ancient sin at the heart of the Corinthian correspondence. For the Corinthians the problem was wisdom (sophia). Their culture had particular expectations of teachers and philosophy, and neither Paul nor the gospel lived up to these expectations. This is the setting behind Paul’s use of wisdom and foolishness in I Corinthians 1-3. God used a foolish man using a foolish method to declare a foolish message to save a bunch of foolish people.

Glorification of doubt

Challenging truth claims is part of the age in which we live, and this has splashed over into the popular theology and literature of Christianity. And it is not the doubt of unbelievers at issue; it has become fashionable for Christians to doubt. Doubt has become a good thing. Being on a “journey” of both faith and doubt is preferred over steadfast faith. Everyone, of course, has faith struggles, and many times individuals struggle with particular trappings of their church or movement. However, doubt is not a virtue. Preferring doubt is often just an expression of intellectual laziness and an unwillingness to make a sustained effort to find clarity in regard to a particular doctrine or issue. The just are saved by faith, not doubt. Jesus always rebuked doubt in His disciples. Zacharias was smitten dumb because of doubt. As David Hansen wrote, “I always found that when I become proud of my doubts, they suddenly become the sin of unbelief.”

Caricature of culture

Many who are trying to re-envision the church are doing so with the claim of making Christianity acceptable in the postmodern world. This whole enterprise runs into the danger of the Corinthians cited above. Yes, methods must be evaluated, but fundamentals of Christianity must not be re-envisioned. Furthermore, it is an exaggeration of the stereotypical postmodern. The average person who walks through church doors or who is a friend with a churchgoer does not have ripped-up jeans, messed-up hair, or time to sit in coffee shops all day listening to indie rock. It just is not so. The quintessential postmodern may live on a college campus or downtown in a large city, but this does not represent most people we encounter. Yes, people are more educated. Yes, people ask questions. Yes, old paradigms of leadership no longer work. Yes, we need reasoned answers and at times a revision of methods. But to sweep the whole thing out the door for a newer understanding simply because we now live in a postmodern world is irresponsible.

Many have transformed their worship services into a cultural presentation with a religious theme. The thought is that the worship experience should be relevant to the kinds of things people experience in culture at large. Hence, music, technology, and the arts are integrated in such a way so as not to be “churchy.” But this raises a whole other issue of whether worship should include technology and replicate culture or whether it should be a sanctuary from technology and cultural trends. There is probably a good answer somewhere in the middle.

It should be pointed out that postmodernism is a Western, First-World metanarrative. The Third World does not think primarily in terms of postmodernism. Interestingly, a majority of Christians, including Oneness Pentecostals, live in the Third World, and they are quite content with a Christianity free of postmodernism.

Further, a majority of First-World Christians do not ascribe to the wholesale adaptation of postmodernism, especially in the way the emergent church does. Fundamentalists, conservative Evangelicals, independent megachurches, seeker-sensitive churches, Roman Catholics, and mainline Protestants by and large do not fit the emergent mold, although some are quite “progressive.” Accordingly, a minority who are at the center of societal evolution are attempting to drive change. This is what is often seen in culture at large; small groups in academia and entertainment often drive wide-scale change, especially among young people.

Lack of theological and historical context

Understanding one’s theological and historical roots is crucial. Much of the thought in emergent church philosophy is not as original as one might think. Likewise, those who may not be emergent but who are dissatisfied with the traditional forms of church are sometimes quick to abandon their own forms for new forms. However, a firm rooting in one’s own theological tradition provides stability that prevents a wholesale adoption of every new thought that comes through Christian bookstores. Contemporary books by malcontents and revolutionaries cannot be one’s primary source for theological reflection and development. Before Apostolics adopt things in such books, they need a firm sense of their own theology and history. Before we can digest and appropriate larger criticisms of Christianity, we need to know who we are and how we got here.

