Saturday, January 27, 2007

"Postmodern Reformation"

So I'd like to suggest a new term ... "Postmodern Reformation". I use it in a sentence like this, "The radical reinvention of Christian culture and the shift in ecclesiological methods from corporate mega-models to communal incarnational models of life and ministry are symptomatic of the Postmodern Reformation which is now taking place." Yeah... I know it's cool. (And it makes me sound waaaay-smarter than I actually am!)

Anyway, I toss it into the mix because while other really good terms like "missional", "incarnational", "revolution", "simple way", "symbol life", "neotribalism", and the rest are very helpful, they fail to embody the Western and even global cultural uprisings we're experiencing now with any real degree of historical specificity or Christian focus. In other words, we've had countless "revolutions" and "missional" movements throughout Christian, Hebrew, and secular history... which one are we talking about here? The word "postmodern" links what's going on to this specific moment in history while "reformation" indicates the Christian focus of our conversations and identification.

So there ya go. "Postmodern Reformation". Free of charge ...
... I created a Wikipedia entry on it. Feel free to add and edit your study and research to it here!


jason said...

The only issue that I see in your def. is that you have put way more specificity than the research seems to be bearing out. So many philosophers of religion don't seem to be ready to agree with your your definition. For instance, there still isn't a consensus that what we're seeing isn't, in fact, some kind of hyper-modernism.

Something is surely happening, but it is yet to be seen that this "reformation" is moving from mega-models. In fact some are suggesting just the opposite. And still others are suggesting the mega will coincide with the small.

Thanks for the thought, definitely helping me to think further on these issues. I look forward to checking out your wiki entry and reading more here.

John Lynch said...

Great comment Jason, thanks for the heads up! I'm going to begin posting my primary sources & expanded explanations to the wiki entry soon.

Here's a quick thought I'll expand on & better support in the wiki-entry... 1) American statistics indicate that regional models (i.e. mega or "very large") reach far less people per square mile than smaller previous models (something like 2 or 3% vs. 10-15%); & 2) The dozen-or-more per day churches that close their institutional doors in America are producing a swelling quantity of "homeless" Christians who are pouring into megachurches.

This isn't to say that contemporary institutional models are doing no good! In general, however, they are not a dominant presence in either the wider secular culture or the wider Christian arena.

And the trends of postmodernity indicate that the American swell in megachurch support is on the verge of a very rapid decline with the impending death of the Boomer generation.

What do you think? Any preliminary pushback?

Thanks again for your comment! By the way, I love your group blog at!

David said...

Good stuff guys. Wow.
My brain fell out.
Excuse me a moment...........
Okay, velcro does wonders till I get to a neurosurgeon and then a shrink.

I think (not sure how well the velcro is holding, but I'll try) that there will always be something of the institutional church, that has been around in some form or another for 1500 years (which is debatable - but most agree it's been a looong time).

However, right now, from what my sources tell me (I've always wanted to say that) is that the mega-churches are growning in attendees and the churches under 300 are growing in the number of communities (so the 300 aren't growing to 400, but rather, another church is being planted - not necissarily from the 'parent' church, but just because this missional, emerging, movement is allowing more churches to grow because it takes less infrastucture than the typical modern model).

So the middle class, American church that we think of, is on the decline - significantly.

And I agree with John, that as the Baby Boomers begin to die out (that sounds so harsh) some mega-churches will go as well.
When some of those pastors die out, many congregants will look elsewhere.

All that to say, is whatever you want to call it, or however you want to define it, it's here for the long haul.

Viva la Revolution :-)

Jason said...

But it seems we might have to define what we mean by "reaching" people. The reason i say that is b/c most of the stats I have seen for house church networks out there (in the US) is that they aren't reaching new people with the gospel (those who previously would not define themselves as Jesus followers).

Are you seeing this? If not what are you seeing in terms of seeing people reached with the gospel.

Oh, and I feel almost ashamed that you mentioned the group blog since we haven't done anything with it since last spring. I really need to kill a couple of those...thanks for that reminder =)

John Lynch said...

David, you and your velcro noggin are way too humble (and funny)!

For me, the practical benefit of recognizing (and even defining) a Postmodern Revolution lies in knowing how to best harnass the cultural energy that's beginning to take shape.

Current statistics say that while mega-churches are popular, they're thoroughly ineffective in reaching a significant portion of their local demographics. And on small congregations, denominational reports indicate that they're going out of business by the droves. (This doesn't say anything about non-denominational communities, but I think it's telling on the small-churches-will-overcome notion.)

Viva-la-Revolution, is right! ...But I think this Revolution is much deeper and more culturally sweeping than we might imagine. And if England is any indicator, I'm guessing it will take a dramatically non-institutional shape.

Time to get ready! (...says I)