I loved Jacob Eppinga’s “Preachers” (Cabbages and Kings, January 2007). It caused me to reflect on the real focus of the voice we hear each Sunday.
The same week I read “Preachers” I was given a copy of The Shaping of Things to Come by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. I also watched the video A.D. with some teenagers. In the early days, Christians were people at the fringes of society. Constantine legitimized Christianity, and it evolved under the protective banner of the state for 17 centuries. Today, however, Christians are back at the edges of society.
Some call this phase “postmodernism.” Others refer to it as “the emergent movement.”
Frost and Hirsch have some strong words for our preachers today: “Now a preacher has to do amazing things to even catch folks’ attention, let alone really communicate. The film-addicted generation thrives on hyper-reality, in post-modern cultural language. . . . As a result of this appetite for hyper-reality, the era of the monologue sermon that can have an impact is coming to an abrupt and sad end.” Frost and Hirsch have equally strong but thought-provoking words for our church buildings and seminaries.
Reading this book and sitting in church on Sundays trying to come to grips with my faith in a rather broken world—it leaves me breathless. I realize now that for the lonely senior in my condo building, the soda-can collecting homeless person on the street, the image-driven and acceptance-oriented young person, the fame-seeking person who scribbles on walls and railway cars, and the shopping mall addict with a lost face and Starbucks cup, my church is not the answer. Jesus is!
As we sit here on the edge of society, how can we communicate Jesus’ message in a way that’s relevant?
Has Constantine done us a disservice by opening the door and letting us live in our complacency for 17 centuries?
A truly missional church (I’ll let you read the book for that definition) must be organic (responsive to today’s environment), reproducible (such as an “idea virus” like Google or the premise of the film Pay It Forward), and sustainable (on task and not driven by the financial powerhouses that keep dead churches alive). This challenge is for all of us who know and love Jesus and are guided by the Holy Spirit. Frost and Hirsch give us some wonderful ideas to grapple with.