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Lessons from the Postmodern Web

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  1. Lessons from the Postmodern Web Paul Kulp, PhDWeb Services Group

  2. Introduction • The Church has adapted new forms in response to the shifts of postmodern culture. • Some of these new forms are making effective use of the web in ways that we can all learn from.

  3. FYI • This is an interactive seminar • So ask questions • Please • U don’t want to listen to me the whole time • PPT slides and list of presentation URLs at www.paulkulp.com

  4. About Me • 10 yrs working with the webwww.wsg.net • 10 yrs working with Gospelcom members & websites • 2 yrs in emerging churchwww.noshoesrequired.org • Postmodern?

  5. About You? • Take away? • How postmodern are you? Your organization? • “postmodern” beliefs?

  6. Postmodern slices • Postmodernism is the cultural worldview that now penetrates and owns our society. • This worldview deeply values the following: spirituality, pluralism, the experiential, relativity, altruism, community, creativity, the arts, environmentalism, globality, holism, and authenticity. • In many ways we are transitioning away from the "modern" values of rationalism, science, dogmatism, individualism, pragmatism, capitalism, nationalism, compartmentalism, and veneered religiosity. • http://www.mosaicfw.org/

  7. Postmodern slices • We are witnessing a broad based backlash against reason in our culture. • Rejecting objective truth is the cornerstone of postmodernism. • … postmodernists reject the whole language of truth and reality in favor of literary terms like narrative and story. It's all about interpretation, not about what's real or true. • Postmodernism: The 'Spirit of the Age', By Jim Leffel

  8. Postmodern slices • … This openness to postmodern ideas makes many conservative Christians nervous. Indeed, the postmodern set often criticizes aspects of evangelical culture, and the pomo vocabulary sounds impenetrable to evangelicals' ears. • Christianity Today

  9. Postmodern slices • The postmodern cultural context is very similar to that of the New Testament. Therefore we believe that God's message will not only survive, but will thrive in this cultural milieu. • Moreover, since many of these values are intrinsic to the Christian worldview, the church can use them as a bridge to our culture and society. • We also understand and affirm that some postmodern values and ideas are in dynamic tension with Christianity, and we seek to gently but firmly challenge these, both in ourselves and in our culture • Mosaic Fort Worth • http://www.mosaicfw.org/

  10. Postmodern slices • Modernism changed the world. Nothing can take us back to the way it was before. … • … Because of modernism—the naïve thinking that assumes that if, without God, we just keep applying reason, we can get to the bottom of everything—we think differently, we experience relationships differently. • Chris Simmons in Christianity Today

  11. Postmodern slices • … postmodernism claims that modernism is over and something new is happening. One aspect of this vague new thing is an increased hunger for spirituality. • What has been a persistent trickle of "new age" interest for a few decades has now broadened into a stream and includes people for whom the usual "new agey" forms are too foreign. • They want to be spiritual in a way that is somewhat Christian, but they are allergic to the idea of biblical truth and don't want to be told God's views on sin and morality. • Frederica Mathewes-Green in Christianity Today

  12. Postmodern slices That which is, already has been That which is to be, already isand God seeks out what has gone by. • Ecclesiastes 3:15 (NRSV)

  13. Postmodern Web • Same technology? • Different worldview? • Different objectives? • Different audience?What can we learn?

  14. #1: Interest trumps presentation • The look matters, but not as much as the content ex. hollywoodjesus, google groups, blogs • I’ll go to the ugliest site in the world if it has what I’m looking for. • If it interests me, I might stick around. • What are people looking for? Does my website offer anything that anyone wants to read?

  15. #1: Interest trumps presentation… • Searching for the questions • What are people looking for? • Google like God? • Tune for questions

  16. #2: Building villages, not castles • Modernity likes castles • Towering websites stand as emblems of the corporate identity. Projection of size and power, strength, structure, etc. • Postmoderns view corporations as impersonal, aggressive, selfish, evil entities set only on their own gain. Why do we want to look like that? • ex. www.ginkworld.net (interior)

  17. #2: Build villages, not castles… • Corporate vs. Communal • Statements developed by committee, lack power, grace, authenticity. Careful “official” language comes off cold and sterile – or commercial. Mono-personality turns inert/cold.ex. www.ginkworld.net (intro statement) • Sometimes when we work to preserve the corporate identity, the message gets cropped. • Consider small footprint websites with a distributed common message. Lots of them. • Blog villages? www.emergingchurch.info/blogs/

  18. #3: Share your toys • Linking to related sites, even “competitors”. Everyone benefits from the cross traffic & SEO promotion. • A link is not an endorsement, it’s a service. ex. www.emergentvillage.com=> Communicate => Emergent Web • Encourage Freelance Cooperation

  19. #3: Share your toys… • Share the spotlight • Turn your customers into evangelists (sharing spotlight, building relationship) ex. www.relevantmagazine.com • Traffic sharing • Generous cross linking • Practical coordination • Resource sharing • Worship ideas/visuals • Free graphics • Give-away media?

