In reading an excellent book on a narrative history of mission, Constants in Context, the authors offer their advice to those wishing to do mission cross-culturally. Their encouragements equally apply to those moderns who seek to do (or support) ministry to postmoderns (those who live within an artistic, communal, holistic and spiritual way of life).
Bevans and Schroeder encourage a spirituality that allows faith in Christ and non-faith to encounter each other. It is a spirituality of 'letting go' and 'speaking out', and it functions differently for outsiders (moderns) and insiders (postmoderns).
"For outsiders, the main spiritual task in the inculturation process is letting go -- of superiority, of power, of illusions they understand a culture, of illusions that theirs is the true understanding of Christianity. Only after years of listening, learning, and being evangelized by the context in which they live as strangers and guests might they dare speak out with suggestions for inculturation or with critiques of the context."
In my interviews with senior leaders and Emerging Church leaders, I have seen this to be the case -- where modern leaders came with a teachable and supporting spirit, allowing new expressions of church to exist for several years with very few questions, emerging leaders thrive. Where modern leaders think they understand postmodern culture, or that their modern perspectives of Christianity are absolute and superior, or that leadership is not to be shared with those of different perspectives, then emerging leaders are forced to deny their culture, oppose their pastor, or leave.
This word equally applies to those moderns who are planting churches within postmodern culture -- they must come humbly, recognizing that much of their understanding of their faith is cultural. They must listen for years before speaking, with the understanding that that they are guests.
Bevans and Schroeder also have encouragements for insiders to the culture. "The main spiritual task is to speak out -- to have confidence in themselves and in their own understandings of their cultural and/or social context, and to risk ways of encounter between gospel and context. Only very slowly should they heed criticism of their culture and let go of their intuitions and instincts."
Insiders must feel free to create within that culture, to speak out from within. As insiders, they can push hard on the sides, offering prophetic embrace and critique as those who are truly part of that community. Outsiders may offer support to insiders in this creative task. Where this kind of rare support happens, amazing ministries within postmodern culture are planted.
Bevans and Schroeder conclude, "It is in such prophetic dialogue (between faith in Christ and non-faith) that local communities and their leadership -- whether insiders or outsiders -- will discover new ways of living, witnessing to and proclaiming the good news of healing, reconciliation, and new life."
Amen, let it be so!