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The Danger of Postmodernism
Making the Gospel about Us

by Esther Jing-Hua Wu

In an attempt to be culturally relevant and seeker friendly, the youth ministry team asked our youth worship band to play songs from Lifehouse, Linkin Park, Creed, and other popular bands. We thought we were being delightfully postmodern and experiential, not to mention, cool. "What a great way to spread the gospel!" we thought. "Use songs that are popular with teens, whose lyrics allude to a spiritual theme to draw them into worship—perfect." We were convinced that our kids would experience God more powerfully in this new, nontraditional worship environment.

It turns out that our students dreaded singing these songs. They complained that the songs weren't worshipful and insisted that they couldn't connect with God through them.

When I asked the youth band to go back to the contemporary praise and worship choruses typical of the adult service, the transformation amazed me. The songs that proclaimed God's holiness and character where the ones that drew our kids into the presence of the holy. What is it about repeatedly singing "You are holy" that draws a postmodern teen into the presence of Christ?

Our students are hungry for spiritual food that will satisfy. They're hungry for what's real in Jesus Christ. The danger of postmodern Christianity is that we become so focused on making God culturally relevant, hip, cool, and fun, that we run the risk of making the gospel about us—our experiences, our relationships, our needs, our worship preferences, our lives. When this happens we lose our awe of God's holiness. If we spend so much time relating to God as personal friend, we lose sight of the holiness of the God who inspires fear, wonder, worship, and beauty all at once. When that happens, our proclamation of the gospel tips dangerously towards self-centeredness and our experience of God; and the way we want to connect with the holy becomes more important than God himself.

The postmodern emphasis on experience, presentation, and narrative has enhanced our faith richly in many ways. However, experience and narrative are by no means the beginning or ending points of our faith in Christ. God's holiness is. Of course, we'll experience God in tangible ways that shape our lives and increase our Christ-likeness tremendously, but our experience is ultimately not the anchor of our faith.

We can never create an experience of God's holiness, because that's something that comes from revelation. God alone makes this revelation possible. How can we pursue God's holiness practically? Today's church should bolster her understanding of God's holiness. We're in danger of making the experience, new language, multimedia presentations, or liturgy the centerpiece of our faith. And the result is an experience-based faith instead of one that is holiness-based. Ultimately, this kind of faith will crumble. Our calling as followers of Jesus is to ground our faith in his God-ness, which rests outside our experience. In terms of youth ministry, we should be careful not to overemphasize the experience of church to our students, while inadvertently de-emphasizing God's holiness.


Esther Jing-Hua Wu is the youth pastor at Vineyard Christian Fellowship of the Peninsula in Palo Alto, Calif.

Wow. That's an interesting article...with a great point. I agree. I think we try so hard to be "hip" and "up to par" with the kids when all they really need is some good old fashioned worship. I know that's what helped me the most when I was that age. Thanks for posting this.

...and for that matter. What may seem reduntant and boring to one person could be just what someone else needs to just let everything go and be in His presence.

Miss you man. Glad to see you got a bog here and there. Good thoughts.

Great article. Too often the modern church is leading with the idea of a great experience. There is a large group of young Christians who don't know what it is to be Christlike, to be holy as He is holy. The focus has turned too much to feeding emotions and not feeding the soul. Something to keep in prayer for the body of Christ.

Thanks for posting this.

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