  20. #3: Share your toys… • What contributions are accepted? • Money? Time? Art? Words? Thoughts? • Sharing media, creative production ex. www.emergingminister.comvideos, graphics, etc

  21. #4: Metaphor clarifies • Why does everyone use “cart” or “basket” metaphors? • The modern world was organized with “vision statements”. The postmodern world prefers metaphor. • What metaphor(s) do you use to describe your web efforts? How does it drive your decisions? • Example: technology as gasolineconserve, too much can burn, not all at once, work horse

  22. #4: Metaphor clarifies… • Metaphor will prove the primary voice for the future church. • Something big is happening. Bigger than what we're doing. Bigger than what we're predicting. We can't see where it's leading us, but we can certainly see "We're not in Kansas anymore.“. . . or in "Christendom." • Dr. Thomas Hohstadtwww.futurechurch.net

  23. #4: Metaphor clarifies… • Competing web metaphors • edifice vs meeting place • image vs statement • engage vs proclaim • enable vs enforce • coordinate vs project • belong vs believe • committee vs community • join us vs. support us • pulpit vs. couch

  24. #5: Many strands, One thread • Many authors, many people points • ex. Thousands of bloggers discussing the emergent church. • Encourage networks of sites that further your mission. Get new ones started, link to them, (occasionally) share the spotlight with them (blog of the week). • Cultivate many authors – may they grow like weeds • ex. www.thinkchristian.net

  25. #6: Open is more appealing • Postmodern types are very sensitive to close-minded people. Unfortunate Christian stereotype that they are all “close-minded” and think they’re always right. • ex. Planning blogs – open source planning • Don’t live up to the stereotypes. • Closed minds make closed ears.

  26. #7: Authentic is the real thing • Our culture bombarded us with fake. Everything is made up, retouched, covered over & color corrected. • None of us has it all together, none of our organizations have it right all the time. • Let God be god and admit that we are only human.

  27. #8: There is always another point of view • Your perspective doesn’t matter because… • Seek out the perspective of those with very different viewpoints. • What is your most hostile audience? • What ammunition do you give them? • What criticisms have value? • What would you most like to say to them?ex. response to critics of emergent

  28. #9: Community by connections • Web as a meeting place • Meeting with a common purpose => Community? • Planning meetings • Use your website to connect your whole staff to your missionmultiple people threads (not just web dept) • When in doubt, do what you love • Focus on areas and topics that interest you & your staff – most benefit, authenticity

  29. #10: Learn the language • Things are not always what they seem • Moderns convince through logic & reason. • Postmoderns will often take the most obnoxious opposing position so they can observe your reaction & defense. • Cultivate open environments where offenders are treated with grace and care, rather than vitriol. Mind the lurkers. • The most vehement arguers are sometimes close to a change.Give them a dignified “path to belief”.

  30. The Argument • Man: I came here for a good argument. • Arguer: No you didn't, you came here for an argument. • Man: Well, an argument isn’t just contradiction. • Arguer: It can be. • Man: No it can't. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition. • Arguer: No it isn't. • Man: Yes it is. It’s not just contradiction. • Arguer : Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position. • Man: But it isn't just saying "No it isn't". • Arguer : Yes it is. • Monty Pythonhttp://www.infidels.org/news/atheism/sn-python.html

  31. #10: Learn the language… • Careful confrontation • Christ-like dialog • No flame-baiting • Plainer language • If it doesn’t matter, don’t endorse it (politics?) • more entry paths • paths to belief

  32. Opportunity or Responsibility? “This is just a culture like any other culture in which God’s people have lived and our job now is to be faithful in this changing circumstance.”Wittenburg Door, Sept 2005

  33. Interest in spirituality • “Do you feel the need to experience spiritual growth in the next year, or not?” • 1994: 58% of Americans said “yes” • 2005: 78% of Americans said “yes” • ex. www.technorati.com

  34. “We’re on a mission from God” We practice our faith missionally – that is, we do not isolate ourselves from this world, but rather, we follow Christ into the world. We believe the church exists for the benefit and blessing of the world at large; we seek therefore not to be blessed to the exclusion of everyone else, but rather for the benefit of everyone else. We see the earth and all it contains as God’s beloved creation, and so we join God in seeking its good, its healing, and its blessing. http://www.emergentvillage.com http://www.worldonfire.ca

  35. What about Gospelcom? • More “small” organizations • Different image of a “member” • More cooperative atmosphere • More blogs?

  36. Questions? • Email: paul@wsg.net • PPT & links at www.paulkulp.com