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Knowledge Dissemination and the Gospel in the 21st Century


English: Framework for 21st Century Learning In USA Today (March 5, 2009), Greg Toppo’s article, “What to learn: ‘core knowledge‘ or ‘21st-century skills‘?”  presents a thought provoking description of the changing emphasis in how knowledge is ranked on a gradient of importance in contemporary American culture revealed that at least 10 states have committed to helping students develop 21st-century skills in schools the workplace and beyond. Analysis points to an effect that  rates technological skill as the premium among valued knowledge in the atmosphere of the present  emergent culture. Considering this information in contrast to past attitudes toward learning and what knowing indicates about education, there is growing disparity between traditional views of based upon theory and core knowledge as a frame work for analysis of information as opposed to skills as the model of preparation for a career path.  Present emphasis suggests that a shift in epistemology and how knowledge is valued (axiology) presents a revolutionary change in approach to educational theory and delivery because of marked developments in modern culture.

To emphasize this point, Toppo reports, that a Massachusetts task force concluded that straight academic content is no longer enough to help students compete an education that will place them in the work force in the 21st Century.   This presents a  perspective that shifts the central focus of past generations from  theoretical, content based knowledge, while at the same time emphasizes a shift toward technological skill-based proficiency.  This perspective drew a rebuke from The Boston Globe,  which states that it is not clear that the current approach education can be implemented without eliminating  the important role that academic academic content has played in educating students with analytical skills in prior generations  (Toppo, 2009).  As a result,  changing paradigms in educational approaches have resulted in a shift in  the design of educational delivery systems and  indicates developments within culture driven by economic, industrial, multicultural, and technological differences that are not only changing the content and application of knowledge, but how value and meaning is assigned to knowledge as a concept and operationalized.

Shifting Paradigm of Knowledge

The evident change of meaning related to knowledge is readily apparent in the influence that is constantly changing media platforms that are impacting the content of knowledge and how it is understood.  The effects of the shift in cannot be underestimated because new educational philosophy is placing significant influence upon  the way knowledge is formulated, as well as, the conclusions made by knowledge that is communicated.   Therefore, given that there is a shift in the influential way that skill development is outweighing theoretical knowledge acquisition, a significant challenge is to understand how the shift of epistemology from traditional sources of knowledge will impact the future.  A fundamental question that arises out of the shifting paradigm is how  the shift will influence the way people will approach what is  knowable,  relative, and of value in the days ahead.  It seems that the societal evolution of methodology reflects the thinking of George Kelley’s construct theory.  Kelley saw everything only relative to the present moment and disconnected from the past and disassociated with the future.  In fact, he held that nothing is really stable or fixed and that all constructs are constantly being rewritten as they fit the present.  This type of thinking is diametrically different to the philosophical assumptions of a educational culture that has been based upon a body of theory taught to build  a skeleton that a discipline is built upon from embracing the collective knowledge of theorists’, philosophers, and the skilled artisans of truth who have built disciplines that bring great value to truth.  More to the point of my thoughts about this paradigm can spiritual leadership and Christian ministry be reduced to a skill to be taught, a marketing technology, or a professional ability without being grounded in the truth that has developed in our understanding but nonetheless timeless?  On the other hand, can a culture of technocrats who have been retooled with a new epistemology be touched by a gospel that presents a wisdom that that is not based upon skill, but in power and demonstration of the gospel of collaboration and technology designed to put information at people’s fingertips, but allows them to stay as they are? Jesus came to change lives, not just to impart data to add to information technology.  Have you ever looked around and looked at the condition of the world and wondered why the church is having little impact upon beliefs, values, and practices in the 21st century world of spirituality?  Technology and skill cannot save people, only Jesus can.

