Following Jesus in a Post-Truth World

David Brown
Pinnacle Associate

The Oxford Dictionaries recently announced their Word of the Year for 2016. The word is post-truth, an adjective the Dictionary defines as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

The word itself has existed since at least 1992, and the concept it describes has been emerging over the last decade. (See Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness.”) In 2016, however, usage of post-truth spiked dramatically. Most often tied to the Brexit vote in the UK and the presidential election cycle in the US, the adjective post-truth regularly modifies the noun politics. According to the Oxford Dictionaries press release, the prefix connotes “belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant.” Increased usage suggests that post-truth is rapidly becoming a “general characteristic of our age.”

We live in era in which, for many people (perhaps even most people), truth has become unimportant or irrelevant.

Maybe this trend should not be surprising. For some time, our world – and by extension, the church – has lived under the unfurling banners of post-modern, post-Christian, post-industrial, post-whatever. And now, post-truth.

So, what about religion in a post-truth world? The response of the faithful has generally followed one of two paths. Either give up on the traditional truth claims of Christianity or double down on orthodoxy and institutional authority. Examples of these response types are legion.

Perhaps there is an alternative. As followers of Jesus, we are confronted with the notion that Truth is a Person.

John’s Gospel tells the story of the final meal Jesus shares with his disciples. There around the table, he washes their feet. Then, Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” When the conversation turns to Jesus’ impending death, the disciples are confused and cannot comprehend where Jesus would be going. Thomas says to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’” And Jesus responds, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

Truth is a Person. A person who ate dinner with prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers. A person who taught his disciples to turn the other cheek and walk the extra mile. A person who turned over tables in the temple and called out the hypocrisy of the establishment. A person who engaged in faithful conversations with Pharisees, Zealots, criminals, outsiders, people of every theological and political persuasion. A person who valued relationships over rules. A person who calls disciples, then and now, to come and follow.

Earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Flannery O’Conner famously penned this paraphrase: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.”

What if you made discipleship your Word of the Year for 2017? It may seem antiquated, or loaded with churchy connotations, or just plain odd. But discipleship simply means setting our lives toward following Jesus – the Person who is, for us, the Truth.
• How are you – and your church – purposefully nurturing your relationship with Jesus?
• In what ways are you – and your church – putting your faith into practice?
• Are you – and your church – more interested in orthodox beliefs or faithful actions?
• To what odd, radical embodiment of God’s love is Jesus inviting you – and your church –in this new year?
• Would neighbors recognize you – and your church – by the love you share?
• What would it look like to reach the end of 2017 and realize that you – and your church – had more fully become disciples of Jesus?

For more than 17 years, David has enjoyed walking alongside teenagers, college students, and adults on the journey of faith. His relational approach to ministry helps young people connect the stories of their lives to the larger story of God's work in the world. David's approach to coaching youth leaders and youth ministers grows out of that same understanding. Contact David at