Apostolics need to understand the theological history of the modern Oneness movement. The restorationist impulse inherent in Pentecostalism provides Apostolics with their own, unique metanarrative. Understanding this point alone can be a safeguard against drifting into alternative forms of Christianity. Before we draw theological conclusions from Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, we need to have a firm grasp on the theological positions of John Wesley, Charles Parham, William Seymour, William Durham, and Frank Ewart. Apostolics should be conversant with contemporary Pentecostal scholars such as David K. Bernard and Talmage French, and scholars of Pentecostalism such as Vinson Synan, Grant Wacker, and Walter Holleweger. As Andy Stanley has said, we need to become students of a movement before we criticize it, especially if that movement is our own.

Historical context is vital. For example, most Christians likely do not realize that social action once was the cause of conservative Christians. The Salvation Army and Dwight Moody are great examples. Early Pentecostals often were involved in missions that engaged in evangelism as well as helped the poor. In fact, until the 1920s, Evangelicals were very socially active. When social action began to wane among Evangelicals, it remained strongest among revivalists. The emergence of Social Gospel as a liberal expression of Christianity was a large factor in social concerns waning among conservatives. Rather than be associated with political liberalism and Social Gospel, conservatives abandoned social outreaches. As Alan Jacobs said, “It was not Brian McLaren [emergent church leader] who coined the statement, ‘Faith without works is dead.'”

Sweeping theological shifts have frequently been a reaction to cultural change as illustrated in the Corinthian situation. This also was the origin of Protestant theological liberalism, which emerged in the modern world. In view of the Enlightenment, industrialization, and Darwinism, theological liberalism was an attempt to salvage Christianity for the modern mind. Fundamentalism also emerged within this same context as a counter movement to hold fast to traditional views of Christianity and Scripture. Both theological liberalism and fundamentalism were modern responses to cultural and societal changes. A few decades later, when liberalism was dealt a crippling blow by World Wars I & II and communism, neo-orthodoxy emerged as yet another example of re-envisioning Christianity in light of emerging worldviews, this time as an attempt to salvage liberal Protestantism. The results of such reactions are unsatisfying in the long-term. Neo-orthodox theologian H. Richard Niebuhr summed up Protestant liberalism as “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

Understanding these historical realities helps the contemporary Christian recognize the need for social relevance while at the same time realizing that re-envisioning the Christian faith for cultural reasons is nothing new. Niebuhr’s Christ & Culture would be a much better starting point than emergent church literature.

Riding the wrong wave

It is undeniable that young Apostolics sometimes find themselves in stifling situations. However, turning to the emergent church and other postmodern resources is not the solution. It must be recognized that these people are reacting to what they consider to be dysfunctions within liberal Protestantism as well as Evangelicalism. Neither of these are Pentecostal categories. To be sure, they are reacting, and it would be easy for us to latch on to them when we react. However, when Apostolics react to dysfunctional systems or stifling leadership, we are reacting to something entirely different. To latch on to the reactions of others means we are aligning ourselves with others based upon our core dislikes, not our core beliefs. As James Nuechterlein pointed out of early American politicians, “Members of both parties found identity in opposition: They were more certain of their opponents’ hypocrisies and pretenses than they were of the virtue of those who shared their party label.”

Vocabulary and templates

All of this has generated a new religious vocabulary, and for some, a template for doing church. Popular postmodern influences on the church include Catalyst leadership conference (http://www.catalystconference.com), Church Planters conference (http://www.churchplanters.com), Worship Facilities Expo (http://www.wfx.org), and authors like Leonard Sweet, George Barna, M. Rex Miller, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and many others. Although all these may not be as extreme as the emergent church (Bell and McLaren are clearly emergent), they all are postmodern influences. And this is not to say that all these influences are negative.

Those who follow such influences tend to work from a similar template. Churches are named after a street or neighborhood, preferably with a reference to nature, websites tend to be minimalist, black and white is vogue, the “What we believe” statements are generic and use language like journey and authentic, senior pastors use the title “lead pastor,” most staff members have the title “pastor,” casual attire is preferred in worship, blogs are prevalent (with a black-and-white picture of the lead pastor with his shirttail out), music tends to be guitar driven, drama and various forms of media are incorporated into worship and preaching, preaching is typically done in series, preaching is more often oriented around life issues than theological propositions, preaching is conversational in style, pulpits are less common, “connections” and “community” are pursued through small groups, and there is a sense of wanting to be edgy.