Clashing World Views

One thing that is abundantly clear is that there is a clash of world-views that is not about skill or technology, but about spiritual, theological, and philosophical assumptions related to knowing as opposed to doing.  Have people lost sight about the fundamental truth that God alone imparts knowledge of himself through prayer, His word, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  There is no way to to place that in a data base or teach a skill to create a formula that imparts the power of the gospel. Unfortunately, the demand for crowds, the dollar, and the entertainment culture of the church has made us much more reliant conventional wisdom from the world in the moment than it has upon to power of the gospel from a sovereign God to ignite people with the knowledge of God that draws them to Him through obedience to timeless principles presented in the gospel.  On the other hand, over reliance upon informational technology and undereliance upon discipleship, obeedience, prayer, spiritual transformation, sacrifice, servanthood, and surrender questions the validity found in conventional theological, philosophical and historical authority by shifting the focus to pragmatic artificial intelligence based outcome, rather than processed thought and obedience to the gospel that is a spiritual discipline, away of life that is valued rather that a skill or trend that is popular for the moment.   The point is that the skills involved in technology are tools of the gospel preaching church, they are not the gospel.  Skill can greatly enhance the gospel, but cannot stand in for the gospel, can greatly enhance the presentation of the gospel, but is not the gospel, and can greatly multiply the reach of the gospel, but is not the gospel.  The gospel is about Jesus and His provision of eternal life through His sacrifice on the Cross and Resurrection from the dead.

The Abundance of Popular False Teachers

Evidence of the contemporary misuse of technology can be observed by considering the plethora of sources of distorted knowledge; spiritual teachers, television preachers, and Internet religion—offering knowledge challenging the theology of gospel in the scriptures and espoused by popular icons on the technological wonder called television. The apostasy is not the technology or skilled people who provide services, but the pseudo propheton- false prophets.  Jesus and Paul warned about them and warned not to go out after them. Paul said they would go from house to house leading silly women astray.  What an apt description of much of the television religious networks that are no mere than religious entertainment for the undiscerning and underdeveloped.  The result is felt in frustration experienced by conservative Christianity in understanding that what was once knowledge found in a system of thought is now subjugated to the popular beliefs of entertainers, politicians, or musicians who have deceived people with shallow materialistic theology. Therefore postmodern technology developments have played a role in shifting  information processing constructs i.e, “Knowledge can be described in terms of an intellectual — and spiritual –marketplace” (Adams, 1997).

Historical Revisionists

This point is demonstrated by Thomas Guarino (1996) presents a point of view saying that, “Postmodern thinkers reject foundationalist ontologies [sources of knowledge], of all types because these philosophies seek to ‘close down’ effective history,  to end historical consciousness” (Guarino, 1996).  Therefore, the source of knowledge about spirituality in matters that are religious and non-religious has been deligitimated. The source of authority in knowledge is now located in the many voices of consumer driven media messages communicating a changing value system of knowledge.

A fundamental question hinges upon whether it is right or wrong? Obviously, that depends upon your view of knowledge in an accepted value system held.  It might be better to recognize it being what it is than spending time in criticism of the change.  A better question is related to effectiveness in the 21st century economy and culture.  If what is held as a personal belief system is important enough to feel it needs to be preserved, then maybe we should spend time thinking about how to communicate the message, definition, and meaning of spirituality in a technological– media driven culture that has embraced collaboration as a mediator for knowledge.

References

Adams, D. L. (1997). Toward a theological understanding of postmodernism. Retrieved March 30, 2011, from Crosscurrents: http://crosscurrents.org/adams.html

Guarino, T. (1996). Postmodernity and five fundamental theological issues [electronic version]. Theological Studies , 57 (4), Retrieved from EBSCOhost March 30,2011.

Toppo, G. (2009, March 5). What to learn: ‘core knowledge’ or ’21st-century skills’. Retrieved 6 2011, April, from USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-03-04-core-knowledge_N.htm

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How Cultural Trends and Communication Influences Perspective


I only Railroad tracks have one opinion so it is the only one I can give.  I know that sounds narrow minded and resistant, but isn’t that really what it boils down to with everyone?  However, the problem with opinion is that many time opinions are irrelevant in an atmosphere of constantly changing culture in the 21st century.  As a result, one of the present challenges in a modern world is to keep up with the rapid pace of ideas that are speedily changing culture right before our eyes. Therefore,  on the high speed information network, this challenge presents a constant need to adapt to changing constructs,  and to understand  the limited ability for most people to comprehend the amount of information passing before our eyes.

What Happened to the Measuring Stick?

