[Photo by Godorium Bassanensis]
Yes . . . I KNOW, one cannot define the attributes of things “postmodern,” one can only describe them. Still, if churches and communities are going to explore new ways of raising and nurturing leadership, shouldn’t there be some idea of what makes a good pastor or spiritual leader in the postmodern context?
Here is a stab at what I think are a few valuable characteristics for those who lead, influence, sojourn along side of or even pastor that group of people that are known as postmodern, emerging, 21st Century, don’t-put-me-in-a-box-what box?-there-is-no-box! followers of Christ.
An effective pastor of the postmodern persuasion might want to think about embracing the following realities of what to DO and how to BE in ministry.
Take everyone seriously // I think we must start with the assumption they everyone comes to a place of discernment from a place of deep faith. This does not mean we agree or even accept everything that one thinks, but we at least begin with a posture of trust rather than suspicion. Yes, we may later factor in issues of mental health, personal interaction, kookiness, etc, but even those who have “issues” need to be heard . . . I know I do.
Thrive in the gray // I think that one of the core reasons there is such a disconnect between so many entities in the world and church is this idea that the purpose of faith is to conquer ambiguity. Some put all their energy into creating what I think is an unattainable and ultimately empty pursuit: to remove all struggle from life. Another option is to see faith as something that helps us to navigate well, find peace and even thrive in the midst of the ambiguous, gray, chaotic ways of the world.
Embody Appreciation over Acceptance // One of the digs on the Postmodern church is that we just willy-nilly accept any and every thing that comes our way. Some do. This is a mistake. While always leaving room to change it is essential to maintain a clear understanding of one’s core beliefs, essentials, etc. Hearing the point of view of others should be appreciated always, but stop short of acceptance without some measure of discernment. I think that one of the worst things a Postmodern pastor can do is to see the postmodern search for truth as a mandate to give up ones personal understanding of truth. To go to such lengths as to give up one’s truth takes one out of the conversation that a body must continue to have as it moves towards understanding corporate truths. Hold strong to what one believes while being able to maintain an appreciation for the other is essential.
Love Jesus // Cynicism is the disease of our day. I am not talking about being diligent or even discerning, but outright cynical about the world. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is about hope, new life and all things that are beyond humanities imagination. Leadership must embrace and nurture this reality and relationship as it manifests itself both individually and communally.
And some bonus characteristics for you mainline emergents
Embrace the past and unleash the future // For those steeped in tradition and are discovering the postmodern within, postmodernity is not about destroying and forgetting the past, but about a life that flows from and emerges from the past. So . . . this means we need to embrace where we have come from and how we have gotten here without getting to the point of worshiping tradition. For those who prefer a posture of “destroy the institution” I think that they will be hard pressed to move out of a place where they are defined solely by what they ARE NOT; whereas a healthy understanding of the past will better help us those in the future to be defied what they ARE.
Challenge the family // While the outsider’s voice is often the most helpful to spark change, for those of us in mainline settings, if we expect change and transformation, we must ourselves speak out as part of the family. Sure there may be a point where division is needed, but for the most part when we get frustrated with our family, we can either run away, stay and fight or try to find ways to engage in faithful discernment no matter how hard or stressful. Challenging words spoken with love and confidence that are built on relationships of respect can be more powerful than we might think.
Cross the aisles // Arrogance is bad. Mainliners, while I do believe we have some wonderful things to offer to the larger Christian conversation, we also believe that we hold THE truth is so many ways: leadership, theology, style, etc. We must get over ourselves and come to the realization that people will and do experience a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ in a variety of ways. We must reassert our place at the table in the many conversations that have deemed us obsolete simply because of our affiliations. We must also approach those conversations with a confident humility that allows our voices to be respected and heard.
So, there you have it, some early week musings. I desperately wanted to include “Be on Facebook, “Grow a Goatee” and “get trendy glasses” but I figured those where understood 😉
Peace out ya’ll!