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Monday, October 09, 2006

Wells on Postmodernity

Desiring God held their most recent conference "The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World" from September 29-October 1. Though I did not get to go to the conference, I have downloaded the messages (you can too.) and plan to offer a thought or two from each message.

If you are not familiar with David Wells (not that one, nor this one...but this one.), he's incredibly brilliant and has a very sharp wit. His book Above All Earthly Powers was the inspiration for the conference.

Wells kicked the conference off with his message, The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World. Wells calls the listener to delight in the "all-ready-not-yet" tension; that Christ is seated on the throne now but He is not yet manifesting all His authority in the world. As Wells lays out, this impacts the way we counsel during suffering, our motivation for seeing the world improve and obviously gives us our hope. Wells shares that much of the history of Christianity involved people being afraid of persecution. In the west, we do not fear not surviving, but we fear not succeeding. Our audience may not want to hear of a Christ above all, but our only message is of Christ as unique, central, indispensible, and supreme.

Though it was not a main point, in the midst of discussing the implications for seeing Christ's supremacy today, Well's mentions those who dilute this message to be less offensive. It's not that they change doctrine, it's just that they avoid certain teachings, to avoid alienating the post modern mindset. People interviewed the non-churched, found out they wanted to hear, and don't want to hear, and chose to determine their teaching by these findings.

However, 20 years later, Wells shares the result:
    45% of Americans consider themselves to be born again.
    Yet, less than 9% have a minimal understanding of what it means to live your life as a disciple.
In giving the unchurched what they want, all we have done is moved unregenerate people into our church building, but have not seen them submit to Christ.

Referencing statistics by Thom Rainer, Wells exposes what was wrong with asking the unsaved what they would tolerate hearing from a church. The problem? They are not our goal. If an unregenerate person is asked to give their unregenerate opinion of what they are looking for in a church, you simply increase the population of unregenerate people in our church. (If they even check out your church, which most do not, despite asking their opinion.) However, if one were to interview the recently converted, and were to ask them what it was that brought them to church, then you hit your target group. Your goal is to see people come to saving knowledge of Christ. Therefore, we shouldn't be interviewing those who don't know Christ yet, but rather, we should be interviewing those who recently made that transformation, and we should find out what things helped them do so.

Do you know what those people (recently converted and new to church) say brought them to church? According to Rainer's findings:
    90% say the preaching
    88% say they came to hear doctrine
In our attempt to preach a "more acceptable" Christ, we actually fail to give the lost person what he is truly seeking. But Wells continues by reminding the conference that even if the research were to show otherwise, we only have One Christ that we can preach; the Christ who is above all earthly powers. For that is the Christ of the Scriptures.


  • At 3:32 PM, Blogger TheReformedThinker said…

    Good post. One question...

    Although I love the answer to the survey of the recently converted person (emphasis on preaching and doctrine), my question is why do a survey of anyone?

    We don't need a survey of the churched, unchurched, meat eating christians or milk indulged believers to see what the "goal" of church should be. Hasn't God already laid that out for us in His Word? The goal of our lives and of the church is to bring Glory to the One who saved us and that is done soley through the preaching of the whole counsel of God. I don't need a survey to tell me that. In fact I would be rather frightened if my pastor all the sudden started teaching deep doctrine because a survey told him too. What happens when the survey tells him to stop preaching doctrine?

    Maybe it is because of the church I came from that I am so opposed to surveys of any kind, I have personally seen what spirtual destruction surveys have on people. I even oppose asking your sunday school teachers what curriculm do they want to use. I am not a pastor or an elder, I am a simple laymen who wants his sheperd to lead his sheep, not to have the sheep lead the shepered - and that is what a survey of any kind does.

  • At 6:02 PM, Blogger Brad said…

    Wells is right on point here. A God-pleasing methodolgy must be based in a proper Christology.

  • At 8:53 PM, Blogger danny2 said…


    it's not necessary, but it sure can be an encouragement when we see God's Word acted out among us.

    you're right, a pastor who is swayed by surveys has missed the point already...but when many respond simply to the surveys, it's nice when we have our own to share.

    to me, it's like apologetics. most apologetics are not really there to convince the non-believer (for it is the Spirit that draws the person, not our clever argument), most apologetics exist to encourage and embolden the believer.

    see the survey the same way. it's not intended to convince the survey driven pastor to get deeper...it's meant to encourage a pastor that wants to honor God by being faithful to the Word, yet at times gets weak from criticism, marketing strategies, larger churches and other statistics. at least, that's what it did for this pastor.

  • At 10:30 PM, Blogger TheReformedThinker said…

    I see your point bro...guess I need more distance between my bad experience with them.

    I certainly don't think you would ever be swayed by a survey. If ever you need encouragement take comfort in this. Though you are a year younger then me, I have always looked up to your walk with the Lord - even growing up.


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