Reaching Postmoderns Without Losing Your Way


Mark Tabb

Moody, 2004, 153 pp.   ISBN 0802442935


Tabb is a pastor in Indiana who has written for, Leadership, Discipleship Journal, Christian Parenting Today, and www.pastors.com.  If the postmodern landscape looks like Oz to you, this book will provide a roadmap. 


“Everything around us has changed.  The new world swallowed our old world, leaving us dazed, confused, isolated—and most of us want to find a way home.” (19) “Whether we like it or not, we’re now ambassadors of Christ to this world.” (21)  “Authenticity is the key to effectiveness in Oz.” (21)


Postmodernism is a unique way of comprehending reality.  It is “a world without a center.” “Cultures are based on underlying ethics and morals which are connected to a center like spokes to a hub.  In the Western world the hub has been God, truth, reason, government and science.  In the view of postmoderns, all have failed as a true center, a final answer, to give meaning to all of life.


Oz believes everything has been tried and nothing works.  Having given up on THE meaning of life, they hope to find some meaning for their own lives.  “The result looks a lot like anarchy—at least moral and ethical anarchy.” (28)


Like missionaries to a foreign country, missionaries to Oz have to train their minds to understand the culture.   


“Rather than choose one concept of right and wrong or one standard, all worldviews are welcome.”  “When it comes to what is normal or abnormal, people want both/’and, not either/or.  We’re open to every possibility.”  “Openness…is the great insight of our time.  The true believer is the real danger.” (33, quoting Allan Bloom)


They reject the notion that one concept of truth is adequate to explain everything.  (33)  “An ‘absolute truth’ which supersedes all other truth cannot be found.”  “The modern world ended when people stopped looking for a single answer to the meaning of life.”  People are now open to an ever-expanding variety of small explanations.”  “Everyone is free to choose his own path.”  “Truth is a very personal matter.”  “And they apply this approach to everything.”  (34)


“We are alone in the universe.  No higher power is out there….  Today, people realize their need for a belief in God more than ever before.”  “They want God…but the don’t want traditional religion.  They don’t want to have to choose between being a Christian or a Buddhist.  Instead they choose both.”  (34-34) 


“In Oz, every issue comes down to my own personal choice.” (36) “Of course, in the end, trying to choose everything ends up being a choice for nothing.”  “Deep down, people in this land are convinced that nothing is real, nothing is true, and nothing matters.  Even still, they embrace everything, behaving as though their personal preferences of truth validate themselves.” (37-38)


“…no one really knows what is real.  It’s not just that people cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality.  Many do not want to know the difference.  There’s both an element of deception and self-delusion where what is real is steadily replaced by what postmodern philosophers call hyper-reality.” (42)  “In a media-saturated world, we lose the ability to discern what is real and what isn’t.” (42)


Blurring of reality and fantasy cause people to become skeptical and suspicious of almost everything.  Are news reports biased?  Did man really walk on the moon?  In this kind of world, hyper-reality can create a world of happiness.  “As the copies of reality become their own reality, the real world begins to look less and less real.” (44-5)


“They say that all language is merely a grid placed upon reality in an attempt to reduce it down to an understandable size.  To them, all words are little more than meaningless noise to which we have assigned artificial meaning.”  (46)


“No one in Oz asks what is true.  What is real is the question.”  “They long for something permanent, something genuine, something that looks even better once the wrapping has been stripped away.” (46)


“People in Oz want to experience all that life can be—to immerse themselves in it and feel a rush of adrenaline and a pounding heartbeat.” (50) “In the postmodern world, the greatest commodity is experience.”  “We’ve moved from an emphasis on information to immersion in the thing itself.  Everything has to be hands-on, high-touch, high-participation.” (53)  “The longing for experience is simply a priority, and it permeates every aspect of life.” (55)


“With nothing to anchor a life upon, people are left wandering around in the dark, searching for something, anything, that will make them feel alive.”  “Deep down inside every human being, regardless of the age in which he lives, there is a longing to make sense of life and make it count beyond our earthly existence.” (56)


“People aren’t looking for information about God.  They want to experience God, Himself.  Information leaves them bored, uninterested.  Experience, especially the ultimate experience any human being can ever have, leaves them breathless.  And that’s exactly what we have to offer.” (57)


