Saturday, February 09, 2008

New Baptist Covenant: A Postmodern Event?

Evaluation and response continues on the recent Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta. It is being compared to early meetings, but there are some who say that there is nothing in recent history to which we can compare it. I agree with the latter stance. I think we can make a pretty case that this was a truly postmodern meeting. What do I mean by this?
First, the NBCC was unlike most denominational meetings conducted in the modern era. It was not a linear activity. Those earlier meetings emphasized outcomes which were already clearly stated (or assumed) before the meeting even began. With this kind of thinking, participants would come away with a commitment to a particular program or activity (such as “Bold Mission Thrust—remember that?). There was a specific purpose to be achieved by the closing service. The emphasis at NBCC was more on process than outcome. Everyone keeps asking, “What next?” More important that the next step is that the first step was taken.

Second, the NBCC emphasized community more than agenda. Certainly, there was an agenda---that is, there were meetings with music, speakers, etc.—but the central focus was for people from many different backgrounds to come together in a worshipping community. It was about relationships, sharing with others, and being present together before God. It was a Baptist “meet-up” on a massive scale.

Third, although there was a metanarrative—“Jesus is Lord”—that overarching story was approached from many different perspectives. Everyone brought his or her story to the table and it was valued and respected. It was not assumed that everyone would be on the same page, and there was sufficient freedom to allow participants to express divergent views.

Some will say that this is very messy. My reply to this is, “Yes, seeking to follow Christ in the postmodern context is very messy.” Anytime we attempt to overcome barriers to join in Kingdom work, it will be messy . . . and fun.

1 comment:

Danny said...

I have yet to find a definition of "post-modern" to suit me, yet would agree that the NBC might well be messy to maintain. I am learning that the chaos might be worth it.

There will always differences to separate the Baptist brethern, but I don't sense there was a real effort to get beneath the "Jesus Christ is Lord" motto to address some of those areas. Broad themes might well be the ticket.

It might be worthwhile to do this every few years, like the Baptist World Alliance does.