Making the Shift

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


I am still bubbling with excitement from our presbytery gathering! The Holy Spirit was present in every element of worship, including the preaching, installation, offering (we received over $1500!), and communion. The business session was efficient and uplifting. The workshops were full of conversation and sharing ideas. The gathering was a reminder of what happens when God’s people come together in unity. It was a reminder that we can do amazing things together as the body of Christ.

I’m leading a retreat this weekend at Cape Girardeau. One of the books I’m using is Holy Clarity by Sarah B. Drummond. It is a book about planning and evaluating ministry. Drummond also talks about the shift that occurred when our culture moved from modernity to postmodernity. The problem is that many of our churches, leaders, and church systems were designed to respond to the modern age and the problems of the modern age. We are now in the postmodern age, and fixes from the modern age often fall short. The following are differences that Drummond lifts up between the modern era and postmodern era style of organization.

 Modern Era

  • Governed by standing committees that move methodically and slowly, even when significant issues arise.
  • Budgets are based on what the church has done in the past, not on what it might do in the future.
  • Leadership structure is hierarchical.
  • Interpret conflict as a problem to be fixed.
  • Popular culture is interpreted as an enemy to their cause.
  • Afraid to engage in a conversation that challenges the necessity of the institutional church.

Postmodern Era

  • Committee structure are more nimble. For example, teams of leaders are assembled to address specific issues.
  • Budgets are based on the church’s future mission and calling.
  • Leadership structure is a flat hierarchy, in which different leaders have the last word depending upon the issue at hand, and the pastor plays a coordinating and collaborative role with those leaders, bringing a spiritual perspective on the work of the church. Thus, the last word comes not from a committee or a leader, but from God as interpreted by the community under the leadership of the pastor.
  • They understand conflict to be a teacher and an illuminator of the path God has laid before them, and they have decision-making structures that help the church move forward- rather than freezing- when conflict arises.
  • They understand themselves to be part of the culture, providing an alternative worldview (a faith perspective) that both participates in and critiques the wider society.

I find these lists fascinating! We are all struggling with the modernity to postmodernity shift. We are challenged to accept that we are living in a postmodern world, and we may be woefully out of step. Perhaps this list can become a conversation for your session and for our presbytery vision team. This may be the start of a shift we all need to make, as we continue to become the church of the 21st century.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

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