We live in a postmodern, post-denominational, post-Christian culture. The first Christians lived in a pre-modern, pre-denominational, pre-Christian world. They had no hope of taking the gospel to the “ends of the earth” by beginning their appeal to the Gentiles with biblical authority. The larger Greek world shared the postmodern skepticism of any absolute truth claim, let alone those made on the basis of Hebrew scriptures or a Jewish carpenter’s teachings. And so the apostolic Christians build their evangelistic efforts on personal relevance and practical ministry. The result was the beginning of the most powerful, popular, and far-reaching religious movement in history.
I am convinced that we are now living in a culture more like that of the apostolic Christians than any we have seen since their day. They had no buildings or institutions to which they could invite a skeptical world, and so they went to that world with the gospel. They had no objective authority base from which to work, so they demonstrated the authority of the Scriptures by their attractive, personal relevance. We now live in a day when nonbelievers will not come to our buildings to listen to our appeals on the basis of Scriptural authority. But when we show them the pragmatic value of biblical truth in our lives, ministries, and community, we will gain a hearing.
Postmodernity offers us a compelling opportunity to “remember our future.” To remember the biblical strategies upon which the Christian movement was founded, and to rebuild our ministries on their foundation. To move into our postmodern future on the basis of our premodern heritage.
Every person we interviewed in Atlanta wanted the same thing: a faith which is practical, loving, and hopeful. The tragedy is that our churches did not offer them this biblical truth in a way which was attractive and relevant. The good news is that we can.