In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. Judges 17:6
To build an effective Emerging Church we have to understand the mindsets that infiltrate the thinking of most people these days. There are three predominate mindsets, rooted in history, that define individuals as well as generations. They are called Postmodernism, Modernism, and Premodernism.
Postmodernism tends to be skeptical, cynical, and subjective in thought, life, and religion. It tends to prefer social experimentation and reacts against principles and practices of what are the recognized thoughts and practices of modernism Thus, the Postmodernism theory rejects a sovereign God and absolute truth. It firmly teaches independence and individualism, with a prominent philosophy of rebelliousness as a societal collective. Big words, but basically it puts the emphasis on personal experience and diversity. Without the parameters of distinctions or truth to define them, no one in the group is offended. They tend to be good at pointing out contradictions and challenging the statuesque, but their cynicism keeps them oppressed, fragmented, and from being trusting because of a refusal to experience logic, reality, and a God who cares. It is a bankrupt philosophy because it merges subjects and objects; the self and others are indistinctive. There are no real definitions in life and reality, so God cannot be defined and truth is nonexistent and irrelevant. Examples of postmodern thinking include the subjects of homosexuality, sexual freedom, and other formerly taboo practices as being "rights" and "virtue" over and against the Christian principles that condemn them. Monogamy, marriage, and virtue in general are considered unfair and irrelevant to personal freedom and expression.
For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. 2 Timothy 3:7
This is also called Postmodernism. We live in an overly "politically correct" culture in the West, where offending someone's belief is a cardinal sin-unless Christianity is the target.
Most people in America today want to believe that all religions are the same, and all roads lead to God. People will respond in a way such as, why does it matter what I believe? They say it is arrogant and narrow-minded to believe that Christianity is the only way. This objection usually is expressed in the most passionate, negative responses because people want to believe what they want, rather than to be dictated to or directed to the Truth. This arrogance is in us and our determined preference to go our own way. The ultimate pride and condescension is not Christianity, but rather our refusal to surrender our arrogance. Christianity is the true and only way that God provides for us out of His love and grace.
It is our human nature to strive to be on top. Two kids will argue over who gets the bigger piece of cake; so it is with adults who argue their right to themselves. We are always involved in tasks to prove our value and worth. We often hear, what happens to the person who never heard the Gospel, like those tribal people in Africa? The fact is that most people cannot fathom that God is in control and sovereign because it interferes with their comfort level. If they can rationalize that God is not sovereign, and that there are people not in His control, then they are "off the hook."
The key to providing evidence for the truth of Christianity is not rooted in the skill of the argument; rather, it is in the love of the person presenting the argument. Your life, and how you live it, is the greatest persuasive power you can have on someone.
So, this Postmodernism, sometimes called "Postmodernity" is a theory based on how one feels over logical reason to the point of absurdity. However, its comfort, and the reason it has gained such popularity since the early 1980s, is the personal freedom to define truth as each person sees fit and to believe what one wants as long as it is not considered real truth-because there is no truth. This creates the comfort of thinking that one's views are true and right even though they may not be correct, so one does not care for real truth or a God who is Truth. On the other hand this group tends to be more open on discussing their beliefs and interested in spiritual conversation and thus may listen to you, even though they have a distain for organized religion. The key to reaching this type of mindset is patience, active listening, and modeling Christ's character without hypocrisy.
In contrast, Modernism is the period of enlightenment that advocates that only logic, reason, and natural science give us truth. Like Postmodernism, it seeks new modes of expression and reacts against the status quo and the institution. It also rejects traditions, especially the Catholic Church and authority. This view has fueled most philosophical and educational thinking since its popular acceptance. It also gave birth to Protestant Liberalism and interest in building and technology. The reason people find comfort in this view is because one becomes a part of something bigger than oneself. Consider the WWII generation and all their incredible accomplishments; this modernistic thinking was at their forefront. Most historians date this period from the French Revolution in 1789 to the fall of Communism in 1989. This viewpoint advocates that real truth is as tested by science and reason. Science and reason also form the foundation of apologetics, which is the intelligent defense of the Bible and God. At the same time, theologians with this mindset seek to bring biblical thought into harmony with scientific conclusions and the latest secular philosophies. As a whole, those with this view desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves and, at the same time, to make a difference. A logical presentation, along with a listening ear, is key to winning to Christ those who are of this philosophy.
The newer mindsets tend to only seek what is in it for me? Rather than how can I make it better? Postmodernism is harder to combat because of the rejection of substantiated truth and the replacing of it with subjective truth. Thus, demonstrated truth is replaced with what feels good. Therefore, a carefully crafted argument will have more impact with people holding the Modernism worldview. Postmodernists deny truth, so no matter how good the argument may be; a "true" Postmodernist will not listen. That is why modeling active faith and the Fruit of the Spirit in you is essential.
Kindness and Consistency
But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15
The key to getting past the Postmodernist is to listen to him or her, being very careful not to come across as judgmental or use "churchy" language. Build a relationship and let him or her see the difference in your life while people pray for them. I have never seen a Postmodernist won over by an argument, but I have seen countless people won over by kindness and consistency, which is absent in a Postmodernity mindset!