In a world  where a narrow perspective is swiftly vanishing, some people may question whether any generation has possessed a  point of view that is constant, timeless, and irrefutable through all of time, generations, and cultures to provide a standard that information can be measured against to synthesize information contained in the the present communication of ideas.  Obviously, while there are differences about the answer, the ideas that many people hold as timeless principles of truth seem to be quickly vanishing in the milieu of ideas and being edited within the context of modern culture.  A strong point to consider about information and communication in a time that is technology bound is that the happenings of culture today are affecting, not only what subjects are relevant to the times, but the methods of communication in the 21st century.

Perspective Shape Ideals and Ideals Constantly Change

In regard to the present evolution of ideas and communication, Ed Stetzer (2011) cited Adlai Stevenson who stated, ‘”That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in another.”  He did not have a particularly high view of the next generation, but he does challenge us to consider the radical changes in thinking that are sometimes visibly witnessed between generations” (Stetzer).   The apparent point to be understood is that every generation has a perspective that shapes contemporary beliefs— what is deemed important—values that form a perspective about level of importance of certain ideas.  In addition, it is not just the message of communication and values that is important, it is the fact that methods of communicating from the past are vanishing and being replaced on the super highway of technology.  Consequently, what is apparent from an understanding cultural transformation in the 21st century is that a present cultural perspective is shaping point of view and validating the principle that both the vehicle and the message in every generation creates a shift in the way and method that people in a given generation arrive at a conclusion that they believe to be trues in a vehicle that  creates a mind-set.

What Shapes Perspective?

Just as people from different cultures, races, and people groups think differently about important issues, generations are cultural subgroups of the macrocosm of human existence.  It is evident that each  thinks differently about matters of  believed to be of importance.  However, remember that successive generations hold a different point of view that is emerging and is relevant to the time.  Therefore while people may disagree, different perspectives are worth taking time to consider. It is said that one thing common to every generation is how the collective perspective is internalized. Ed Stetzer  (2011)  cited George Orwell’s perspective, which states that “Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it and wiser than the one that comes after it” (Stetzer).  Someone from a past generation may ask: Are current generations really more intelligent or are earlier generations wiser?  Obviously, the answer depends on perspective – what it looks like from where you are standing.

What perspectives are influencing the way life is understood in the 21st century?

The perspective, the unique way life is understood today, is a sociological and cultural phenomenon. For those who want to deny reality and continue to ignore what is shaping the point of view of the emergent culture of the 21st century only creates frustration and disconnection, which does not offer any substantive answers or a reasonable framework to understand reasoning behind current ideals.

Creating Effective Communication

Ideologues and philosophers offer suggestion about what is occurring, but unfortunately understanding ideals and philosophy alone will not provide efficacy that creates effective communication. Ideals, are generally moral ideas or mores’ based on certain group identification that create expectations about how people should think or act. Philosophical assumptions are the ways that beliefs are rationalized into reason.  Thus forming, the informational content of perspective. Values or axiology has more to do with what is deeply felt, importance, passion, and motivation that affect beliefs. For example, the felt importance of something believed to be true.  When tension are deposited in life experience that raise a conflict with existing values, it results in conflicting passions and ideals about what is important; thereby creating a  disconnect between perceptions and experienced reality.

Then people must decide who/what determines the way values that are espoused or felt are to be rationalized when the experience does not match a current belief or value.   As a point of reference something that needs to be understood is how  perception is connected to reality for people in the 21st century.  There is no doubt that  the constant flow of information  redefines  importance of things deemed to be logical in one generation as information is disseminated and absorbed into successive generations.  Therefore, there is a constant tension that exists in the message and mode of communication resulting in aberrations about how people process what is  felt about information, which places great emphasis upon personal or group perspective.

Obviously, anyone can give an opinion about what is wrong with something.  However, knowing what is wrong is not the critical issue in disseminating information into efficacious results.  One perspective held by some people s to write people off who look different, think different, and have a differing perspective.  Another point of view is to embrace the culture and learn the language, thinking, and mindset of the 21st century to more effectively address the issues of our time.  Seeing someone else’s perspective is not whitewashing culture or moralizing behaviors, it is asking why do people do that in the way they do and understanding if people desire is to connect, communicate, and build meaningful relationships, there remains a need to understand more than what we know.