There is certainly nothing wrong with this template if it works to reach people. The danger of this template is that many new church plants become indistinguishable from all the other new churches in a community with little regard for doctrine. It essentially becomes a war of images between churches. Without a clear Pentecostal distinctive of the power of the Holy Spirit, one could easily be just another church in town, competing for the same generic audience on the basis of programs and music.

Another danger is that bait-and-switch techniques do not work with churches. De-emphasizing doctrinal distincitves to get people in the door is not a sustainable model. Either the people will eventually leave once they discover what you really believe, or you will be forced to continually de-emphasize what you believe in order to maintain traffic. Experience shows that the latter usually prevails.

The vocabulary in postmodern churches includes words like incarnational, missional, community, journey, ancient, authentic, real. These words often originate in protest of a dysfunctional church or system. For example, missional emerged a few years ago in response to churches that do not live out their faith or witness. (See The Missional Church, Darrell Guder, editor.) Missional was conceived as a model for doing church over against the traditional attractional model. Protestant churches of all stripes have used the attractional model for years. The seeker-sensitive megachurches of the 1980s and 1990s revamped their formats but also had an attractional model. In both cases, people were attracted to what was happening on stage on Sundays. Faith was defined by attending church and believing a set of propositions.

Missional theory says that instead of constructing a building and expecting sinners to come to that building, Christians should take their faith to the streets. Christians should live out their faith every day. Christians should be light and salt in the world, i.e., Christians should be missional.

Although we could debate what exactly it is Christians ought to be doing between Sundays, the idea of being missional is inherent in Pentecostal theology. Our strong sense of evangelism and holiness provides the theological framework to be missional. As pointed out above, early Pentecostals were involved in social outreach primarily for theological reasons. First, they believed it was an opportunity to share the gospel. Second, they believed this was part of holiness. They believed they were empowered to go and do good works. Holiness was not merely personal piety or outward appearance; it included doing good works.

Accordingly, Pentecostals have a theological basis to be both missional and incarnational. But since we typically do not use this language, and because we have largely abandoned social outreach, it is easy for young Apostolics to feel an attraction to these ideas when they are articulated elsewhere.

Here is the rub

This is not to point a finger at our younger colleagues. God forbid. They have come to the kingdom for such a time as this. Just like those of us who are older, our young brethren have not entered ministry for the purpose of personal gain or with the intent of becoming sellouts. They entered ministry because God called them and because they have a passion for the lost. I have seen a fresh and deep passion in our young ministers. God has called them to reach their generation. We cannot expect them to pour the wine of twenty-first century revival into a 1950s wineskin. It will surely burst. But where do we stand?

To my peers and elders: Our younger ministers are in the throes of this cultural change. Does it really matter if they wear casual attire in worship? Does it really matter if they prefer guitars over Hammonds? Does it really matter that their preaching style is not in a revivalist camp meeting style? (After all, Jesus and the apostles sat down when they taught.) When they speak of social action and helping the poor, they are simply trying to obey Jesus and the apostles. Maybe we should forget about political liberalism and Social Gospel, return to our early roots, and join them. We may not understand their methods and why they are attracted to resources that we don’t understand. But have we given them comparable tools? Have we shown them how to effectively communicate the gospel in today’s culture? We have not taken the time to show them how to be postmodern and Apostolic, so they have looked elsewhere. At some point we are going to be required to extend to our successors the same confidence our elders extended to us. Otherwise, we will drive this thing into the ground.

