Flourishing Churches

We were sitting at table, talking about the Teacher of the Year Awards in our state. A friend was
nominated, with us hoping he would be selected. One person described how the profession of teaching has evolved over time. Long ago, men were the teachers in our culture. Then the teaching profession morphed to where it’s mostly women. Men teaching in public schools are there, not because it’s a popular position for men, nor because it’s culturally reinforced. They are there because they love to teach, demonstrating high commitment and engagement with their profession (or calling for many).

This is what it’s like for churches who find themselves in a Postmodern context. Those who really want to be there (in existence) will flourish. Those without a laser-like sense of purpose and spiritual invigoration will go the way of all things. Last week we described congregations wherein grief permeates the culture. For those on their way to flourishing, a culture of grief is a temporary state of affairs. Flourishing congregations are those who move through their grief so they are free to discover the opportunity in this Postmodern culture for the gospel. This beautiful way of life organized around Jesus Christ is never outdated. Flourishing churches discover ways to embody their faith in new wineskins.

There is great opportunity in every crisis. I’m very excited about the form of Christianity and church which is rising in this Postmodern Era. It’s too soon for church models to be identified, but it’s not too soon to describe the rising strength in the church. Here are some descriptors of the flourishing Postmodern church.

The Postmodern church believes the gospel can transform the world.
These congregations are not into a watered-down, tepid faith. They actually believe the power of the gospel can liberate the oppressed and basically set things right in a world gone wrong. Transformation at every level of society is what these congregations are about. They are caught up in the movement of God who is bringing the kingdom to earth, as it is in heaven. They are invigorated and hopeful as they partner with God’s world reclamation project (kingdom of God).

The Postmodern church embraces its alternative story.
Those who are afraid of appearing unconventional or different probably won’t make it in this Postmodern church. Like those early Christ-followers who were definitely counter-cultural in their cultural contexts, the Postmodern church is unintimidated by being “different” than the larger culture. This church recognizes its history, understanding that the church itself will wax and wane when it comes to cultural popularity or acceptance. These lesser things are not the primary drivers for the Postmodern church. Being alternative, misunderstood, or unconventional does not intimidate.

The Postmodern church removes each impediment in its practice which distracts from its purpose.
The Modern Era, wherein the church was mainstream, enjoyed the luxury of doing many things which were peripheral to its purpose. The Postmodern Era church does not have this luxury. The numbers, budget, facilities, and overall capacity to do less purposeful activities are not available. This drives the church to purposeful, on-task activity. When the church robustly embraces its purpose and is a cultural minority, the chaff is burned away quickly.

The Postmodern church is focused on the imperatives.
Remember the old saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff?” In the Postmodern world, many of the concerns of the Modern Era church are irrelevant. Debates and arguments over the fine points of eschatology, denominational fighting that leads to splits, arguments over worship style….The Postmodern Era church doesn’t have the luxury of time, energy, or interest to engage these issues. Instead the Postmodern church is focused on embodying faith in a broken world. The very essence of what it means to live in the Way of Jesus is the focus of the Postmodern church, since this is where the hope for planet earth is centered.

So, may we lay aside the weights and assorted baggage that holds us back, forsaking them for the beautiful and transformation Way of Jesus Christ. Certainly life for Christ-followers is different in this Postmodern world. At the same time, more and more congregations are discovering the shifts in our culture are like the wind blowing on the dormant embers of faith. Flourishing churches, they are.

Mark Tidsworth, President, PLA