Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Paul and the Post Moderns

Post modern people are characterized by asking questions, Seventh-day Adventists have traditionally felt they have the answers. Why then are not Post Modern Americans rushing to visit Seventh-day Adventist churches?

I somehow got on a mailing list for a company selling banners and signs to churches. One of the featured pre-made signs was something to the effect of “you have questions, we have answers”. I have yet to see any of the local churches here using that sign but I am certain that many churches think that they indeed have the answers. The Lesson study for this week is about how Paul dealt with the culture of his time and established Christian congregations. How similar is Post Modern America to the culture of Paul’s day? The lesson for Tuesday July 8 states:

“One of Paul's most well-known missionary endeavors occurred in Athens, home of some of the world's greatest philosophers of antiquity, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. And yet, how interesting: Even with all the philosophy and all its appeals to reason and logic, the city was still "wholly given to idolatry" (Acts 17:16). What a testimony to how, in the end, philosophy cannot answer basic human needs. “

Consider that Socrates was tried for “corrupting the youth and disbelieving in the ancestral gods.”[1] It is not too likely that such a charge would be made against the philosophers of this age whether in the form of Rap/Rock music, TV, books or straight out philosophers, though other then a few atheists it is unlikely we could even name a current philosopher. Instead our lesson study would have been more accurate in saying it is a testimony to the time when superstition was more believable than reason. Today reason is often subjected to popularity; popularity being dictated by the media at least for many of our nation.

While Paul is a good case study in getting things done he is of another time and place. The here and now and the tomorrow will call for different methods to reach a very different people. In America we are not unfamiliar with Christianity or Christian concepts. The majority believe in a heaven (76%) for the people who live good lives and a hell (71%)[2] for those who live bad lives. That is clearly a wonderful sociological tool to get people to live together hopefully trying to be good. At least until we determine what it is to live a good life versus a bad life, I would not want to try and do a poll on that question (only half of 1% think they are headed for hell).

The lesson for Wednesday says:

“Paul understood that before we can lead people to where we want them to be we must first meet them where they are. That means focusing on their needs, their interests-and shaping our message in a way that connects with them. This does not mean watering down the message. It is just an issue of communication-talking to people in terms and in language they can understand.”

Is our Adventist Christianity focusing on people’s needs and interests or have we determined that our so called “distinctives” cannot be “watered down”? My guess is that this is one of the biggest sticking points in the Adventist church leadership that prevents us from reaching people’s needs and interests. People need a connection with others and acceptance and respect as well as an opportunity to grow in understanding as they and we search for truth and relevance in our lives. If we assume that another Christian is nominal or Apostate because he or she worships God on a different day then we do, how are we going to relate to them on more important issues such as the character of God. Because that is really what it is all about, not our distictives whatever they may be whether health issues or apocalyptic interpretations. Our goal has to be to declare the beauty of God that is revealed through Jesus Christ. We are all probably poor imitators of the love and acceptance that Jesus Christ revealed which is why it is so important that we point to Him. Yet to reach the post modern world we have to reach out in friendship to them, not with the attitude that we have all the answers but that we have one answer, Jesus Christ. That one answer is reasonable because of what it can lead to in people’s lives.

Before the Post moderns come beating down our doors we will need to have churches that create friendships, within the church first spreading outward. Well maybe that is not so different from Paul’s day as they really did work to create a community that looked after each other. As much as some things change some things still remain the same.

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