To my younger brothers: We are concerned that much of your church model comes from non-Apostolics. We are concerned when you measure “how many made a decision for Christ” instead of how many received the Holy Spirit. We are concerned when baptism is no longer urgent. We are concerned when it appears that Pentecostal distinctives are minimized and people do not know that your church is a Pentecostal church, even after attending for a while. We are concerned that the doctrinal statements on your websites speak of authenticity and journey but say little if anything about the baptism of the Holy Spirit or the identity of Jesus Christ. I realize some of you get disillusioned with a bad leader or a stale church culture and you feel you have nowhere to turn but to the conferences and authors listed above. But it is okay to be postmodern and Apostolic at the same time. Further, it is okay to be disgruntled and even disillusioned and be Apostolic. There is no need to stop being Apostolic simply because one is frustrated.

Faith is always contextualized within culture, and therefore the church must continually discern how to be light and salt in its given context. Each generation has not only the challenge but the responsibility to engage in serious reflection. The church’s wrestling is good. But there are healthy ways and not-so-healthy ways to struggle. (See I Corinthians 9:26 and II Timothy 2:5.) However, it is a grave error for us to cast our lot with Corinth.

I think we need to talk. Is anyone interested?

 

This post was simultaneously printed in the Forward.

The next post in this series, “What Do You Blieve? The Priority of Theology,” will be posted on April 2.

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Responses

  1. In my opinion cool words and catchie phrases will not bring revival or reach a younger generation.

    What method will reach the lost? Easy the Bible method.

    According to Isaiah 10:27 It is the annoiting that breaks the yoke of bondage.

    According to Ephesians 3:20 This scripture clearly states that God able do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. According to what a new method of outreach? Hip cool worship music? (and this is good) , but none of it will get it done.

    It’s according to the power that worketh in US..

    How do we get the power?

    And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. Luke 24:49 Acts 2:38-39 Acts 4:12

    How do we keep the power?
    Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. 2 Cor 6:17

    The christain life is a JOURNEY however the only thing that will save us is the AUTHENTIC apostle’s doctrine..The only RELEVENCE we need is the death, burial and ressurection of Jesus Christ..

    Don’t Mascarade what you believe ~For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

    Romans 1:16

  2. Brother Shaw,

    It seems that you have some training in Leadership Studies. I liked your posting on “followership,” regarding the modern church.

    I am only vaguely familiar with emergent church methods, but I suspect that this approach (whether old or new) arises from an attempt to evade intolerable leadership practices. Indeed opposition to tyranny and power abuse is admittedly as old as pharaohs and monarchs. Nonetheless, it is just and needed in every generation. Relapsing to evaluate the state of present leadership is typically considered a good thing here. Things cannot be considered invalid because they are not entirely new — there is “no new thing under the sun.” I’m not sure that emergent churches claim to be entirely “new” in their origins — maybe just tired of “other” old ways that persistently attempt to minimize, disengage, or overpower people.

    I agree with Toby Stevens (hey Toby — it’s so nice to hear something from you!), when he says that we cannot necessarily accuse a postmodern approach of abandoning Acts 2:38.

    There are numerous inconsistencies in many aspects of our faith. After studying the history of our movement (in detail), I conclude that it has evolved rather than being fixed upon any particular historic period or movement (even though we like to make that claim).

    Further, so much of what we do and teach at local churches is based on cult of personality (sorry about the use of the word “cult”, but it’s the most accurate in this case).

    What I like about postmodernism is that it takes the emphasis off the preacher, who is typically positioned in such a way that abuse of power is highly likely (if not inevitable, given the condition of human sinfulness), and it refocuses us on Jesus and the entire Body of Christ — a collective group of people who are all filled with the same Spirit. I think, like Toby, that we should stop trying to force conformity to “nonessentials”
    like how long our hair is, or what style of music we play, or which political party we vote for, and redirect our energies at working together to address the deep needs for which the Gospel of Jesus Christ was bestowed upon us.

    I don’t think postmodernists are trying to be trendy, Starbucks-loving intellectuals who throw caution to the wind or remove true ancient landmarks. Rather, many have understood that harshness, arrogance, and stanch conservatism are not good examples for our churches or our children who will needfully face challenges beyond our imaginations in the world to come. This is not reactionary, but visionary — regarding our future on the planet and the powerful place that the Gospel will have among people from all walks of life, cultures, and societies.

