Work in Progress

Baseball, Seminary, Wrestling, and the Dreams and Days of one Mike Work's Angeles experience

Saturday, February 18, 2006

My Sentiments Exactly...

Also passing through my hands of late has been John Drane's The McDonaldization of the Church, another helpful book. I appreciate his cultural analysis, his application of Ritzer's McDonaldization thesis to the church, and his creative proposals for Christian practice, centered around bodily expressive worship, prophetic use of drama and clowning, and storytelling. Worship is a concern of the book, and Drane suggests that "meaningful worship is what very many people today are looking for (163)," yet in its place, churches tend to offer up a pre-packaged worship service, devoid of meaning or integrity (at least through the eyes of many persons). The book asks the questions of 'how did we get here?' and 'where do we want to go?', and merits at least a quick read.

That's not why i'm posting.

What first grabbed my attention was the first page of the book, where John brought out the proliferation of buzzwords surrounding 'postmodernism' among Christians. I've observed (and participated in, regretfully, to sum up 2002) this phenomenon, and got sick of hearing it about two months after arriving at Fuller, ESPECIALLY when the catch-all term didn't seem to have any meaning...but it sounds cool, hip, and erudite, and besides, everybody uses it. About eight months ago, i opened a systematics presentation on missional church ecclesiology by addressing the 'whole postmodern thing' and letting the cat out of the bag: we don't know what we're talking about. What's going on? IMO, we use words to make ourselves feel as if we 'get' something we don't understand, and I find in John Drane a kindred spirit.

Throughout the 1990s, Christian analysts and church strategists have invested a good deal of time and energy in the effort to understand what has variously been called postmodernism, postmodernity, and (my own preference) post-modernity. But what do we mean, and what difference is all our analysis and speculation actually making to the work and witness of the Church in the world? As I have listened to both academics and church leaders expounding ever more complex definitions of the nature of the cultural change which, quite clearly, is a reality, I have often asked myself whether we really know what we are talking about. Are our efforts at cultural analysis truly describing what is there in any objective sense at all, or are we merely deluding ourselves with the thought that, if we are able to name a thing, we can also be in control of it, and therefore it becomes less of a threat to our familiar systems and lifestyles? (The McDonaldization of the Church 1-2)


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