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Postmodern

576.152.https%3A%2F%2Felc.netadventist.org%2Flocal%2Feditor%2FIMG_0828-1 I like reading blogs.  I like reading my friends’ status’ on Facebook.  It gives me a sense of connectedness even if just through the computer screen. In our world, friendship has taken on different forms.  The internet makes is so easy to become friends with people we might never be in the same room with.  I am, specifically thinking about the friends I have made through reading their blogs, and Facebook.
I have found that vital to my success and productivity as a
Pastor (grassroot theologian – as contrasted to a theologian in the halls of ivy?)
Tribe leader (my churches are my tribe(s), see also Seth Godin’s Tribes (thanks Jeff G.),
hopeful Innovater (Pastor’s must learn to re-invent, re-capture, re-present what has been true for thousands of years and yet is brand new to a new generation of Christians and non-Christians)
Futurist (Pastors must be futurist,  attempt to observe current trends and what is just beyond the horizon).  Someone should write about these and the many other facets of a Pastor’s life.

I have been Pastoring now for just over two years and I have learned that:  90% of what I have encountered as a Pastor, I have had to learn on the Job.  Which means that I was only really equipped to handle 10%, that 10% was that I had to preach every Saturday, hold board meeting once a month and things of that nature.  For the remaining 90% I have turned to mentors, friends, blogs and Facebook to learn from those who trekked this course before me.  If you are reading this and tempted to think, “Man, anyone can become a pastor” that’s not necessarily the case.  I have the ‘qualifications’ if any exist to be a pastor.  I have an undergraduate degree in Religious Studies/ Pre-Seminary and a Master’s of Divinty (which is a two and half year degree) and I worked as a Youth Pastor for two years under the direction of a Senior Pastor who served and continues to serve as an excellent mentor.  The reality is that in our always changing world the skill-set I learned in seven years in institutions of higher education have become useless which is why I say I was only really prepared to effectively handle 10% of my job responsibilities (for a more in depth understanding of this constantly changing world and the skills needed to lead well in this context look at Leonard Sweet’s Soul Tsunami, Alan Roxburgh’s The Sky is Falling and The Missional Leader and Erwin McManus’ An Unstoppable Force– if you have other titles send them my way).

All of this to say, that blogs and Facebook and other websites have provided a wealth of information.  Specifically, BOOKS.  I know everything can’t be learned from books but they sure help.  Books help us understand in specific ways the world we are experiencing on a daily basis.  The reality is that some people are good with putting words to a concept and that helps.  So here is a list of books that I just purchased thanks in large part to my online community of friends and the books they were reading.

1. What Would Jesus Deconstruct?  The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church by John D. Caputo
2. GloboChrist:  The Great Comission Takes a Postmodern Turn by Carl Raschke
3.  Finding Our Way Again:  The Return of the Ancient Practices by Brian McLaren
4.  In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson
5.  Evil and the Justice of God by N.T. Wright
6. The Great Emergence:  How Christianity Is Changing and Why by Phyllis Tickle

The only problem is finding the time to finish reading all of these books.  I think I still have a few books that I haven’t finished.  Am I the only with this problem?

Finally and perhaps more importantly, as great as reading is there is one things that books cannot do.  They cannot act, they cannot move foward in faith, they cannot risk.. that is our job.  For me the best advice I have been given is “stop reading” with the connotation to start doing something (Thanks Samir).  Ironic I know, but true.

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Chapter 2 – The Year of the Adult Depend Undergarment. [From the book Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.]  The title says it all.  But like most things in life, this (chapter) is really about something other than an adult diaper, Depend.

This, is about the infinite amount of possibilities we are faced with and in these countless possibilities, the inability to make a decision leaving us restlessly anxious about the infinite amount of other, possibilities we didn’t choose.    1218066701_20093a2678_3

It is about the efficacy that has settled on the collective consciousness of our time, like that thin layer of film that settles on the surface of a cup of hot chocolate that has been ignored.  It is this that pervades us from finding satisfaction with the choices we make always believing that a different choice would have been better.