    Thanks for initiating conversation on this topic.

    Kelly Zarate

  3. I don’t feel threatened with a postmodern style of evangelism. The basic concept is scriptural. We insist that we adhere to the apostles doctrine with Acts 2:38, yet we gloss and overlook a few scriptures down the verses which states that the apostles had all things in common, selling everything, giving it to the ministry. We fail to acknowledge Paul brilliant masterpiece on Mars Hill.

    Do we realize many of the conversions never occured during a “church service”?

    It bothers me that the basic methodology is being discounted by mainstream and right of center christianity.

    Do you realize how much pentecostals borrowed from other denominations.

    We borrowed almost every aspect of a service outside of the Bible.

    Altar calls as we know them are not scriptural. I believe it was Dwight L. Moody who institued an altar call in the 1880’s because he wanted to be able to get more accurate totals about how many people “accepted” Jesus.

    There isn’t anything in a Pentecostal service that is original. Even the “holiness” standards are “borrowed” from other denominations.

    Instead of doing things different like Jesus and Paul, we seem to act more like the pharisees and say we can’t do things “that” way.

    John the Baptist turn religion in its ears.
    Jesus came after him and took it to the next level
    Paul came busting thru took it to the entire known world.
    Without using conventional religious methodolgy.

  4. In regards to sticking with the basics of Acts 2:38, I would whole heartedly agree. This principle message does not change although the way we reach the lost might be different than the methods used 50 years ago. However, on holiness “standards”, these principles also do not change, although it will need to be somewhat relative of the culture we live in…but again based on scriptural principal. For example, if God says something is an abomination or detestable, as he does in Deuteronomy 22:5 (uh oh, that’s a can of worms there), then He’s not going to accept it today either. This is truth and we cannot sway from it. We must sincerely seek Gods truth and follow it no matter the culture. As has been said, culture never trumps truth, truth trumps culture but we still need to use or consecrate the culture to spread the gospel. Let’s discover or rediscover Biblical truths and figure out how to apply it to today’s world…for the lost souls we painfully love. Thank you Br. Shaw and to everyone else for such a great discussion.

  5. Bro. Shaw,

    Thanks for posting!
    Please continue to write topics for the “twentysomething” generation. These conversations are essential for our time and our future as a movement.

    Thanks,

    Aaron
    a “younger brother” from Detroit!

  6. Just a comment on another comment. I don’t agree that the teachings of holiness were not part of our original theological heritage as Apostolics. While there have been and are some differences from church to church, there are some general principles of practical holiness that were shared not only by most Apostolics but by most Trinitarian Pentecostals as well. There was more consensus on these issues than on the Godhead or the new birth.
    The deep holiness conviction of the UPCI is evident in that, contrary to almost all other groups, it placed a statement about holiness in its original Articles of Faith (1945). Subsequent statements were added on this matter in 1948 and 1954 as societal changes began to affect conservative churches and the UPCI felt a need to respond.
    In short, while there are some cultural considerations in what we may sometimes speak of as “holiness,” part of being Apostolic in both a theological and a historical sense is to uphold scriptural principles of separation and apply them in a practical way to our day.

  7. As a pastor of a church that many Apostolics and would call “emergent” because they don’t really understand this young generations zeal to go into unchartered territory to reach the lost … I’d like to comment on this phrase Rodney used so well:

    “Apostolics need to understand the theological history of the modern Oneness movement.”

    I couldn’t agree more. The group that just broke off from the UPC (I can never remember what they call themselves), they just published an article about the lifecycle of religious organizations. And they stressed this point of knowing the org’s theological history. Saying if an organization doesn’t return to the concept that birthed it, it will die.

    That said, the roots of Apostolic Pentecostalism are what? Being Spirit-filled and baptism in Jesus’ name. That is book of Acts, response to the gospel kind of stuff. The essentials.

    And what are we trying to return to? Essentials or nonessentials? Is the dilemma of our org about essentials of the faith or nonessentials?

    Acts 2:38 is always the same in every culture, but methods of ministry vary from place to place.

