A couple of
months ago, Kevin Miller, Executive Editor of
Preaching Today.com and editor-at-large of
Leadership Journal, offered the Emerging Church Community (and
any other interested parties)
Nomo Pomo – a Postmodern Rant. Kevin’s piece precipitated quite
a bit of discussion in the pomoChrisitian thoughtspace, with
Next-Wave publisher Charlie Wear,
Andrew Jones (tall skinny kiwi),
author Andrew Carega,
some of the faithmappers,
and a number of others. Author and Pastor Chris Seay responded
Is Pomo Nomo and Kevin followed all this up with a whole bunch
of gracious emails and the delightfully entitled
Pomos vs. Mods: The Smackdown.
In his first
article, Kevin mentioned his intention to visit the
2003 Emergent Convention and, as a consequence,
Chris Seay urged Kevin to buy him lunch. I thought it might be
interesting to touch base with Kevin after the Convention.
response to your "Nomo Pomo—a Postmodern Rant" surprise you?
To be honest,
I didn’t write it for others; I wrote it as therapy for myself. I
was reading a recent pomo-ministry book, and the accumulated
overstatements, hype, and attacks on the modern evangelical church
finally exasperated me. In a fit of pique, I ranted. Then I showed
the rant to my friend,
Marshall Shelley, editor of
and asked, “Am I the only one who feels this way?” Marshall was just
gutsy or foolish enough to
The strength of the
piece was that it captured my raw emotion; the weakness of the piece
was that it captured my raw emotion. It was a Molotov cocktail. So I
can’t be surprised that it started fires of anger and consternation.
How many columns or articles or blogs have you read
I think I’ve
read about 7 or 8 blogs, and 3 or 4 articles. The blogs tended to be
more pointed, while the articles were calmer defenses or replies.
Do you know
how many emails or letters Leadership Journal received in response?
I personally read
and replied to 81.
If you wrote it
again today, would you change anything?
I already have
changed some things. In
a follow-up I tried to adopt a calmer tone and point out things
I appreciate in the postmodern-ministry movement:
biggest changes I would make would be two.
One, I would
acknowledge just how diverse and loose the postmodern-ministry
“movement” is. A movement implies coordinated effort in a single
direction, which may not be the case. Some of the central figures
I’ve talked to eschew the word “movement” and strongly prefer
“conversation.” The fact is, there are so many definitions and
definers of postmodern ministry that it’s virtually impossible to
say anything about this conversation that applies to everyone in
Two, I would
acknowledge the gap between the philosophical foundations of
postmodernism and the practice of its ministry proponents. The
relativism of postmodern-ministry is a relative relativism; it’s
relative about some things and absolute about others. So my early
critiques of the philosophy missed where most people live, in an
altered form of that philosophy.
interested in hearing your personal reaction when you read Chris
Seay's response, “Is
Pomo Nomo?: A postmodern pastor reaches out to the Mod Squad,”
particularly when he offered, “Kevin, I'm offering to be your
friend; I'll take your back if you're suddenly surrounded by a group
of irate, goateed dissidents at the Emergent Convention who want to
carry you off and give you a prison tattoo that says ‘I Love Jacques
Derrida’ squarely on your modern tush."
anyone in the Emerging Church Movement that you would consider a
thought leader for yourself? What books have you read in this
I feel like I
stand with a foot in two worlds, the modern and postmodern, and so I
like writers who are bilingual, such as
Rick Richardson, author of
Evangelism Outside the Box
(InterVarsity). I also like authors who are humble,
Brian McLaren, and those who are primarily generative, such as
Dan Kimball. I’ve read from
Stories of Emergence; The Emerging Church;
A is for Abductive; The PostEvangelical;
Adventures in Missing the Point; and John Alexander’s
interesting anticipatory book, written a decade ago,
The Secular Squeeze. I should probably mention articles by
Rodney Clapp, with whom I disagree at points, and regular book
Books & Culture.
protean, so I’ve learned less about it from fixed forms like books
and much more about it from fluid forms—conversations, blogs,
websites, and emails. Some of my favorite Webbers and bloggers are
Andrew Jones (Tall Skinny Kiwi),
Spencer Burke (The Ooze),
Charlie Wear (Next-Wave), and
Jim and Barb Henderson (Off-the-Map.org).
