A disappointing thought crossed my mind as I drove home early Saturday morning from a late night out. (The late night BTW was much less harmless than it sounds. My wife and I attended a high school musical in support of a friend, and we stayed up late conversing about different subjects.)

What if, on the whole, the United Methodist church can not reach postmodernists? I mean simply can not do it. What if the things that make a worship United Methodist are exactly those things the postmodernist revolts from?

I began thinking about the church reaching the postmodernist, and recalled conversations that I’ve either witnessed or been a part of. They all go something like this:

UM Pastor: “You say that the service doesn’t speak to you, but give me an example of how would you change it?”

Postmodernist: “There needs to be more music. It needs to be cool, not boring. Hip! It needs to be more emotional and less institutional.”

UM Pastor: “But those are not specific examples of what you would change about the service today. I understand what you said, but I don’t understand how you want us to do that.”

The conversation usually goes down hill from there, with the postmodernist trying desperately to explain what hip and cool means and how they could be so very moved if it were done better. Both parties walk away having no idea what the other meant.

I’ve heard at least one pastor explain this as, “They aren’t able to explain what they want.” That baffles me, as I’m pretty sure I just saw human beings who speak the same language converse about what they want. This ends up sounding like the modernist saying they are open and willing to improve the worship experience, as long as they don’t have to change anything about it at all. Why can’t you just be happy with the way it is now?

To me it comes down to this: The answer that modernists are looking for is which portions of the service today need be changed to reach postmodernists, without changing or losing the structure of the worship? What the postmodernist is trying to answer politely – everything. That being said, I’m sure there is a middle ground. I believe that churches that are successful in reaching postmodernists are those finding ways to say yes rather than no, and still hold in their hearts the significance of denominational traditions. Those that tie the significance of a worship service too tightly to the rigid procedural tradition may have a really tough time reaching postmodernists.

Where does your church apply the significance of worship? The process, or the expression? Are they doing church, or being the church?