What Emerging Means to Our Churches and Ministries

By Dan Kimball

The big question is, what does this mean for our church and ministries? Here are several answers:

1. We cannot assume that everyone is going to learn, relate, and think the same way. The ministry methods we used for moderns are going to differ from what’s used for postmoderns. While fundamental human needs, such as love and acceptance, will never change, we need to approach the emerging generations with new eyes and with different ways of going about ministry.

2. We cannot blame emerging generations for believing what they believe. Remember, this is the only world they know.

• Of course they are going to view spirituality from a pluralistic viewpoint.

• Of course they are going to be drawn more to the mystical and experiential over the rational.

• Of course their view of sexuality is going to be much more open and tolerant.

• Of course they are going to view Christianity as the negative religion of finger-pointers. That is all they have seen and known, especially if they aren’t born in Christian families. Instead of blaming them for what they believe, our hearts should be breaking for them.

3. We should not expect postmoderns to one day “grow up” and become modern. It’s not an issue of age or musical tastes but of mind-set. This means that someone influenced by postmodernism may be a Christian drawn to worshiping God in a more postmodern way. He or she may learn differently or appreciate different church building aesthetics and ministry values.

If we were to attend an evangelical Korean church in America, we would certainly expect the worship services and methodology to reflect the Korean culture, learning style, and approach to worship. We wouldn’t expect them to one day “grow up” and feel comfortable in a modern, seeker-sensitive church service. So much beauty would be lost, and most likely they would not grow in their faith as they would in an environment more suitable to their culture.

Dan Allender, author of The Wounded Heart, speaking at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit in 2002, said, “We are principle-oriented, linear, simplistically driven people who want answers so much more than we want the person of Jesus Christ. The dilemma is we now live in a postmodern world that does not embrace, and will never reembrace, some of the core values of modernism.”

Therefore, we cannot think that one day when postmodern generations hit a certain age they will convert to modernism and begin being, thinking, relating, and worshiping in a way foreign to who they are.

4. Modern leaders may have a difficult time understanding post-Christian ministry. This all may be difficult to grasp for those of us who have grown up with a modern mind-set. We may have a difficult time understanding how postmoderns view life and what they value. If you are a modern-thinking pastor or a Christian leader, you might find it incredibly frustrating to think of doing ministry in a new way. It may feel “messy” and not fit into your accepted ministry systems. It might not resonate with your heart to worship in ways you’re not used to, or to learn in ways that are not primarily cognitive, or to preach differently than you were taught in seminary.

This doesn’t mean that you’re not hip or contemporary, and by no means does it mean you are outdated. It simply means you have been born and raised with a modern viewpoint. God will continue to use you in great ways to reach those who think like you do. But there are other ways to think. As long as we are not conforming to the world (Romans 12:1, 2) and not failing to pay attention to sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16), and as long as we are producing disciples (Matthew 28:19), we should press ahead in seeking to reach others for Christ. But our modern categories and values just might need to be rearranged if we want to reach emerging generations.

Dan Kimball serves on staff with Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California, a congregation seeking to reach those in the emerging post-Christian culture. He oversees the church’s vision and mission and does the majority of weekend preaching.

This excerpt is from The Emerging Church by Dan Kimball. Copyright © 2003 by Dan Kimball. Used by permission of Zondervan (www.zondervan.com).

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