Phyllis and I had a whale of a day a few weeks ago with James Graham and the guys of Global Fellowship.
We drove over in the storm - rain, hail, thunder - to Mobile, Alabama to the International Gospel Outreach Headquarters and I spoke for hours and hours regarding my journey into the post-modern world. (And I'm pretty sure that everyone there felt like it was hours and hours of Glenn Hatcher drivel... but hey! they invited me to do this! (smile))
You can see the PowerPoint presentation here.
I warned them that I was not an expert, but a student. A student of culture - that's me! (So even what I say below is not - I repeat! - not because I am or even think I am an expert on postmodernity!)
I was expecting a group of old guys (like myself) who were baffled by the cultural and ministry paradigm shifts in which they found themselves. But there was a group of young people there who listened, took notes and shook their heads knowingly. They got it, 'cause I was talking about them. Maybe even explaining themselves to themselves.
You see, spirituality is the new gig. The new paradigm. The way we've always said it was! Seems like everybody says they are spiritual. The church spent two decades fighting against "secular humanism" only to see it evaporate like a rain puddle on a hot summer day. We fought against humanism by defining ourselves as spiritual, but we have a hard time head-to-head with alternative spiritualities when everyone else defines themselves as being spiritual as well. That's a "missionary thing," not a pastor/church thing, right?
But today, few people define themselves as atheists. People today define themselves as spiritual and speak openly about their spiritual journey. Just ask them! The problem is they see us as being merely "religious" and not truly "spiritual." Can we argue? Being "religious" means we are "churchy" and "churchy" is not about connecting with God. That's being spiritual; and churchy is being involved in church stuff. Make sense?
And many define their spirituality according to their particular tribe.
Tribal thinking is a big part of postmodern thinking. There are many tribes -- surfers, skaters, bikers, in-liners, runners, rock climbers, music-heads, geeks. Just look around! Each tribe (which in another era we would have called a sub-culture) has it's own language, way of dress, hierarchy, values, virtues and spirituality. Ask a surfer and he'll tell you he's in touch with God when he catches the perfect wave. Ask a skater (this refers to a skate board rider... in case you're wondering) and he/she will tell you he/she feels close to God - has a spiritual experience - when they are skating. Or ask a crotch-rocket guy, or a cyclist and they'll tell you the same thing: "I feel spiritual and experience God when I do my thing."
As I unpacked the whole tribal mentality of pomo spirituality, Katie, one of the young ones sitting on the front row, asked this question: "Don't these tribes just see us Christians as another tribe attempting to compete with their tribe?"
She nailed it!
In the new world of America - just like in Europe or Asia or Africa or the Middle East - the church and Christianity is seen as just a competing spirituality among many. It's like the Hebrews in the OT, serving Yahweh among the Amelekites and the Hittites! Competing spiritualities: competing realities, competing rituals and belief-systems. All side-by-side. Amazing new world. It's not just Islam and Buddhism, etc. Now it's everywhere, all the time.
Actually, I had a blast being there and teaching!
But having a blast is not enough. Understanding competing spiritualities is not enough. I want to be able to impact some other tribals and tribes with the trans-tribal wonder and amazement of Jesus and the Gospel of the Kingdom.
It's not enough to understand the world. Lenin said it something like this, "Philosophers have explained the world. Now we must change the world."
Echoes of Jesus...