Becoming a Postmodern Church

Nearly 1,000 Presbyterian leaders gathered for the Churchwide Transformation Conference in CHARLOTTE, NC, Jan. 23. Under the theme, “Xtreme Boldness,” the pastors learned how to make their churches mold to serve new people and meet new needs in changing communities.

The Rev. Mike Slaughter, the lead pastor of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, OH opened the first plenary session with a message of transformation that “struck a responsive chord among the church leaders across the country,” according to the Presbyterian News Service.

“The mega-church has failed as a reproducible model, because the Biblical measure of strength is not size, but faithfulness,” said Slaughter, whose own church set an example of rapid growth.

Ginghamsburg grew from 118 regular attendees to 3,000 over the two decades of his ministry. Nonetheless, Slaughter says the hallmarks of his church are the congregants’ full engagement in community service and spiritual discipline.

“We’re looking for seekers who are asking the hard ‘God questions,’” he said during the opening session of what used to be known as the Redevelopment Conference. “We’re not trying to convince the unconvinced — this is radical, revolutionary service we’re demanding, not a quick weekend fix we’re offering.”

“The church’s problem is trying to reach every one in every location,” he said, noting that Christianity has “a large umbrella” that provides “plenty of room for particular appeals to specific cultures.”

As an example, he cited Jesus, who “had a specific target audience” and a specific goal — “to seek and save the lost; moreover, the lost Jews; and even further, poor, lost Jews.”

Slaughter told ministers and other church officials to “identify the culture that you can best relate to, and go after them,” rather than try to be all things to all people.

There are four characters an “emerging church” needs to have in the 21st century, according to Slaughter: Intentionally missional; Multicultural; Multi-sensory; and Multi-media.

Punctuating his address throughout with short video clips, Slaughter said 21st-century life, especially for young people, is “an electronic playground.” Churches that fail to “speak” that electronic language will not be understood, he said.

“The language of the post-Christian generation is multi-media,” he said. “The tutors are MTV and Sesame Street.”

Therefore, the next step for church growth, is becoming “post-modern.”

“Post-moderns don’t want to be put on a committee,” he said. “They want to be equipped to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Churches must accept the new reality and say goodbye to the racial homogeneity of traditional places of worship, Slaughter said, adding: “To be Biblical, you have to be multicultural. All the tribes have to be represented. That’s what God demanded.”

Slaughter also sounded a warning to ministers who may take his advice.

“Oh, you’re going to get (critical) letters,” he said. “You’ll lose some people. But you’ll gain your community’s soul. ...You may get crucified, but you’ll be in great company. Like Jesus, your crucifixion may just include real transformation.”

The Evangelism and Church Development Office of the National Ministries Division and the Network jointly sponsored the three-day Conference for Churchwide Transformation.