With the increasing isolation of people and the desire to have relationships, there is a tremendous opportunity to step outside a solitary opinion and understand people as part of a culture that thinks different than we do.  The opportunity demonstrates a tremendous potential, if we will take time to understand how perception formation is impacting beliefs and governs the content and methods of communication in the 21st century.

Point of View Perspective Beliefs God Theology Church Traditions Statistics Surveys Theory Demographics Communication Context Relationships Unchurched Christian Universalism Philosophy Vision Mission Outcome.

Are We Headed For A Crash? Reflections On The Current State of Evangelical Worship


Finding your voice in worship. An interesting view about the state of worship in the 21st century.

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Worthily Magnify

1Last week I spent a couple of days attending the National Worship Leader Conference, hosted by Worship Leader Magazine, featuring many well-known speakers and worship leaders. The conference was held about 15 minutes down the road from me, so it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I’m glad I went.

I met some new people, heard some thought-provoking teaching, enjoyed some good meals and conversations with worship leader friends, and experienced in-person some of the modern worship trends that are becoming the norm in evangelicalism. It was eye-opening in many ways.

Over the last few days I’ve been processing some of what I saw and heard.

Worship Leader Magazine does a fantastic job of putting on a worship conference that will expose the attendees to a wide variety of resources, techniques, workshops, songs, new artists, approaches, teachings, and perspectives. I thought of Mark Twain’s famous quote…

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Gaining Perspective about Criticism


Caricature of Dwight Lyman Moody. Caption read...Any time that you get a group of people together; there will always be a problem with someone who will criticize what is being done. A question that must be asked is: are critics going to shape the way that organizations operate? We can see this in every level of organizational culture, from the president of the United States, Congress, the Senate, corporations, down to small businesses. I have heard it said that, “the squeaky wheel, gets the oil” as an explanation for responding to criticism. Sometimes, we think of criticism as coming from outside sources, but it is true that the most disabling critics are people within the ranks of an organization which disable execution of successful actions.

I served as a pastor for many years and something that I learned in the organizational culture of the church is that every church has a cold water committee. Unfortunately, the reality which has to be faced is that anything worthwhile that will be done will be criticized by some. The fact is that if you are always worried what someone thinks, you will never be able to accomplish what needs to be done.

Criticism is Not Always a Curse

Sometimes criticism is May be an indication that your doing something right. There are so many people who are so worried that somebody might say something negative about them, so they just choose to stay quiet, sit on their hands. Dwight L. Moody said. He said, “If no man ever has anything to say against you, your Christianity isn’t worth much.” I have learned that you will never get away from criticism. You are going to be criticized from those outside and criticized from those inside. No matter what you do, someone will not like it.

A cowboy rode up on his horse and looked at the two buffalo, and he said,”You are the ugliest critters I have ever seen. You stink to high heaven, you have those ugly beady eyes, you’ve got those gross stupid-looking humps on your backs, and if I had a buffalo gun I’d blow both of you to kingdom-come,” He turned his horse and rode off.

One buffalo looked at the other one and said, “I believe we just heard a discouraging word.”

You will never get away from discouraging words. Even in the hallowed halls of the church; you will discover an army that will shoot at its own soldiers.

Criticism Can Be Contagious

A solo of cynicism can turn into a chorus of criticism. It is so easy to join with the negative crowd.

Criticism is both caught and taught. It is a symptom of misery and unhappiness that someone is projecting on to an organization. A report can be given of positive successes and the chronic critics will always find something wrong, something that can be criticized. Did you ever notice that when someone begins to criticize, that a question is created that occupies the vacuum of some people’s minds and instead of asking questions, they will say, “yeah me too.” Others will get caught up in the mood of the moment, the mob mentality, and catch a critical attitude. When this is reinforced and not corrected, it becomes an ingrained behavior that is learned and to be stopped must be untaught.

Criticism Demonstrates A Conflict of Values Between Leaders And Followers

When there is a conflict in value systems it defines attitudes about what will be done.Therefore, a person’s character is intimately related to his or her values; personal character rests on the foundation of personal values. A person’s character directly affects how he or she lives life–at the core of all human behavior is a statement of what is valued. As a result, defining the source of conflict is critical to developing pro-active strategies for leading; even when there is a clash of values.

