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Connecting with Post Moderns
By Rocky Grams
One time I decided that investing six or eight bucks a day in coffee together was too much expense. That very week we received a card and note from a pastor in Wisconsin.
The note read: “Go to coffee!” And the card contained a check for $150. We kind of think God is in favor of our coffee times!
Oh, one more thing, before I go on. I am a people person and I’m energized by being with people. Sherry is very gifted in administration and is very goal oriented. She usually has been thinking and praying about four or five items on the list to accomplish for that day. My goal for the day is simple: survival. I’m convinced that without these coffee times we would just be barely making it, distant and at odds with each other and probably not accomplishing much at all.
Let’s go back to the Temperley café. Sherry knew nothing of the theme for the article for ACLAME which I had been struggling with for four days. It had to do with connecting with the post-moderns.
As my wife spoke, I borrowed a pen (red ink) from the waitress, excuse me, server, and wrote furiously:
She went on to say, “There are text books that have totally lost relevance.”
I cringe to think of what I had contemplated a couple of weeks ago in class as I tried to hide the yellow notes of my Old Testament Theology subject with our fourth year students. The bright idea, and it embarrasses me to admit it, was to photocopy the notes so they would look new. Fresh paper from the photocopier does not make up for the fact that I have not taken the time to research that subject and really study for those classes for quite a while. Thank God I had the sense to ask someone else to take that subject for now. I’m not sure if I’ll get it back.
Connecting with this post-modern generation is of absolute importance. No other generation has been so tempted. No other generation has had the myriad distractions available at the slightest inclination or whim. The youth of this post-modern mindset can be seen as the generation of the screen: tech savvy enough to dominate all of the options on the latest iPhone but often clueless when it comes to ethics. Their knowledge of Wikipedia is gargantuan but they usually can’t remember the last actual book they read through.
One of the inalienable rights is thought to be 24 hour access to cell phone communication and the internet. Entitlement to constant communication with as many people as possible simultaneously. Access at all times even during class or chapel or late into the night or when in deep conversation with mentors or family.
Today Walter Llanos, a graduate of our school and missionary to Mozambique, spoke for our weekly Missions chapel. After showing a very creative PowerPoint on the country and on the Bible School they founded in their garage in 2005 and now are in the midst of building, he went into a brief talk on how amazed they were returning to Argentine and sensing the lack of security and the lack of respect. An elderly man barely able to stand is ignored by row after row of people on the train until finally someone offers him a seat. A pregnant lady is about to get in a taxi and a man rushes up, pushes her aside and gets in the taxi himself and speeds off. Lack of respect which comes from a lack of values.
MTV did a survey of the youth of today and asked them what they thought of the seven deadly sins. Many of the youth surveyed were convinced they were actually a list of virtues.
This is not a hand-wringing rag to fill space. I’m in conversation with many who are involved in education and as we listen to the expressions of the post-moderns, we are living one step from alarm.
“Why is it not OK to wear my baseball cap in church and in class? What’s wrong with plunging necklines which portray my fine body? If we’re planning on getting married and take birth control what is wrong with having sex? That was just a series of small lies to avoid embarrassment. It’s OK. I’m downloading music that people produced at great personal sacrifice. But, so what? Everybody does it. People shouldn’t charge for what they have created. They should be generous with their giftings. I’m going to go to the university after graduating from Bible school because I really need the respect of a university degree. So you neutered your dog. Meany! Would you do that to your dad or to your brother?”
What do we say? How do we enter into dialogue with those who so often surprise us?
This is the generation that found its voice and that voice is on the internet. Yes, we must mention that they are a people sensitive, open, smart and adaptable who communicate via Facebook or Twitter with hundreds of acquaintances in a moment but wonder if anyone is really listening. This lonely generation has also produced urban tribes and and violent gangs and aimlessness and despondency.
This is the generation to whom movies and electronic games and chat rooms have become more real and viable than playing an actual game of soccer with people you can see and touch.
How do we reach out to young people whose moral compass has been so affected by the consistent deluge of messages from sources so distant from righteousness? And they have not a clue they are so far from the principles of the Word.
One of our teachers at Instituto Biblico Rio de la Plata, María José Hooft, has written a book on Urban Tribes. Major newspapers in the country have picked up on it and it is being distributed widely in secular bookstores. She describes the mindset of the postmodern generation in a quick synopsis. It is a brainstorming of ideas based on commentaries of Antonio Cruz in his book Postmodernidad: El evangelio ante el desafio del bienestar (1). Here is my translation of her very telling summarized list describing the post-moderns. It appears in her book Tribus Urbanas (2) on pages 80 and 81. By the way, tomorrow I will ask her permission to quote this list. Just kidding. I really think this is fair use. Here goes the list:
Pretty negative, surprising and alarming, right? But at the same time, I have found this generation to be extremely open to God’s power and tremendously desirous of revival. When they read about God’s moving in other times their response is: “Why not us?” “Why can’t God work that way with us?” And they are seeking Him with their whole heart and with tears.
Today as Walter Llanos shared I looked across at a another Walter, a freshman from Claudio Freidzon’s King of Kings church, and tears were coursing down his cheeks and falling off his chin.
Listening to this generation is vital. Understanding the heart and mind-set of the youth of today is paramount if we are to realize our potential as a Church...a Church blended and united in God’s purpose of proclaiming the Gospel in the entire Earth and bringing in the amazing harvest He has prepared just before His return.
When they encounter integrity and passion and faith they are very open and
respond with commitment. We are finding some very gifted teachers for our Youth
Ministries major and the kids are responding very well to them.
Let me quote some very appropriate challenges presented to them during those memorable and impacting days.
We have a bunch of young people in the U.S. coming down the pike as some of the most committed and connected missionaries to be sent out. And they are post-moderns! We also have some of the most sensitive and passionate kids in Latin America preparing to go to Senegal and Nepal and India and a few other very challenging places. They are going to impact their world!
My good friend, Ken Patrick, gave me his own copy of an impacting book, The Prodigal God (3), by Timothy Keller. First the author helps us understand the word “prodigal” which is actually “recklessly extravagant” and he applies it to God’s tremendous generosity portrayed in this parable toward each of his sons.
Let me quote in closing a few very telling comments from this fine book:
Despite the disconcerting deluge of attacks on the moral compass of the postmodern generation, a committed remnant is in place that will be used tremendously of the Lord in this next wave of revival. We get a chance to influence the influencers! Let’s take time to really hear them out and be a part of God’s resource for their lives.
(1) Cruz, Antonio, Postmodernidad, el evangelio ante el desafío del bienestar, Terrassa, España, Clie, 2002
(2) Hooft, María José, Tribus urbanas, Buenos Aires, Visión Producciones, 2008
(3) Keller, Timothy, The Prodigal God, Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, New York, Dutton, The Penguin Group, 2008