A Call to Ministry in a Postmodern World

There has been much ado about postmodernism these days. There is postmodern architecture, postmodern philosophy, postmodern art, postmodern film, postmodern literature, postmodern music, postmodern theater, postmodern theology, and even postmodern postmodernism. You cannot escape conversation in many circles without postmodernism entering into it and mocking your modern intellectual vision.

The effects upon the cultural landscape moves today into tension with tomorrow. It begs us to ask the questions of where, when, why, and how of the very human fabric that weaves history, time, and space into a society or does it?

No matter how you interpret postmodernism you must contend that it is a reaction to the status quo. It is rooted in an outsider perspective that mounts attitudes of “us verses them” upon a position of entitlement.

What is Postmodern Theology?

Postmodern Christian theology is a theology rooted in reaction to the status quo. It should be counter-cultural in nature. It seeks to disturb and transform those engaged in the practice of theology. It looks to the pervading culture for means to express and illuminate the gospel message of Jesus Christ. It must not be comfortable or commodified. Theology that seeks to transform cannot and should not be consumed like fun size Halloween candy. To partake in the radical transforming nature of the gospel direct opposition to the status quo is called for.

Gone is the ability to stoically sit by as the gospel is used to propagate a conquering message that excludes and builds division. We are far to concerned with difference rather than similarities.

All are called to ministry. All are sought after to serve. In the Presbyterian tradition being a Minister of the Word and Sacrament does not entitle you to anything more than service. There is no difference between congregation and pastor. We are a body of Believers! Some of us have lost our salt. We are SALboosT as a denomination already.

Where must we go from here?

My outcome in this process
In the course of researching the topic of Postmodern understanding of call I conducted many interviews. I came across a few conclusions: 1) Call is relative to one culture. 2) Postmodern understanding of call is rooted in vocational understanding and a longing for security. 3) Action is called for today. we must seek to engage the culture around us to become effective instruments of witness.

There is need for ministers, pastors, and preachers. There is also a need for the understanding of these roles to sift and become more flexible. Churches would benefit from becoming uncomfortable and challenge he status quo. What are you protecting and from what are you protecting it from? In a world full of adjectives, may we be a people of verbs.

4 thoughts on “A Call to Ministry in a Postmodern World

  1. Tim says:

    I know you know this, but I will point it out anyway: the vast majority of churches in our denomination are barely modern let alone postmodern. The churches across the board that are postmodern are fewer than their media exposure makes us believe. You stated that “postmodern Christian theology is a theology rooted in reaction to the status qou”. I would posit that it is not only a reaction to but largely a rejection of the status qou, as if the status qou were inherently evil. Many of the critiques you level against the “status quo” that they have “us verses them” attitudes, entitlement, divisiveness, etc. while true in particular cases could not be applied to all churches everywhere. There are a lot of churches doing great ministry out there who may not be doing what they did 50 years ago, but also have not totally rejected those models quite simply because not everybody is postmodern. Should and does the church reach out in new and more democratic ways? Yes. Frankly, the entitlement, divisive, and “us versus them” critique might be better applied to the postmodernists. I’d be interested to see the demographics of many of the postmodern churches. Maybe there is a different kind of comfort when everybody has a tattoo or questions the status qou. Maybe that is safer for some people. There is more I could say but I wanted to comment about one last thing. You say, “there is no difference between the congregation and the pastor.” Besides the fact that that is rarely if ever the power or work dynamic in the church, pastors are called to that specific calling. There are many similarities between the congregation and the pastor, but there are differences. That difference in calling is not from humanity, but from God. Does that difference get abused? Of course. God made the church diverse. Called some people to deacons, elders, and others pastors. All believers are priests and should be, but that call the congregation and I fulfill together is different from my specific call as pastor.

  2. Ryan Pappan says:

    I do believe I labeled the postmodern perspective rooted in “us verses them”?No matter how you interpret postmodernism you must contend that it is a reaction to the status quo. It is rooted in an outsider perspective that mounts attitudes of “us verses them” upon a position of entitlement.

  3. Tim says:

    Aren’t you arguing from a position of entitlement, as well? Not as the established church but as the new kid on the block with fancy bells and whistles. Or maybe it is closer to liberation theology which values the outsider over the insiders. Either way you are just arguing from another position of entitlement. What are you going to do when there is counter- postmodernism that is reaction to you? You’d be screwed then.

  4. Ryan Pappan says:

    what are you arguing? I ray that someone comes along and works to undo the injustice and wrongs I perpetrate in my life.

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