A New Kind of Christian, A tale of two friends on a Spiritual Journey
By Brian McLaren
In this book, Brian McLaren, a pastor and leader of the post-modern Christian movement, shares a conversation between himself and a friend as he seeks to transition from being a modern Christian to a post-modern Christian. The book is quite refreshing and thought-provoking, but it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.
The book will challenge, provoke, and even perhaps disturb all of us who’ve grown up with “Modern Christianity.” By that I mean those of us who’ve been surrounded by the consumerism language of our personal Savior and asking Jesus into our heart and waiting for the world to change when Christ returns. These days, there’s a definitive shift happening. Post-modern Christianity is something difficult to define (and is still being developed, so it’s not possible to define it), but it involves people caring more about stories and experiences than proofs and scientific evidence. It means changing to a more community-based Christianity and moving away from our ideas of a completely personal Savior and salvation (not that these things don’t exist, but that they should not be isolated experiences). Evangelism will move from street corner preaching to daily living in places that Christians have often refused to go—secular concerts, racial reconciliation conferences, environment clean-up acts, and, perhaps, even bars. Evangelism will happen in the context of a person’s story, which means Christians will not be able to share the good news without joining someone else’s story, aka Christians will be more integrated into society than an outside organization looking in.
There’s a lot of fear for people when they think about this shift. Christianity, for many, is tightly wound with the modern perspective. Being a good Christian involves reading your Bible, praying, going to church, (all important and good things) and appearing as close to perfect as possible. It involves a VERY defined separation from non-Christians, defined mostly by those who have not asked Jesus into their hearts. But for my generation, this shift offers a great deal of hope.
Our culture is post-modern. Arts are taking the place of science. Music, videos, blogging, YouTube, facebook, twitter… these are all inventions and defining factors of people in their teens and twenties. Community matters more than ever. This is why there has been a resurgence of new age spirituality. There’s an emphasis on wholeness and community through these types of experiences. People are tired of narrow-mindedness. Mind you, I find that my generation often lacks any sort of standards; however, there’s a great deal of truth in this. People are tired of being judged for every little thing. People are tired of being told they can’t dress a certain way or have certain piercings or drink certain beverages without their whole selves being considered. Often people are criticized without being known or encouraged about the good they offer the world. People are tired of certain things being more important than others. I think people often feel like Christians are a little Pharisaical. Are we? And what society defines as important is taking a definite turn. And at least some of these changes may be surprisingly for the better.
The reason I say this shift in Christianity offers hope to people from my generation is two fold:
First, it offers hope that there can be some continuity in our lives. I am a fairly post-modern person in my daily life because so much of what I do and live have to be this way. It’s a relief to think that I do not need to go back to an old, and dying, way of looking at the world in order to serve and worship my Savior.
Second, it offers hope to reach those around me. There’s no way I’d reach my co-workers by passing out tracks and preaching at a street corner. It would only reinforce their ideas that Christians are lunatics and outdated. But through this new perspective, there’s hope that I can be a person of hope, generosity, and integrity in the places where my story and theirs intersect, and through these intersections, there can be subtle, open conversations about Jesus, God, spirituality. These stories, if embraced by all, will allow us to show people the Kingdom of God here and now. Not yet fully expressed, but still being shown.
This new kind of Christian is exciting. People can join us as we, as Christians, work to restore to the world though caring about those who are sick, homeless, poverty stricken; through caring about maintaining the beautiful land around us and spending time outside enjoying it; through destroying barriers between cultures and groups rather than making more. And on and on the list goes. Have you ever considered trying to talk your church into offering a short-term service-based mission trip with Christians and non-Christians where people are invited to join in God’s story of service and redemption even if they aren’t sure where they stand with God? They could see God work first hand and see the GOOD He does. What if that’s how we invited people to come to Jesus instead of an altar call?
The book is great. It’s pretty deep, and if you haven’t spent much time thinking about post-modern Christianity, it’s a lot of information to digest. Some of the conversation will scare you. You may feel defensive. You may feel like McLaren is a heretic. You may wonder if you’re a Christian. For the past five years, I spent a lot of time digesting, wrestling, and wondering about so many of these issues. Who is Christ and what is the gospel apart from what we project onto it? What does it mean to call myself a Christ follower in the 21st century?
I’d really appreciate a conversation about this amongst us. Please make comments—disturbed, encouraging, questioning, or otherwise.
Some of you may be thinking that those Seattle liberals are getting to me, and there may be some truth in that, but rest assured, I’m wrestling with everything. The most important lesson I’ve learned in the last several years of my life is that the relationship I have with Jesus is not perfect, defined, and contained. It is messy, and I hope and pray that like Jacob, I walk away from my wrestling experiences changed and part of a new family.
I highly recommend the book.