What defines what will be done when there is criticism or opposition? Is it the survival of the species by dominance and destruction of an antagonist, or is it leading and making choices out of one’s character? What we value is a related to our character. Gary Smalley, in the Search for the Soul, said “We are a people who value productivity … human thinkings and human doings instead of human beings.  The highest paid people in the world can hit, run, pass better than anyone else, but it is done at the cost of developing the soul … the inner life. We keep soul expansion to a minimum which can rob us of the greatest success … becoming a real– authentic person.” If we value thinking, behavior, or productivity over what can come from the inner process of character, choices, and development; we may be circumventing our own development for a feeling of gratification from a success that is defined in a moment captured in the present. As a result, there will always be incongruence between who we are, what is communicated, and how criticism is negotiated.

Character directly affects how life is expressed in attitudes and behavior because at the core of all human behavior is a statement about what is valued. Core values affect the character of what is done in an organization or in leadership through a commitment to excellence. A conclusion can be made that criticism can define how organizations develop or leaders can lead organizations to value the right things(or wrong things).  However, the outcome will depend on how criticism affects the criticized and their ability to manage perspective and respond in healthy ways.

Something to think about:  When your motives are right and your methods are pure, and you are doing what is right, you don’t have to explain anything to anybody.

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Ministry in the Family Chapel Church Part 1


Feeding the 5000If you are working as a pastor/leader in the small church, you should not feel alone.  The majority of churches in America, especially in rural areas are small churches.  In fact in the state of Florida, at least 82 percent of the church served in communities around the state, fall somewhere into the group of being small. As perplexing as it is to those who graduate from seminaries, Bible colleges, and theological training; the reality of small rural church ministry does not always congeal with the educational concepts received.  It is because ministers are trained to preach and teach with little emphasis given to human relations skills and the cultural implications of church ministry.

The disparity is deeply felt when theological expectations comes into conflict with an existing culture that does not fit within a firmly held idealism about how people should behave in a given church context.  The unfortunate conflict is a clash of ideals and many times a clash of personality, which is labeled as spiritual by one group or the next to justify behaviors.  To some degree the conflict is somewhat a matter of semantics about what ministry means in a given context or group of people.  Because many religious leaders fall into the category of absolutists, as well as, black and white thinkers; meaning applied to ministry is not defined in a context of community, but in the context of theory, exegesis, and systematic theology.  Thus, idealism clashes with culture and the result is conflict that turns into a battle for right.  Therefore, the result is often ongoing conflict and misunderstanding that defeats the purpose of providing contextual ministry to the community of believers.  As a result, the real problem may be a conflict between the idealism of the minister or expectations of the people about what the Bible says and how meaning is applied in the context of church or community culture.

An often-neglected area of understanding is that culture has a dramatic influence upon how people value the importance of traditions, specific actions, and even individual, or classes of people.  I heard a friend say once that in many churches “we like to clean our fish before we get them in the boat”.  The point that resonates from the statement is that in churches of all sizes conformity is a major issue to insiders.  Therefore, in the process of understanding ministry in a Family Chapel Church a major force in shaping expectations about how ministry happens is contained within the culture and nature of the congregation. As a result,it is very hard for pastors to articulate ministry leadership into practice that is functional.  Unfortunately, one of the things often misunderstood about reaching people outside the church is when others from the outside do not the fit cookie cutter; outsiders are often kept at a distance and feel rejected.  The disparity felt deeply occurs when two sets of values and expectations meet in the context of dissimilar cultural beliefs about what should happen in church and who is allowed inside the family.  Unfortunately, as bad as most people hate to admit that this occurs, people who make up the family chapel church have lofty or lowly ideals that are imposed upon others.  Something that is important to understand about  fishing expeditions is that even when people are different from us in significant ways, the gospel still directs us to minister to them in Jesus’ name.  Many people find this very easy to offer ministry to insiders, but when it comes to those outside the loop; an internal focus creates a disability in ministry. Consequently, the central motive of servant-hood and ministry is sidestepped from sharing the love of Christ in practical ways to those who fit the cultural expectations of the group.

