Saturday, March 8, 2008

mcLaren on ministry to children

Some years ago, Brian McLaren came to speak at our mission's annual staff conference. For those of you who are not familiar with McLaren: he is a prominent voice calling for change among American evangelical Christians. He has authored several books dealing with the general cultural shift towards postmodernity and some possible Christian responses to this shift.

He has many critics and many groupies, but all agree: Christians must engage in serious thought, given the postmodern context in which we live. For all his short-comings, I must say I appreciate McLaren's contributions to the dialogue taking place now on these issues. I admire his mind that draws from many disciplines. I admire his humility (even though he can make some very polemic statements). But, most of all, I admire the fact that he (along with others) are attempting to take a close look at the many, many areas that need re-thinking, if Christianity is to thrive in a postmodern context.

At the conference some years ago, McLaren did a masterful job of speaking on a large variety of issues and sub-issues. He sounded off on biblical interpretive literalism, alternate narratives of the gospel, homosexuality, collaborative leadership, discipleship and evangelism. Towards the end of the week, there was time set aside for a Q & A wherein the conference attendees could ask McLaren whatever outstanding questions they had on their minds that were either prompted by things he said earlier in the week or were as yet unaddressed issues.

During this Q & A, one woman stood up and asked, "Could you speak to the issue of ministry to children in a postmodern context? If what you've been saying is true, this needs some serious thought, doesn't it?"

At this point McLaren paused and soberly said that that was one area about which he had little to say. He explained that, to his knowledge, no one was as yet putting focused thought into children's ministry in the "new ministry matrix". How, indeed, do we minister to kids in a postmodern world? What will be required of us to help the church make this shift, to equip the next generation to live out their faith in a postmodern world?

This was the gist of what he said. And there was nothing more.

His response sent a chill up my spine. Remembering it now still gives me the shivers.

People of God, what are we doing for the sake of the little ones? I wish to say this as gently and humbly as possible: it is time for us to wake up. We can no longer ignore the debt of love we owe to those who will carry the torch of faith in our stead. Something must be done, and today is the day. Let us arise; let us show the children we care.

For that reason, the next few posts on t(r)oymarbles will be dedicated to the church's future: the children. Some of the posts will deal with "the need" and some posts will contain some thoughts on possible solutions. If you know of someone who would benefit from this theme, why not direct them this way?

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