The vocabulary of the church is in the process of some change, with new words being used toâ€¨describe the different approaches and styles of doing mission in the 21st century. Definitions of three of these terms follow.
While they aren’t exact, and would be challenged by some, they are used today by many leaders in the church, including myself.
• Postmodern: The perspectives, values and culture of people born since 1964—GenX and Millennials. They are significantly different from those of previous generations in North America.
• Transformational: The process of leading existing congregations with set and increasingly ineffective styles and patterns of worship and community life into new models for Great Commission ministry in their changing local settings. See the Transforming Church Web site.
• Emergent: The ministry of congregations and leaders committed to engaging people with the gospel in the terms, images and perspectives of postmodern generations—including a radical blend of ancient church practices with future technology and culture. See the Emerging Leaders Network Web site.
Lutherans aren’t usually considered to be
cutting edge. Like author Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, our
stereotype is that of quiet Christians who don’t like change and
inhabit the small towns of both geography and faith. Something of a
throwback to the early 20th century, we are portrayed as humble people
who preserved a 17th century tradition of liturgy and theology but are
best known for choral singing and potlucks.
Imagine my surprise when church futurist Leonard Sweet told me that Lutherans are best equipped to reach postmodern generations—they just don’t realize it.
As he points out, Lutherans have reformation built into their DNA. Lutherans have preserved the premodern emphasis on the relational mystery of the eucharist, while embracing the modern focus on the word (part of the postmodern synthesis of faith). And our Lutheran theology pivots on a doctrine of radical, unconditional grace—a crying need of the postmodern faith journey.
The problem is that we have forgotten our heritage or have made it unbelievably boring.
Words like transformational, emergent and postmodern are often treated as simply the latest fads in church and theology. Such movements come and go, usually without much Lutheran participation. Many of us aren’t sure what these words even mean.
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