The motive in all churches should be ministry that demonstrates the loving Christ who gave His life for the church. However, an important question is how a pastor can minister in a church that is inverted theologically, while culturally isolated from everything he has been taught and experienced.  How can a pastor in a Family Chapel Church remain faithful to his conviction and calling and be effective in ministry to the place of service?  The answer is simple, but challenging at the same time.  A pastor who will be effective must be adaptable in the style of leadership and ministry that will occur in a process that keeps him focused upon the main thing, “pastoral ministry”.  

So, Why Do People Really Go To Church?


Have you ever been a part of a church that has convulsions every two or three years and it seems that the church never gets past the culture of chaos that defines thee character of the congregation?  You may walk away scratching your head and wondering why people really continue to  go to church there.  If you have asked that question don’t feel like you are alone because it is more common among many congregations today. In fact, maybe a better question to ask is why you are still go there?  After growing up as a PK and serving for almost 40 years as a pastor, I have come to understand that people do not always come to church for healthy, Godly, or spiritual reasons alone. Unfortunately, in the midst of the mix of personalities idealism, and activity inside the church sometimes more bad occurs than good in the name of misplaced motives and organizational dysfunction.  Many people have a lived-experience of being hurt, manipulated, or mistreated and they no longer want to go to church because it is too painful and disruptive to life.  If you have found yourself in that frame of mind and ever wondered why people continue to attend church, and stay in a church: thinks about what follows from a lifetime of experience at observing, learning from experts, and forming a rational point of view. Obviously, the reasons why people go to church are numerous, and sometimes bizarre and not very logical, little alone spiritual, but there are reasons to consider.

The Simple Answer is that it is Sociology and Culture

I heard Elmer Towns once say that when people go to church that they look for someone who is like them to identify with and if they cannot find someone to connect with who is like them or they will go somewhere else.  The point that this draws attention to is that one issue in church attendance and membership is a result of social and cultural identity issues. This is readily demonstrated  by demographic patterns in different parts of the country.  For instance, if you live in the South or parts of the Midwest, social standing, or social identification might be determined by which church you attend.  Think about it for a minute on a personal level.  Then,  look around yourself the next time you go to church and ask yourself the question:  What kind of people go to this church?  I think that what you will find is that there are age, cultural, ethnic, and spiritual factors that unite people in worship activities.

Guess What that Tells You? 

The message is that the people that you see in a group determine the kind of people that a church is going to attract.  After you look around, what you will see is that your church has characteristics that are common to the people that are there and representative of the cultural identity of the people who attend a church.  If you have  ever wondered why disorganized, disheveled churches attract people with a lack of spiritual discipline or people who value disorder as if it were a spiritual gift, remember people reflect their personal values through their religious practices.  How people identify religiously reflects important matters in people’s, as well as, how they value what is important in the life of a church body.  Theorist’s call it the homogenous principle: like kind attracts like kind.  In fact, when churches have unruly members who terrorize people with their dysfunction, it is a source of distress for the congregation, but it says as much about the church as it does about person.  The simple answer is that sociology and culture drive the ability or limit the ability of a church to reach people. Consequently, if you want the church where you are worshiping to be larger, better, or something different than it is now, the church must experience a cultural, sociological, and value change to reach people that are different.

Family Connection Drives the Church Bus

For some people, their children also bring them back to church.  Sometimes people feel the awesome responsibility of molding and shaping young lives to be happy and productive for the future, and sense almost instinctively that those things require faith and knowledge of God.  We know they will not develop a strong moral core from the society around them.  It did not work for us, did it?  And so we bring them to God’s house, and come along with them, sometimes for the first time since our own childhood.  And as our children learn about Jesus, we experience a wonderful renewal of our faith.

Friendship Drives the Fellowship Wagon

Friendship brings us to church, too.  Sometimes we are invited by friends; then, we come with them.  Nevertheless, so often it is the desire for friends –good friends, caring friends, friends who share our values that brings us to church in hope.  God knows, loneliness can eat at our sense of well-being, so He draws us into fellowship with Him and a church to engage relationship with others.  Being new in a community often accentuates that longing to love, be loved, and belong.  In fact,  this is as it should be because it is a fundamental need to belong, find acceptance, and identify with God and othhers.  God means for the church to be a place to build long-term caring relationships, to be a community in every sense of that word.