    Holiness standards fluctuate from church to church. That is the fact of our org. And isn’t this the majority of the issue? How we measure if people are godly or not? But holiness issues were not in the original package of our organization’s “historical theology”.

    What is our “historical theology?” The main issue was infilling of the Spirit, known by the receiver speaking in tongues, and Baptism in Jesus’ name.

    In Anchorage, Alaska, the people we are baptizing and seeing God fill with the Holy Spirit have each said there was no way they would have entered a traditional church. The traditional methods and holiness issues were barriers they would not cross over.

    They were done with church when we met them.

    So can we be non-traditional in our methods, in our holiness, and still draw the line in the sand when it comes to salvation and following Jesus as a sold out disciple?

    We are trying out best.
    And we firmly believe that the Apostolic Doctrine (as referred to in Acts 2) is the best remedy for our culture.

    http://www.thejourneyanchorage.org

  8. Dear Bro. Rodney,

    I think that you hit the nail right on the head! I am twenty-three and have seen a huge diffence from when I was growing up to the now. I am concerned because I don’t want my generation to drop the ball. I don’t want my future children to grow up into something that has lost it’s truth. It seems that my generation is starting to be embarrassed that we are Pentecostals. Although the name of our organization isn’t that important, but what’s more important is that when they begin to be ashamed to let people know that they are Pentecostal, they also begin to be ashamed of the ONE GOD Apostolic truth. I do not agree with all the extremely hard old Pentecostal way that sends everyone to hell that breathes, but I also don’t want to have a lose church! Does the church always have to be extreme? Can’t we be a balanced people? Isn’t that what God wants us to be? I want my children to respect the house of God unlike the youth now days that text in church or listen to their IPODs to music that is well……not what their parents should even be allowing in their home! I don’t want churches to beat people over the head or as hard as it was years ago, but accept there be a preacher, how shall they hear? We don’t have to be hard and mean to preach what is the truth and we don’t have to lose our truth to reach the “lost.” Because THE TRUTH is what they are searching for and THE TRUTH is what they need and THE TRUTH shall set the sinners free! Is our truth still marching on?

    Sincerely,
    Sis. Bonnie

  9. Rodney…

    I am interested in dialogue concerning these matters. I’m afraid that the lack of dialogue in the UPCI will increasingly make the organization irrelevant. And judging from recent happenings at both national and district levels, the dialogue cannot wait. I’m not interested in rehearsed rants, though, but genuine conversation. Please let me know what format we can use to have such dialogue.

    Thanks,
    Chris Oakes
    Greeneville, Tenn.

  10. Thank you for an articulate and informative article. Your writings are a blessing to the Apostolic movement. Write on!

  11. Just wanted to drop my two cents worth into the reaching the lost portion of the article.

    From someone who reaches a lot of lost souls on a daily basis I can tell you we do not need to stray from any of the landmarks placed before us! Real sinners want the REAL JESUS! Real sinners want something other than the world!

    I am very sad to hear that those who have an agenda to bring worldliness into the church have chosen the “Reaching The Lost” statement to cover their deeds.

    We do not need coffee shops, rock music, weak preaching, politically correct, watered down preaching to reach the lost! We need men with LOVE and COMPASSION and FIRE to reach them!

    I have a relative who has a Assemblies of God church. He was running a solid 600+ about 13 years ago. There was a big stir among the AofG with the Brownsville Revival in Florida. He felt the need to take his leadership to the revival to become more relevant to the lost.

    Back when this all started you couldnt tell much difference in the AofG church he pastors and the Apostolic church other than the trinity doctrine. They used to baptize people every service, they used to have powerful preaching like us and people would weep for hours in the altar.

    When he came back from the revival, they arrived at the church on the bus and I was there picking up some items. The bus stopped all of the leaders got off and didnt even take time to get their suit cases off, they headed into the church and began taking out the instruments, they took out the organ, the piano they took down the pulpit and changed the platform. The next day they started installing lights and smoke machines and started this new style of worship music that was to help win the lost.

