Friday, November 2, 2007

The Master’s Workshop: All You Need to Know About Evangelizing and Retaining Postmoderns

by Andy Hanson

Last November I was given information regarding “The Masters Workshop, Exploring the Generational Challenge”. It was “Module VII” of a “Spiritual Leadership Training” course.

On page two, “Looking at Youth Ministry”, facts supported this “challenge”. A high percentage of Adventist church members between the ages of 18 and 40 are not active in church life, 60% of teens leave the Adventist Church, and 40% to 50% of Adventists leave the church between the ages of 17 and 27. The cause of these defections is identified as a postmodern “shift on thinking and life choices”.

Unfortunately, the rest of this manual is the most egregious example of “silly science” I have ever encountered. I offer the following as evidence of these words. I have painstakingly used quotation marks so that you won’t think I’m either making this up or making fun of a serious attempt to meet the Adventist Church’s “generational challenge.”

Page three is titled, “Exploring the Postmodern World”. According to the chart on the bottom of the page, the postmodern world began in the year 2000. This world “represents a change in worldview moving from the values and beliefs of the modern era to the new postmodern era, which rejects many modern values and beliefs”.

The chart at the bottom of the page informs the reader that the postmodern world has produced “a self-determined pluralistic view of culture and religion” where there are, “conflicting truths and beliefs”. “Power and faith is in personal experience”. In the “Modern World”, 1500-2000+, “power and faith were in human reasoning, science, and logic, which also helped explain and interpret God”. In the Postmodern World, “Internet and media accelerate an instant global communication. In the Postmodern World, “suspicion of authority” prevails and “the Bible is open to many interpretations and is but one of many religious writings”. “The Theme” of this world is a quote from Sheryl Crow. “If it makes you happy, it can't be that bad” and “ and every viewpoint is a view from a viewpoint”.

Page 4, “Comparing Modern and Postmodern”, makes nine observations about the Modern World. Four are quoted here. “It fit well with many aspects of our [Adventist] faith.” “It believed that all knowledge was good and certain.” “Truth was absolute.” “Thinking, learning, and beliefs were to be determined systematically and logically.” In contrast, seven observations were made about the Postmodern World. Three are quoted here. “It brings back the supernatural view of life.” “All truth is not absolute.” “Thinking, learning, and beliefs can be determined nonlinearly.”

Page five of this course guide informs the reader that “postmodernism teaches that even language cannot have fixed or certain meaning but should be deconstructed—pulled apart and rearranged. There can be many interpretations of a word or text, not just one meaning. Postmodernism impacts values, ethics, sexuality, and even in our view of religion and spirituality. Postmoderns can have a mixture of religious beliefs which may come from contradictory sources. Postmoderns can fully embrace the contradictory mixing of world faiths. It is assumed that Leonard Sweet is a postmodern authority. He defines Postmoderns as “experiential, participatory, image driven, and connected”.

The “General Impact” of the Postmodern World can be summed up in just one of the nine bulleted statements of impact. “It is a different world out there,” but more specific information is provided. There is a greater interest in spirituality and openness to mystery and an increased search for the divine. Some young people are still modern in their thinking, and some older people are postmodern.

On page six, “Implications for Ministry”, we are told that people born on and before 1946 are Builders who are “often confused and wondering”. People born during the years 1947 to 1964 are Boomers. Members of this generation are an “influenced and contradictory mixture”. Busters or Xers were born between 1965 and 1983, are “influenced and shaped”. Folks born after 1983 are either “Nexters, Mosaics, Millennials, or Emerging—dominated and controlled.”

This page also asserts that Christian postmoderns see Jesus as “attractive”, and believe Christianity to be “a man-made organized religion”. Christians are “seen as close minded, judgmental”, and arrogant. “Ministry [to postmoderns] has become a cross-cultural mission” in which “We cannot presume acceptance of methodology or absolutes; everyone is not going to learn relate and think the same way; we cannot expect postmoderns to become modern” However, “postmoderns are open to hearing about Jesus and to an authentic life with him”.

Page Seven provides space for “Reflections and Ideas”.

On page 8 under the heading, “Studying the Impact on Youth”, the reader is informed of that “few adults are listening to teens, youth are searching and fighting for meaning and they are not alone, many youth are experiencing and results of relational breakdown”. And “we [members of the Adventist Church] are not meeting teens’ need to be heard and understood”. Teens are saying, “we're changing, confused, and vulnerable, our support systems aren't working, and it's stressing us out. We need a place to belong. We're hurting and hurting deeply. Will you be here for us?”

The “Unique Marks” of the emerging generation are as follows: they are “without a moral compass, culturally diverse, pluralistic and tolerant”, products of “broken relationships, media saturated, experience and feeling driven, suspicious of truth” have “overwhelming options”. They are part of “a globalized youth culture pervaded by violence, pushed, hurried and frazzled, materialistic, streetwise, concerned with appearance, despairing and hopeless, deeply spiritual, and crying out for redemption”.

“Ministry Applications” are the concerns of page nine. Here we are informed that humans are “hardwired to connect” and have “two primary connections: other people, moral meaning and openness to the transcendent”. Ministers are reminded that “the desire for human and divine connections is undeniably present”, and “before we speak for Jesus, we must live among our young people—like Jesus. We must participate in their lives—like Jesus”, and “we must listen—like Jesus. Ministry also includes a reeducation task for all age groups.”

The following are “Points to Remember”: “God is still God! Conversion is a supernatural process. It is the Holy Spirit's role to convict and convince. Our greatest weapon is prayer. Our best starting point is radical Christianity. We can look at this as an impossible task or an exciting adventure with God. This is our future.”

Page 10 provides a “Ministry Model”, a five-tiered triangle. Love for God is the base, followed by Love of Others, Accepting Others, and Walking With Others. Discipling is the capstone.

“Module VII” of the Adventist church's “Spiritual Leadership Training” manual is a pseudoscientific insult to pseudoscience. Our problems cannot be solved by “postmodern” gibberish.

If the generational challenge to our church is to be met, we must rethink and reevaluate our 28 Doctrinal Beliefs. They are a creed that would be rejected offhand by the pioneers of the Advent Movement. Many do not represent the teachings of Christ; they are not in harmony with fundamental Christian tenants; and as such define us as a sect. In addition they are so specific that they are almost designed to promote dissension in the church and provide reasons for thoughtful members to leave.

I am fully aware a doctrinal change is extremely risky. Lots of jobs and pensions, not to mention mission work, would be put at risk. But if we continue as we are, the church in North America and Europe is “a dead man walking”. Our demise will result in a Third World church without a leadership structure that will sustain us as a worldwide Adventist community of believers.

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