Another Answer is Materialism or Social Networking

For many people going to church is the main social event of their life.  It is where their family congregates and decides how spirituality will be expressed.  However, think about this: do people  join a large church to network for business or create opportunities?  It does happen.  However, before you judge too harshly, consider the fact that when you’re looking for a future husband or a wife, networking in a church isn’t a bad place to start — at least you’re likely to find people with the similar value systems.  Many people go to church to find a wife, date their girlfriend, spend time with their friends, and make business contacts.  Look around the average church and ask yourself if the people are there because of the deep conviction about the theology of the church, or are they there for some other reason that may be relational or social.  The down side of this is that the church has become more about the material and social aspects than it is about having a servant’s heart to worship God through submission to a sovereign God.

What About Fear and Guilt as Motivators?

Fear or Guilt? Unfortunately, many people who go to church, especially in fundamental churches are plagued by fear of what might happen if they don’t go and sometimes guilt about what is wrong in life.  I have often said that guilt tends to make people hide –in a crowd, a church, beneath some leaves to serve as a cover for what has happened in their lives.  We hear guilt from the pulpits, guilt leads to fear and fear to conformity to appear to be religious.  What people may not understand fully is that people attend church for the most human of reasons that are some time emotional and sometimes relational. Family also history has its place in why people attend church as there do and at types of churches. Children of Catholics are most often Catholic, in orientation at least. Those habits, duty, emotional ties, and family history are components in church attendance. However, let me talk for a moment about what I see most.

Hurt, Pain, and a Search for Answers

Hurt is way up there on the list for why people go to church.  When people go to church they are looking for a hand up and someone to care about them. At times, everyone will find themselves reeling from some painful experiences and wounds because of life experiences.  Things like, estrangement of a spouse or marital problems.  The loss of a loved one to death, loss of a family, loss of a job, loss of innocence, loss of health, loss of hope.  At times like this, life is on the ropes and we are down for the count.  It’s only natural to seek healing in relation to God.  It is in the context of the church that God uses some of his dear people gifted in ways to be channels of God’s healing, hope-filled, non-judgmental love.  I can’t begin to count the times I’ve seen people’s hurts healed within the context of a healthy congregation.

Discipleship and Personal Growth

For many people, personal growth is a factor in regular church attendance.  As people attend a congregation that they can identify with, gradually these individuals allow the Holy Spirit to clear the smokescreens away and allow God to bring to the surface things that need to be faced.  In the process individuals  begin to grow up and get past the time when they saw a hypocrite in church and excused themselves from any commitments.  When church attenders start to experience personal growth the result should be discipleship the moves people beyond life-long resentments like being forced to attend church as a child.  God uses the experiences of life to allow us to learn about ourselves and grow past childish rebellion.  When that takes place, we grow up, and we are freed once again to include God in our personal exploration.

The Search for Significance and Meaning

For many people, especially men over 40, the need for significance is a strong motivator in why men go to church.  Something inside of a man wants to make a difference, to do something meaningful, lasting, to be part of a cause bigger than ourselves.  The church is a perfect context for this type of fulfillment, since, at their best churches change communities for good –one person at a time.  Unbelievably, there are people who are asking, “What do I can I  give here?” rather than just “What can I get?

Worship and Intimacy through Knowing God

Believe it or not people attend church in order to come to know God, to honor him through worship and by their very presence in his house.  The French philosopher Blaise Pascal put it succinctly, “There’s a God-shaped vacuum in every man that only God can fill.”  You and I have felt that emptiness before and the need to have it filled.  We’ve wondered at times if we’ve lost forever that most important link of faith that shapes who we are and who we can become.  People come to church because they are searching, and they find they can search for God in this context better than they can in other places.

 “Our hearts are restless,” said Augustine, “until we find our rest in You.”

 Some motives are better, some worse, but in one sense it doesn’t matter much what is your motivation. What matters is the process that begins when we enter a relationship with Jesus Christ an allow the Holy Spirit to direct our lives.

 

The Postmodern Age and the Decline of Western Spiritual Meaning


Adam and Eve Driven out of Eden, by Gustave Do...Postmodernism:  A general and wide-ranging term which is applied to literature, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and cultural and literary criticism, among others. Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality. For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually. Postmodernism relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, knowing always that the outcome of one’s own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain and universal.