    In just a few months people no longer cried in the altars, people just danced to the beat of the drums and acoustic guitars. They actually took out the baptism tank to make room for a new drum pit. The church became like a rock concert.

    Now today just a few short years later there is no worship whatsoever, the church who had over 600 just a few years ago had only 39 people there last Easter Sunday.

    Someone should scream from the top of their lungs, someone should preach from the highest mountain to stop this from coming into the Apostolic church!

    We must remain Apostolic, we must get back to REAL SOUL WINNING!

    Lets ask ourself something before we claim we need change to reach the lost, when is the last time you personally won a soul? When is the last time you personally left your church or home and the only reason you went out is to actually try and win a soul? We must get back to the basics and never leave the landmarks! Jesus is coming!

    God Bless,

    Bro Downs
    gowinsouls.com

  12. Bro. Rodney Shaw… incredible job articulating the attitudes on both sides of the aisle and trying to thread this together. I am going to share this article.

    Blessings,

    James Wilder

  13. First of all I want to state that I found your article fascinating. I can’t recall actually being engaged by an article in the Forward in quite some time. Most issues make a short trip from the mailbox to the trashcan as I have found little to be relevant to my ministerial world.

    Though I enjoyed your article I don’t agree with everything so I’m talking your last line as an invitation to dialogue.

    I agree that extreme forms of post-modern thought can be seen in the “emergent church.” Now here’s the rub I know you have said you are defining emergent by an earlier article but then it seems you lump all post-modern literature and literature non-apostolic in the emergent camp. I hope I’m wrong but that would seem to be a mistake. There are many author’s I have read recently who would vehemently disagree with the teachings of the emergent church but who are very post-modern. David Putnam and Alan Hirsch to name a few. (I have read some of the most amazing things about discipleship and the oneness of God via these authors.)

    Now I agree that self-flagellation is probably vogue and is also probably out of hand. However I would challenge for balance on the glorification of doubt issue. I would agree that we have probably swung too far on the continuum towards doubting but that may be in response to a period where questions and doubts were squelched and not given any air to breath. For example “I’m sorry, Sister, but you must not have had enough faith to be healed.” Really?

    I take issue with the statement about doubt being the result of intellectual laziness. Though it’s possible for that to happen I know of many who have done great diligence to understand something and still have very little clarity in a matter. I prefer the term “choice anxiety” mentioned regularly by Mark Sayers.

    Just a comedic note. Not more than an hour ago I stood as Staples staring at a wall of mechanical pencils for at least 10 minutes trying to decide which one to buy. How is that possible? Was I intellectually lazy, no it was my intellectual diligence that motivated me to pick up and read 10 different packages that cost me. In a sense periods of “doubt” are often periods where we are learning, gathering data, doing the research, asking the questions. This is not to be downplayed. The belief that there is only one way to read a passage of Scripture seems, in light of our current knowledge, foolhardy.

    I will say that one of the most brilliant statements in your article was the idea that the average friend of our church members might not be a PoMo (post-modern) with holes in his/her jeans etc. That is very true and I may have been guilty of playing to that denominator and will do some serious reflection about that. Thank you.

    But if we can’t reach the lost, meaning the “really lost” not just the guy next door who believes everything but one verse, what are we doing. I think we are challenged to reach our communities with the gospel and that there are more and more people who are thinking in a very post-modern way.

    I also agree with the statement that most Christians are living in the Global South and that they are fine with the Gospel the way it has been presented i.e. (Modern) However, I think one should realize that for the most part it has been contextualized to reach them. This is the real issue, it appears that we are now facing this in America that in order to reach those around us we must in a sense “become missionaries” again to our own culture. I sense you agree with this re-contextualization to some degree.

    I realize for myself there is a search to find a “sense of pride” in my heritage. Just as I don’t want you to throw the baby out with the bath water by labeling everything “emergent” I may have done the same in reverse. Thank you for taking the time to write the article. I would enjoy and invite more discussion. God Bless.