I still have a lot
of postmodernism (not pomoX) have you found most compelling?
G. K. Chesterton’s
St. Thomas Aquinas showed masterfully how Aquinas rescued
the church by defending the reality of nature, perception, and
common sense. To retreat from that victory is, quite literally,
What critique of
the Emergers have you found most compelling?
Maybe I just don’t
know where to read, but I have not read compelling critiques of the
emergent-ministry conversation. Most are over-reactions (“They’re
undermining everything we stand for!”) or facile (“It’s a
generational thing”) or not well-informed. I’m happy for someone
else to offer a thoughtful critique that I think respect for
emergent-ministry demands. If no one else does it, I may try. I’ve
been working on an early collection of musings that may be published
Leadership Weekly this month. My mission is not to be a critic,
but to raise questions that I hope will help everyone who cares
about the emergent conversation.
Tell me about
your experience at Chris Seay's session at the Emergent Conference?
Did you guys get to spend any time? How was that?
invited me to join his general session. At the session, Chris
pointed out that the Reformers smashed statues, painted over icons,
and cut the eyes out of religious tapestries. With that historical
example, what should (postmodern) reformers of the church break and
not break? Then Chris asked various people, including me, to stand
and answer that question in 2-3 minutes.
Some people said we
should get rid of youth ministry; others that we should get rid of
preaching; others that we should demand the
Christian Booksellers Association stores carry books published
YS/Emergent, or else boycott those stores. It was heady,
incendiary, revolutionary—and in my view, completely over the top.
What did I say? I
merely urged the group, which has done such a wonderful job
listening to the postmodern nonChristian, to try to listen as well
to the modern Christian.
I'd love to hear
about your experience at the conference in general? Was this your
first pomoX conference?
conversations were great; the worship experience was mixed for me.
For example, I didn’t find vespers more meaningful by watching the
videos of Hitler’s shock troops. I already know we live in a dark
world. Worship helps me remember we live in a greater, more lasting
world of light.
My first conference
was maybe 12 or 15 years ago, back when there was a group called
Young Leaders Network forming at
Leadership Network. I remember being in a discussion group in
which Mark Driscoll and Chris Seay (I think) participated.
How did this
movement first hit your radar screen?
At that conference,
I realized that for some of our most gifted young leaders, there was
no more business as usual.
How do you
respond to Charlie Wear who in response to your article writes:
"Maybe what we need is a little less discussion of leadership
processes and how to transition your congregation, and more about
how to tear the entire institution down to its foundations and start
I didn’t advocate
“discussion of leadership processes and how to transition your
congregation,” so I’m not sure what Charlie was responding to. My
guess is he’s using that phrase as a quick summary of how clueless
modernist evangelical leaders can be; they don’t understand that a
new world is coming or has come, and he thinks I’m one of those. If
that’s what he’s saying, I actually believe that a more secularized
world with a new worldview is already here, and that many existing
models won’t connect with it. Where I probably disagree with Charlie
is that I don’t think the modern evangelical church is as bad as
most pomo folks say. They keep describing a church that is quite
unlike any I’ve attended.
experience at Emergent change your perspective? How so?
It gave me great
excitement over the evangelistic passion many people have; they
truly want to reach people today and are willing to try many
innovative approaches to do that.
It also gave me
great concern that the roots of the “conversation” don’t go
historically deep enough. For all the appropriation of medieval
services, there’s not enough drawing from the wisdom of Christian
tradition. We don’t have to reinvent everything, and by listening to
the saints, we can avoid some of the highly questionable
philosophical assumptions being put forth.
Who were the 1,2
or 3 most interesting people you met there and why?
I didn’t meet
anyone who wasn’t interesting to me.
What do the
Emergers have to teach the larger Evangelical Community?
1. “The world is
2. “Listen to
3. “You’re on the
cutting edge of irrelevance to many.”
4. “Be a little
more humble. Okay, be a lot more humble.”
Is there any
baby that you are concerned is being thrown out with bathwater?
conviction. In order to avoid the hubris that often comes from the
evangelical church, many folks are now getting squishy on things
they should not be squishy about, including the authority of
Scripture, the uniqueness of Christ, and the value of the Bible’s
sexual ethic. If we lose those, we lose the Gospel.