The final mindset, the precursor to both Postmodernism and Modernism, is Premodernism, which was the prominent mindset from the Middle Ages through the Reformation. If you are thinking hey, this is meaningless today; I invite you to just watch the news. You will find this view evident from terrorists to zealous religious types, cult groups, separatists, and those who force their view on others, regardless of real truth or reason. Premodernism is the establishment of hierarchy and structure supporting a greater cause and purpose. This is demonstrated by the history of the Catholic Church prior to the Reformation and a military model. Such thinking needs to see purpose and institution as comfort and reason so a desire can be established to be a part of it.
This mindset accepts total, absolute truth-but only their concept of it. They tend to be so devoted to their view that they are closed off to any truth that does not fit their view or what they have grown up with. Premodernism is also dominated by traditions and rituals. You will see this mindset predominately in fundamentally religious and politically zealous groups, as well as multi-generational Christians who feel their faith rests in their church and parents so they rarely take their faith seriously or allow themselves personal involvement in an active Christian life. The meaning of Premodernism is being "oppressed" by authority, such as being oppressed by the Catholic Church. (This is a proper term for the historic view; I am not "bashing" our Catholic friends.)
In witnessing to those with this viewpoint, we need to appeal to their sense of tradition. Explain how Christianity is rooted in ageless traditions and well as reason. Historicity is important to them, whereas the Postmodernism mindset rejects it. Our focus for evangelism needs to be that God has a place and plans for them that are far better then what they may have ever experienced or dreamed of. Now, we can start to see why knowing these mindsets are important because each one requires a different approach. However, the key is communicating God's compassion, grace, and love, and demonstrating them, consistently, in our lives.
Not believing in God is not the source for judgment or being condemned, but rather from not believing whom Christ is or what He has done. The demons believe; they just do not trust in or surrender to Him. It is the rebellion that our human nature constitutes against God that gives us over to damnation. Jesus, as the perfect One, comes to us, the condemned, with an offer of hope and salvation. We see that hope, but put it off saying, I do not need it, or, I can do it alone. Jesus goes on to say that our evil nature is the cause of our condemnation, and He is the source of our hope. When we love ourselves and our deeds more than we love our Lord, then we are in trouble. This is not of God's doing, but a result of our own will and choices.
The Importance of the Net
Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. Ecclesiastes 11:9
Now, we can start to see the importance of the Net of faith. We have to realize the peril the world is in and we have to realize that those of the world will reject our efforts. They are rejecting God Himself. People are actually rejecting God, the Creator of their lives, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe-God, who should have wiped us all out, but because of His love and grace, puts up with our insolence. However, that does not mean we should not witness. Their refusal or their ignoring us is never an excuse to stop or be a coward.
The Net of our faith is our evidence to represent Christ to the jury of our peers in the world. The prosecution to Christ, such as Satan and our will, will be presenting the pleasures, corrupted mindsets, and distractions of the world argued in a very slick and eloquent way. They will denounce us, lie about us, make fun of us, and make up false accusations as they did about our Lord. But, what we have is so much greater-Christ's light and witness in us. Eventually, they will see the facade of the ways of the world; they will see that their ship is sinking. They will see that what they thought was luxury, status, pleasure, and fun sinking to the bottom of a sea of despair.
God gives us the plan and the victory. We may not see it at times, but nonetheless, victory is there. Victory is obedience, even with the people who have the mentality of the passengers of the Titanic or Biff. Our key to reaching them is our patience in relying on God's power. God gives us His Spirit, His power in love, and we are to take that power of love with the care and compassion that God gave us and present it as a tender mercy. Then we can be assured that the task ahead of us is not as great as the powering infusing us-His empowerment and call. Love will be the power of the Spirit interceding for the lost soul. Others will see our efforts of care and consistency, and they will see His Fruit in us (Galatians 5:22-23). We will be the evidence of Christ's power. Our ability and reliability in being a Christian who is revitalized will be the witness to the Light that they see.
So, we must persevere and allow our confidence to be rooted in what Christ has done. We can be confident that our efforts, even when rejected, are never a waste! It takes time to build the net; it takes time to catch a fish. Our efforts are never in vain. We must persevere in building our faith and learning about the people we are called to reach. This means that each strand of the rope of the net is formed by our trust, twisted in our experiences, and tightened for strength by our obedience.
Questions to Ponder
1. Why do you suppose that Biff was convinced that he could find a way to save himself? How does his mindset match yours or that of others you know?
2. How can knowing some of the various mindsets help you respond and witness to others?
3. Do you see the importance of the Net of faith? If not, why?
4. How can you become more confident that God gives us the plan and the victory?
Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. Romans 1:19
Some passages to consider: Genesis 3; Ecclesiastes. 11:9; Romans 1:18-19 3:9; 19; 5:12-17; 21; Acts 17:26; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Philippians 2:1-4
· Modernism and Post-modernism: Deuteronomy 12:8; Joshua 24:15; Judges 17:6; Jeremiah 17:9
· Kindness and Consistency: Matthew 10:20; Mark 13:11; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, 10-14; 1 Timothy 4:1-6
· Not Believing: Ecclesiastes. 11:9; Romans 3:3; 1 Corinthians 1:18, 23; 6:2
· The Importance of the Net: Ecclesiastes. 11:9; Galatians 5:22-23
© 1999, 2006 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/