*This is part 2 of 4
Everyone, at some level, functions as a member of both communities and societies. You go to school (society), but you have your group of friends (community). You work a job (society), so that you can feed your family (community). It doesn’t matter if you grew up in the great depression or if you are now growing up in the great recession, you belong to both types. However, even though members of all generations have belonged to each association, the values that they have placed on these two associations have changed dramatically over the years.
The generation of the 50’s and 60’s, the so-called greatest generation, had a cultural philosophy that was dominated by modernism. Modernism believed in the improvement of the world, through science, industry and the betterment of the self. In other words, it was you moral duty to be the best person you could be. During this time civic participation blossomed. People wanted to build a better world, so they got involved in politics and social institutions. Modernists placed a high value on society. Even though they still enjoyed a sense of community, modernists were society builders.
Taking a look at today’s world we see that a cultural transformation has taken place. Now postmodernism rules the day. In postmodernism, individualism thrives. Life isn’t so much about making the world a better place as it is about pursuing the things that make you happy. It’s about deconstructing and examining societal norms. In postmodernism we are encouraged to accept people no matter who or what they are. Under these conditions, if society was a stock it would be at an all-time low. Community is the word of the day. In fact, the concept of community has been exaggerated to the point that it now breaks traditional definitions. For example, Facebook is now considered a community, even though it breaks the mold of traditional definitions. (This might be a subject of another blog-post)
Because each generation sees the world differently, they place different values on the importance of society. This creates a problem when this comes to the church, because the church functions as both a community and a society. It takes elements of both associations to make it work, but these elements must be kept in balance and be motivated in love and humility. I believe that a lot of the resentment that is associated with “religion” comes from too high of a value being placed on the societal aspects of the church.
In a cultural philosophy that enjoys society building, man-made rules are par for the course. In this atmosphere leaders can demand obedience to certain behaviors that are not spiritual significant, but instead are culturally important. For example, dressing up for church is something that this generation doesn’t really understand. To many older pastors that has caused much frustration, but the truth is there is no biblical command to wear a tie to church. Another major source of conflict is the that the church is perceived as caring more about building its own kingdom, than it is reaching out to the homeless and hungry. This perception may not always be accurate in every church, but in the not so distant past, there was a push to run our churches more like a business. In this climate, pastors became CEOs and the goal was to build the biggest church and the most dynamic ministries possible. During this time, the church tended to be more focused on internal things and less on external things, like feeding the hungry.