“When it comes to talk about Jesus and the Bible and believing in God, our persuasion is very modern.”  We think that when all the facts are known, believing in Jesus makes sense.  It’s the only reasonable choice.  “No one in Oz thinks like this.  When people don’t believe in the existence of absolute truth, then our appeals to logic and reason won’t make any sense.”  “And in the postmodern world, most people’s brains are wired for pictures, not information.”  “No one understands what we’re trying to say because they can’t see it.” (61)


“People in the postmodern world think in terms of images, and they communicate using stories.”  “But tell them stories of real people in the real world, and you have their undivided attention.” (63)  “God chose to write the Bible as a story.”  Jesus told stories.  The Bible already speaks the language of Oz with its story, mystery, and images.  Our greatest need is to learn to speak it as well.” (65)


Most Christians are afraid to try to engage postmoderns with the gospel.  And we don’t understand what we have to offer.  Yet the postmodern world hungers for the very thing God offers through the gospel.  (72-76)


He is the one thing we can offer that they can’t live without.  “Those who would follow Jesus don’t just have to be willing to die for Him.  They surrender their entire lives—their hopes, their dreams, their plans, their possessions, their talents, everything that makes them who they are—to the One who says, ‘Follow Me.’” (79) This extreme faith is the message to Oz. (80)


Most people do not understand who Jesus is.  He was a subversive, a revolutionary, a radical.  He called for a life of complete surrender and total commitment.  Before I call others to Him, I have to follow Him this way!  (82)


Why does anything exist rather than nothing?  This and other great philosophical questions leave the residents of Oz uncomfortable.  Their view of the world doesn’t explain it.  “Deep down they long for something real—they long for meaning and purpose in life.  Yet their worldview tells them that there is no meaning.  There is no purpose.” (90) The Bible story gives the answer, real insight into why we are what we are. (92)


Most see Christianity as a religion of don’ts and this is a barrier to Oz.  But the gospel offers three things the world can’t give: value, purpose, and freedom.  “In short, a relationship with Christ would provide them with an identity and sense of worth that they’ve never known before.” (97)


They aren’t looking for the meaning of life but for meaning and purpose in life.  The gospel message says, “You matter; you have value and God has a purpose for you.” (100) “Jesus came to set us free to embrace our identity and value as a part of God’s family.”  “Within our freedom in Christ is the liberty to fully express the image of God in us through every means possible.” (101)


“Making disciples in the postmodern world cannot be reduced to a program.” (107)  “The primary method…is by becoming painfully authentic.  We have to be real before our words will mean a thing.  Even then the message of our life must be much louder than the words coming out of our mouths.”  (110)


“At its most basic level, being real means living a moral life, …but this barely scratches the surface.”  Small compromises, shading the truth, complacency, narcissism, anything that exhibits an unbelieving worldview discredits us.  “To be a Christian means loving the Lord more than anything else in the world.”  “Being real means taking these words seriously and putting them into practice.” (111)


This includes a passion for His Word.  “Bible-believing churches are filled with people who don’t read the Bible.”  “As biblical illiteracy grows, people who claim to be born-again believers become more and more indistinguishable from the world in the way they think and act.” (112)


“If we are ever going to impact Oz, we must be different.”  (113)


“We need to carry on genuine conversations with the people we hope to reach.”  “Honest, authentic conversations about God and Christ are difficult, messy, and risky.” (113)  “The canned approach [which puts off their questions] implies that we have something to fear from an honest interchange of ideas.” (114)


“People today are more open to talking about spiritual matters than any time I can remember, but no one wants to listen to a lecture from a ‘God expert.’” (114)


“Oz is filled with people who aren’t easy to love.” “Putting the love of Christ into action is ‘an attempt to move over and sit in the other person’s place and see how his problems look to him.’  It looks at people as individuals, not projects, recognizing their great value as bearers of the image of God.” (120)


“Every day God brings unlovable people across our paths.  If we listen closely we can hear Him whisper, ‘Let me love him through you.’” (121)


Our best argument is a loving, loyal Christian community.  Postmoderns are often converted to the group before they are converted to Christ.  (122)


We are not to be of this world, but we have to get in it.  “We cannot hide from our culture and change it at the same time.” (129) Popular culture expresses many ideas and questions about God and sin and the Bible.  Dialogue with unbelievers can be a point of common ground that will allow us to share the gospel.  (131)


“Living as a missionary to Oz means more than living a good Christian life in view of our unbelieving friends and neighbors.  It demands that we extend Christ’s lordship over every part of our lives, letting our talents and abilities actively display the power of the living God.” (135)


Appendix A provides a list of recommended books on postmodernism

Appendix B offers suggestions on how to watch for the way media portrays biblical themes.