This chapter described a man anxiously waiting the call or arrival of a guest.  His neurotic tendencies making him even more neurotic.  The chapter ends with this:  “…because at this precise time his telephone and his intercom to the front door’s buzzer both sounded at the same time, both loud and tortured and so abrupt they sounded yanked through a very small hole into the great balloon of colored silence he sat in, waiting, and he moved first toward the telephone console, then over toward his intercom module, then convulsively back toward the sounding phone, and then tried somehow to move toward both at once, finally, so that he stood splaylegged, arms wildly out as if something’s been flung, splayed, entombed between the two sounds, without a thought in his head.”

Ah, the infinite possibilities. To answer a phone or and intercom.  Seems almost foolish, but it describes an endless inability to make decisions with conviction.  Sometimes trying to choose two things at once is like not choosing either one.  It’s the sound of infinite possibilities turning into deafening indecision.

Understanding the postmodern context.  Is it even possible?  Somewhat, perhaps.  In any case, whether it is possible or impossible, our attempt at understanding must begin with the first step of immersion in the culture of postmodernism.  By this I suggest that you read.  And not read books about postmodernism,  rather books written from a postmodern mindset.
Infinite_jest_cover
Yesterday as I was reading through the New York Times I came across an essay/article entitled “The Best Mind of His Generation”.  Naturally the title alone peaked my interest and I clicked on the title.  David Foster Wallace was described as, “the kind of literary figure whose career was emblematic of his age.”  The article continues, “He may not have been the most famous novelist of his time, but more than anyone else, he exemplified and articulated the defining anxieties and attitudes of his generation.”(emphasis mine) Intrigued by the article I drove to the nearest bookseller and purchased his Infinite Jest a novel of 1079 pages described as having “set his generation’s benchmark for literary ambition…for all its humor, an encyclopedia of phobia, anxiety, compulsion and mania.”  In the foreward to Infinite Jest, writer Dave Eggers writes about Wallace as a writer who wanted “(and argably succeeds at) nailing the consciousness of an age.”  Our current age ie Postmodern Age.  I would be remissed if I didn’t include the following description.  “…Infinte Jest is something other.  That is, it bears little resemblance to anything before it, and comparisons to anything since are desperate and hollow.”(Dave Eggers)

As I began to read Infinite Jest yesterday I was vaguely reminded of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea. Something about the increased feeling of anxiousness as I continued to read.  Be forewarned, Infinite Jest is not for the weak at heart.  It requires patient reading.  At times re-readings.  It is a book where you might find yourself being described.  Scary I know.  I have only just begun reading the book, but the content in the first few chapters has caused me to write pages of reactions and responses in my moleskine journal.  I plan on posting later today or tomorrow about the second chapter “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment”.  But for now pastoral duty calls.

Have you ever been the last person to discover something really important?  I have.  I spent nine years (nearly my entire adult life) in institutions of higher learning(La Sierra Univ./Andrews Univ.) completing the requirements for the degrees to prepare me for the Pastorate.  Today, nine years later I have come across a book that I should have been required to read in 1999 as I began my academic journey. 

The book, Soul Tsunami by Leonard Sweet.  This book is amazing!  In it, Sweet explores the rapidly changing world of the 21st century and the qualities needed of a churches that will succeed in effectively communcating the message of Jesus in our time.  Nothing new you say?   That’s the point.  I have read some excellent books that deal with the same subject matter, i.e. the postmodern mindset, missional Churches, missional leadership, spirituality in the postmodern context, etc. books like The Sky is Falling by Alan Roxburgh, The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsh, A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren , An Unstoppable Force by Erwin McManus (all of which I highly recommend) all of these books deal with our current social context through the lens of the church but I just read these books within the last year.  Soul Tsunami was published in 1999.  That was my first year in university.  Had I read Soul Tsunami in 1999 it would have caused me see the world more clearly.  It woud have greatly influenced the way I saw ministry and Christianity. 

Most of what I have read so far in Soul Tsunami I have expereinced, learned about, and observed simply by being alive.  But I still highly recommend this book for anyone that is a pastor, contemplating becoming a pastor, or a Christian that find his/her brand of Christianity as irrelevant, misguided, out of touch or reminiscent of a part era.    I plan on blogging more about his book in the future.  There is so much information in this book that can be helpful.  Stay tuned.