WASHINGTON – The Christian faith is understood as a story by a postmodern generation that sees itself as part of the developing storyline, said an emergent church leader Sunday.
Instead of breaking down the Bible and analyzing it as in the modern era, postmodern believers see the Bible stories as part of a bigger picture and larger story, explained Brian McLaren during the Washington National Cathedral's Sunday Forum.
The author, speaker, pastor and leader in the emergent church explained that the Bible is seen by postmodern Christians as the chronological stories of God and creation, the story of Abraham, Moses, King David, the prophets, Jesus, Paul and then themselves as modern Christians.
"How we understand the faith as a story … is in some ways relatively new territory because we just haven't practiced seeing our faith that way," McLaren observed.
"And then understanding how our story relates to other stories and figuring out the role that we all play in this story – because it's not finished yet – that comes to me as a very motivating and exciting way to understand our faith."
Emerging Christian leaders are interested in understanding the shift in culture and how it affects Christianity because it helps them grapple with the problem of making the faith relevant to a younger generation that has increasingly left the faith, noted McLaren.
He contends that the reason the younger generation leaves the faith is not because of superficial reasons such as worship style or preaching style, although those can be factors, but because of the "deeper" issue of the shift in the way they believe and how they believe in the Christian faith and other religions.
"When we move into the postmodern world, people realize there is another way of thinking," McLaren commented. "Analysis is good, from the whole down to the parts, but there is another way of thinking going from the whole to bigger wholes."
"We try to understand whatever we're looking at as part of larger wholes. That shift in thinking has huge implications on how we preach, how we teach, how we evangelize," said the founding pastor of the nondenominational Cedar Ridge Community Church outside Washington, D.C.
The emergent church leader also gave his opinion of why mainline churches are in decline. McLaren said that while evangelicals are rigid in doctrine but flexible in their methodology, mainlines are more flexible in theology but rigid in their practice.
He suggested that the mainline become more flexible in practice while evangelicals "loosen up" on some of their doctrinal system.
"What I'm noticing is when we stop preaching Christianity as a religion…and we start inviting people to be followers Jesus and present Jesus and His way as part of this beautiful story of the Kingdom of God, a lot of our Christians who have left are drawn back," he said.
McLaren is currently on a book tour for his new book, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope. He will next hit Dallas, Texas, on Feb. 22-23 and St. Petersburg, Fla. at the end of the month before returning to the Washington, D.C. area to continue the book tour on Mar. 7-8.