by Leonard Sweet
Here is a book on Christianity and postmodernism that encourages the church not to reject or oppose this social and intellectual movement, but to embrace it, love it, kiss it.
Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 127 Ninth Ave. North, Nashville, TN 37234, 2000, 194 pages, $19.99.
—Reviewed by Michael Jaffarian, missionary researcher, CBInternational.
Here is a book on Christianity and postmodernism that encourages the church not to reject or oppose this social and intellectual movement, but to embrace it, love it, kiss it. In fact, the Introduction is a thoroughly-researched essay on the kiss and kissing, which, though distracting, makes its point. Sweet is the E. Stanley Jones professor of Evangelism at Drew University, Madison, N.J., and a prolific writer on postmodernism and the church.
The book is an avalanche of quotes, stories and facts, sometimes scattered, manic and disconnected, but usually good and often powerful. The author does not just expound postmodernism; he demonstrates it in his writing style. He is clearly not a linear thinker, but still an effective and convincing one. Sweet draws his material from a wide and eclectic reading that sifts cultural trends out of business trends, and astutely tracks popular culture and cutting-edge church practice. The main idea is that we are now in a postmodern world (at least the US is), so churches need to become less modern and more EPIC: Experiential (vs. rational), Participatory (vs. representative), Image-driven (vs. word-based), and Connected (vs. individual). His exposition of this outline does more to help us understand the postmodern world than to show us how to change our churches, but it’s still helpful on both counts.
The book’s “Endtroduction” is rightly (and cleverly) named, since it could have been set at either extremity of the book (it’s at the end). There Sweet most thoroughly makes his case for the observable and inevitable demise of modernity, and the attractiveness that postmodernity should hold for us as Christians, followers of an ancient, very pre-modern, faith.
The US headquarters leadership of CBInternational asked all our field leaders to read this book for one simple reason: to better understand the American churches that are sending and supporting us, what they are facing, and how they are changing. In North America, the independent, postdenominational churches are the fastest-growing and most dynamic sector. Most of them are weaker in missions commitment than traditional Evangelical churches, and many of them are complete zeros, which is a key challenge for the future of our missions movement. On that, this book can help us. Those serving in Europe, in student ministry anywhere, and in Westernized contexts will especially benefit from this book, possibly in some very specific, practical ways. Besides, it’s a fun read.
Check these titles:
Sweet, Leonard. 2001. SoulTsunami. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.
Sweet, Leonard. 2001. Carpe Mañana: Is Your Church Ready to Seize Tomorrow? Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.
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