  14. First off, that was probably the most astute evaluation and summation of the dynamics at play between movements and generations that I have seen to date. It feels like you have a book inside you on this topic bro.

    However, I would like to say that whether it is because few folks as fair – minded as yourself exist, or simply because most of them do not communicate their thoughts, the impression of “us against them” seems to be the prevailing wind among my fellow young ministers. It seems to me that many young preachers operate from the assumption that the “old guard” will never approve of our ways. This therefore why should we even attempt to hear them out on their part? I am not claiming to feel this disenfranchised myself, but then, I have been exceptionally fortunate to work under several older ministers who have been highly supportive if somewhat cautionary of new ways. Yet I have seen a consistent breakdown in communication between the hoary head and the young vinegar.

    I wish there were a forum available for rekindling dialogue between generations so that we might begin to chip away at the monuments of mutual distrust. To the young ministers I would say that I feel it is important that we remember that the old folks are simply concerned with safeguarding truths they have dedicated the entirety of their lives to preach. But to the old I say this: Please try to remember that we are not diabolical young theological geniuses bent on destroying the church from within. We love the same church you love. We treasure the same truths you cherish. But we must win a generation you were not called to win. I hope that we can all forsake the distrust of each other’s motives and begin to communicate effectively to ensure that the church of tomorrow can win it’s world relevantly without becoming the world it seeks to save.

    Please excuse bad grammar etc. As I am typing from my iPhone in a half – asleep daze.

  15. Bro. Rodney,

    Great article! I appreciate your research and insight. I look forward to your articles, as they are always timely and in touch with reality. I have been watching the emergent church progress, especially with Rob Bell only a few miles from my home, and it is alarming. But, in that last part of your article “To my peers and elders / To my younger brothers” I would just like to throw my 2 cents in. I am like you, in the middle…I am not young, but not yet ready to give up my youth. I work with many young ministers, and the problem that we have is that the “Elders” are so steeped in “their” foundation, that nothing else can be built on it. And therefore created a “Territorial Culture”. There is this mentality that change is not necessary as long as the status quo is maintained. Therefore, the brethren that are looking for more than the status quo and answers how to reach out are on their own. We have a great need in our fellowship, and that need is we must develop a “Transitional Ministry” committee within the ranks of the UPC. And for that to happen there has to be greater emphasis on unity and mentoring among us opposed to isolation and judgment. The best analogy I can use is that of the relay race. You have 4 people running one race. When the baton is passed, it is passed in transition. Both parties must be moving in the same direction and at a comparative speed…This handoff is critical!…If both parties are not in sync, the transition is compromised, and probably very costly. We have elders holding onto the baton way too long and then trying to pass it on to a young, vibrant, and healthy younger minister and they feel that need to play catch up and make up the difference. If we are not careful, and do not unify, mentor, and develop transitional ministry, I am afraid there will be no one to pass the baton to….

    Thanks for listening and keep up the good work!

  16. This is a great article and requires much introspection.

  17. As a young minister, I also desire to take the gospel to the streets. However, I find it very alarming that we as Pentecostals are slowly doing away with many of the traditions that were founded through theological truths. As young men, we should build upon the foundation that our founding fathers built, rather than creating an entirely new foundation. I believe my fellow peer’s desire to build a new and fresh foundation, derives from being disgusted with those that are content to just live on our founding fathers slab. However, living on a slab, and building an entirely new one are both extremes, and both glorify man, rather than God. God wants us to move onward and upward, while at the same time making sure we don’t leave the foundation that is Jesus Christ, He crucified, and He being raised from the dead. We can reach the lost by taking a stand on Aids, cancer, global warming, poverty, and standing for peace. However, we must also bring them the truth. You must be baptized of water and of the Spirit, or you cannot see the kingdom of God. Yes, God wants us to live a holy life inwardly, and outwardly. The Christian church needs balance, as do I.
    As always, I have been awakened, and God has checked my spirit through this article. Thank you, Brother Shaw, for this article. It was very eye opening, as well as life challenging.
    I am going to email you some more of my thoughts.


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