Postmodernism is “post” because it is denies the existence of any ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of their being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain everything for everybody – a characteristic of the so-called “modern” mind. The paradox of the postmodern position is that, in placing all principles under the scrutiny of its skepticism, it must realize that even its own principles are not beyond questioning. As the philosopher Richard Tarnas states, postmodernism “cannot on its own principles ultimately prove itself any more than can the various metaphysical overviews against which the postmodern mind has defined itself.” (Postmodernism)

Postmodernism: — a state of mind or way of thinking in the post-modern world affecting every area of western culture

A general understanding reveals that postmodernism is a term that has gained popularity in scholarly writing as well as casual conversations. In fact, Thomas Guarino (1996) says, “It’s a “movement” that has inspired raging debates about ‘the cult theory’ [in the 1930’s] across the arts and sciences” (p. 654). One of the core issues of postmodern philosophy is the denial of absolutes across groups and lends itself to logical positivism and relativity as a maxim of truth.  As a result, the intention of this article about postmodernism is not to solve the debate, but to understand the influence that state of mind held has upon contemporary beliefs about spirituality.

What Does  Postmodernism Describe?

A description given by Daniel J. Adams (1997) says, “The postmodern era can best be understood in terms of four major characteristics: the decline of the West, the legitimation crisis, the intellectual marketplace, and the process of deconstruction” (Toward a theological understanding of postmodernism).

The perspective of Adams demonstrates is a fundamental shift in thinking in this period that began in a specific era of  time and is associated with significant phenomenon occurring simultaneously in Western Culture that is characterized with the period of decline of spirituality. His analysis of Western Decline draws attention to a point of view that is fundamental to an evolution of spiritual meaning that has correlates to historical-cultural development.  To illustrate, Adams (1997) says, “the legitimation crisis, identified with metanarrative shows [what] is now being seriously called into question” (2). Unlimited development and capitalistic movement in American ideology versus environmental pollution, limited resources, concerns about nuclear proliferation—use of energy, environmental threats, third world poverty, and the goals of the NAFTA have deligitimated descriptions that had characterized capitalism and the past success of the West. Postmodern thinking is characterized by a shift in state of mind about core beliefs that are delegitimized in an essential devaluation of past matters of importance.

Adams, draws attention to another significant development correlated to Western Decline the, “metanarrative of Judeo-Christian sexual ethic” (p. 2)  characterizing American culture.  His perspective identifies the shift of views about sexuality chastity, homosexuality, marriage, divorce, and traditional view of marriage as another deconstructed normative value in culture. With Judeo-Christian ethics disempowered from authoritative acceptance, norms from the past are replaced with a plurality of views with no central source of knowledge or universally held value to describe a way of life experience in America. Deligitimation in postmodern life of the Judeo Christian ethic demonstrates changing beliefs about marriage, sexual behavior, and accepted norms indicate a shifting emphasis from the views of the past.

A perspective about the impact of postmodernism upon Christian thought is offered by David Couchman (2002) who describes how mind-set has been altered, he states: “if you drop a frog into boiling water, it will jump out immediately, but if you put it in cold water and heat it slowly, you can boil it alive because it does not realize what is happening. … We think we know what is going on, while the culture in which we are immersed is slowly killing us without our realizing it” (Couchman, 2002, p. p. 74). Thus the effect of postmodernism is not readily recognize because culture has been inoculated in a gradual process of change that has brought dramatic change in the decline of western thought about many important cultural issues that have placed a profound effect upon spiritual values and beliefs in the 21st century.

References Adams, D. L. (1997). Toward a theological understanding of postmodernism. Retrieved March 30, 2011, from Crosscurrents: http://crosscurrents.orh/adams.html

Couchman, D. (2002). Facing the challenge of our times equipping christians to respond biblically and effectively to postmodernism. Evangel , 20 (3), pp. 74-78 retrieved from EBSCOhost March 09, 2011.

Guarino, T. (1996). Postmodernity and five fundamental theological issues [electronic version]. Theological Studies , 57 (4), Retrieved from EBSCOhost March 30,2011.

Postmodernism. http://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/gengloss/postm-body.html

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