ive years ago, the Trans-European Division (TED) of Seventh-day Adventists decided to tackle the problems of declining church attendance, membership, and what church leaders there termed “the general noninvolvement and disinterest of an ever-increasingly secular-minded world.” Under the direction of TED communication director Miroslav Pujic, LIFEdevelopment.info was born—and it has become a force in the Adventist church in Europe to reach today’s postmodern culture.
The Georgia-Cumberland Conference (GCC) is now initiating similar programs in its territory. Pujic, now also director of ministry to postmoderns for TED, has so far this year held two LIFEdevelopment seminars in the Atlanta area, with a third scheduled for spring 2007.
“Postmoderns value the process of participation rather than finding ‘the answer,’” Pujic explains. “Instead of one universal truth, they find significance in many little truths. Instead of programs, they are more interested in discovery.”
Pujic describes postmoderns as not being isolationists but valuing community, belonging, and friendship over wealth and prosperity. Most are technologically savvy and highly interactive, not doing well in one-sided lectures.
“They are not interested in ‘religion,’ per se, but are intensely spiritual and open to spiritual things,” says Pujic. “Where a person of the modern age values individual pride, autonomy, and builds self-confidence, postmoderns find value in and admire self-sacrifice and selflessness, yet have anxiety over the ever-changing paradigm of their lives.”
Pujic explains that truth to a postmodern is relative; it is a reality based on personal life experience—whatever form that might take—and whatever is believed to be personal truth then becomes truth. Pujic summarizes the post-modern approach to truth this way: “If it’s true for me, then it is truth.” Because of this, he says, postmoderns are very open-minded, and acceptance comes easily. “They poke fun at one another, and affectionately spoof what moderns would define as serious issues,” he says.
Finding traditional sermons to be less effective for postmoderns, TED church leaders are looking for new ways to reach people with the gospel message, and LIFEdevelopment, they say, is building that bridge.
“The vision of LIFEdevelopment is to involve Adventists in building authentic friendships with unchurched, secular, and/or postmodern people, and in the process lead them to Jesus and provide them with hope through support and nurture,” Pujic says. “This type of evangelism is based on sharing your life, interests, and values with a postmodern person. The idea is to invite people into community with God and with each other.”
Describing the venue for evangelism as the workplace, retail stores, health clubs, the school, or the home, Pujic says that "in telling your story and becoming a friend, a safe environment is created in which a postmodern may explore spirituality.”
Pujic lists three environments in which LIFEdevelopment can be implemented: LIFEdevelopment small groups; LIFEdevelopment centers, which host larger groups and informal programs; and cyberspace with a forum in which people are invited to visit LIFEdevelopment.info and chat online about various topics.
|A NEW WAY TO WITNESS: Attendees at the LIFEdeveopment seminars held this year in Atlanta explored innovative ways to witness. [Photo: Wetmore]
Citing Barna’s book, The Second Coming of the Church,1 Bill Levin, church planting and evangelism coordinator for GC, says that many people today, especially teenagers, do not believe in “absolute moral truth” and think of the Bible as only a storybook. Following this theme, Levin explains, many are led to determine that there is no right or wrong, no sin, no judgment—and therefore no need of a Savior.
How is the Seventh-day Adventist church doing in attracting people of today’s culture and generation? is a question being asked by Pujic, Levin, and other church leaders. According to Pujic, many Protestant and Catholic churches in Europe are nearly empty or are being filled for uses other than worshipping God. “Could this happen in the United States?” Levin asks.
“Research tells us that eight out of every ten believers do not feel they have entered into the presence of God, or experienced a connection with Him, during the typical worship service,” 2 Levin says, and adds that persons in this category find they have little to share with others. Many church-attending Christians also believe that if they are not gifted for evangelism they do not have a responsibility to reach out to nonbelievers. Under such circumstances, church growth slows dramatically or disappears.
This seems to be a formula for ineffective church growth, Levin concludes. “What is even more frightening,” Levin says, “is to think that this is not a future prediction, but a present reality.” GCC is in the process of planning the first phase of a LIFEdevelopment center in Atlanta, Georgia. “With over 900 people moving into the Atlanta metropolitan area every day, we need to try new approaches to reach out to the postmodern culture,” says Levin. “By the General Conference session of 2010, which will be held in Atlanta, GCC would like to establish over 100 LIFEdevelopment groups.”
The next LIFEdevelopment conference will be held in Atlanta, March 9-11, 2007, and is open to anyone throughout the United States.To learn more, go to www.LIFEdevelopment.us, or contact Bill Levin at firstname.lastname@example.org. George Barna, The Second Coming of the Church, Word Publishing.
2. George Barna, Revolution, Tyndale House Publishers, p. 31.
3. Ibid., p. 32.