PoMo-phobia: The Fear of Postmodernity

October 5th, 2009

A colleague of mine coined the term PoMo-phobia after noticing the fear that postmodernity causes within the church. But is PoMo-phobia a legitimate response? Like all Christian missionaries, we're called to work within a culture, but are we to embrace it? How do we respond to postmodernism within youth ministry?

People fear change and feel threatened when their perceived truth is questioned. But we cannot ignore that the postmodern culture is the context of our youth ministry. Clearly, culture has the potential to negatively affect the church. Many evangelicals have attempted to hide from culture, or even create a subculture, but this isolation hinders the church's mission. Christians are called by God to be light within our culture.

Light is of no use if it's hidden. We must be signposts that point to Christ; our lives should show others that there's an alternative to how the world lives, that there's a purpose to life.

In order to define what Christianity is today and be salt and light, we need to explain it in terms that the postmodern culture can understand. What's changing from the previously dominant modern culture? Experience and authenticity have replaced evidence and absolutes. Story telling has replaced logic and reasoning as the primary method of communication.

Ironically, this makes the postmodern culture closer to the culture of the early church than our previous modern culture that shaped today's church. Jesus was the master of asking questions and testing what his followers believed. He used story telling to communicate truths. He used authenticity when debating with the Pharisees' interpretations of the law. He encouraged his followers to practice what they preached, to live out their faiths. Yet through this the absolutes of truth never wavered.

So what are the implications for youth ministry?

First, we need to teach our youth how to critique culture. We need to examine culture from the outside. We need to compare it to other cultures. We must teach discernment rather than trying to shut off the culture supply or opening it wide. Like missionaries about to engage a foreign culture, our youth need to be prepared to engage the culture around them.

Second, we need to provide teens with the tools to engage culture but remain free of it. Sometimes the best way for a person to recognize his or her own culture is to experience another one. That's why short-term missions are so effective. Teens can learn firsthand that just because it's their culture doesn't mean it's better.

Third, we should look for examples of salt and light in our world. Bono's recent call to the church for help with the AIDS crisis in Africa is a clear example of a genuine faith within the culture. Bono feels that Christians must put their faith into action. God has called each one of us to make an impact in this world. What value is faith if it's not put to use?

We will be influenced by the culture around us, but we have the power through Christ to minister within it and even through it. Relationship always has more power than culture. Get to know your kids, challenge them in their faith journeys, and provide them with opportunities to impact their world, while living out and modeling an authentic Christian faith.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.