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Preaching to a Postmodern World: A Guide to Reaching Twenty-first Century Listeners [Paperback]

By Graham Johnston (Author) & Haddon Robinson (Foreword by)
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Item description for Preaching to a Postmodern World: A Guide to Reaching Twenty-first Century Listeners by Graham Johnston & Haddon Robinson...

Challenges pastors to maintain the biblical message while investigating fresh means of communicating truth to postmodern listeners.

Publishers Description
While growing churches dot our urban centers and country landscapes, church-goers and students today are actually less likely to maintain a Christian worldview than in the past. In fact, the majority of society does not even believe in objective truth. A minister out of touch with this culture is like an uninformed missionary trying to teach in a foreign country. To communicate God's Word effectively in the twenty-first century, teachers need to know how to connect with and confront an audience of postmodern listeners.
In Preaching to a Postmodern World, Johnston shows pastors, seminary students, professors, lay teachers, and church leaders can reach the present age without selling out to it. The book discusses how to:
- distinguish between modernism and postmodernism
- understand postmodern worldviews
- change the style of preaching without compromising the substance
- take advantage of new opportunities provided by the cultural shift
- show an inattentive society the relevance of God's truth
The author's keen insights into contemporary pop and media culture also help equip speakers to address today's listeners with clarity and relevance.

Awards and Recognitions
Preaching to a Postmodern World: A Guide to Reaching Twenty-first Century Listeners by Graham Johnston & Haddon Robinson has received the following awards and recognitions -
  • Preaching Book of the Year - 2001 Winner - Book of the Year category

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Baker Books
Pages   189
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9" Width: 6.02" Height: 0.56"
Weight:   0.65 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 1, 2001
Publisher   Baker Publishing Group
Edition  Reprinted  
ISBN  0801063671  
ISBN13  9780801063671  

Availability  79 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 21, 2016 11:08.
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More About Graham Johnston & Haddon Robinson

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Graham MacPherson Johnston is senior pastor of Subiaco Church of Christ in Western Australia and an adjunct lecturer in homiletics at Perth Bible College. He holds degrees from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Dallas Theological Seminary.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > Pastoral Counseling
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > Preaching

Christian Product Categories
Books > Church & Ministry > Pastoral Help > Preaching

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Reviews - What do customers think about Preaching to a Postmodern World: A Guide to Reaching Twenty-first Century Listeners?

Good book, but there's room for improvement  Jan 27, 2006
Graham Johnston is the senior pastor at Subiaco Church of Christ in Western Australia and lectures in homiletics at the Australian College of Ministries. "Preaching to a Postmodern World" is inteneded as a primer in postmodern thought for pastors who simply don't "get" the postmodern mindset. As a whole, this book has been helpful to me, but it still exhibits weaknesses.

What I have found most beneficial about this book is the very topic it addresses. Many people have been able to describe the postmodern mindset and tell what it's like, but very few have been able to define it and explain what it is. Johnston avoids this debate all together. Working from what he knows postmoderns are like--and knowing that the number of folks having this mindset is continually growing--he sticks to what they're like, what they want to hear and what they don't want to hear. Thus, the helps the non-postmodern pastor write sermons that postmoderns can relate to. This book is sprinkled with all sorts of "dos" and "don'ts." Some are helpful, some are not so helpful, and some are just plain confusing. Nevertheless, although the "helpful hints" includes good as well as bad and ugly, I actually consider this a strength as the reader can effectively glean what will work best for him. Finally, I appreciate the fact that the book is an easy read. This is not a doctoral disseration, but it is rather a book intended to be read by a wide (pastoral) audience.

This is not to say that the book is Pulitzer-worthy (or even Oprah Book Club-worthy). It does have some weaknesses. One such weankess is the lack of organization within the book. The chapters of the book don't display any central theme, but rather each chapter tends to run the gamut, displaying a holistic approach to praching, and covering many disconnected points. This is frustrating for this reader as I would have appreciated a more systamatic approach to this work. As a reslut of the current layout, I found myself asking how the stuff I'm reading now connects to the stuff toward the beginning of the chapter. In addition to this, Johnston tends not to make a clear distinction between "telling the postmodern what he wants to hear" and "holding out Christianity as the objective truth." I walk away from the book thinking that Johnston wants me to understand the postmodern so that I can pretend to be one of them: walk their walk, talk their talk, then hit them with doctrine. I don't think that this is what he has in mind, but it's the feel i get from this book.

In sum, Graham Johnston understands the postmodern mind, he knows what makes them tick, and I'm sure he's a very effective minister to postmoderns. However, how I can do the same is not clearly shown in this book. Nevertheless, Johnston does show that if one wants to minister effetively to postmoderns through sermons, it is essential that you build relationships with them, get to know them, understand their hopes and concerns, love them, and serve them. In this way, you will craft more relevant sermons and the postmodern will be more inclined to give you a hearing--yet isn't this the way you preach to any group?

3 1/2 Stars, but I'll round him up to 4. Recommended.
Outstanding Primer, But Ignore the Conclusions  Mar 29, 2005
Graham Johnston's "Preaching to a Postmodern World" is an outstanding work for anybody who needs a primer on the postmodern mindset. An excellent overview of the history of the Enlightenment, modernism, and the emergence of postmodernism serves as one of the best introductions of any I have read. Johnston's summary of the postmodern mindset and its ramifications is perhaps the most succinct and useful guide I have yet encountered. He seems to have a firm grasp on how secularism emerged and led to postmodern thinking. The numerous examples of Hollywood movies and popular songs demonstrate Johnston's prowess as a cultural watcher and critic. His observations about these and other elements of pop culture are insightful, and he does a very good job of "connecting the dots" of his observations with his commentary on postmodernism.

Johnston's conclusions are alternately refreshing and frustrating. His emphasis on the affective level of communication, to stimulate correct feelings about God, is refreshing. Some of his suggested means for accomplishing this are frustrating, e.g. preaching from a barstool, using clips from Hollywood films to illustrate points, avoiding black-and-white statements of doctrine. He does not seem to grasp the rise of populism within American evangelicalism that began in the early 19th century and that fueled much of what he laments in the church, like, "Western civilization wallows in fragments of Christian clichýs and paraphernalia. . . . The danger . . . is not that people reject Christ but that they reject a caricature of Christ." (p. 19, 21)

He is surprisingly optimistic about the receptivity of postmodern listeners to an exclusive Christ. This optimism is at odds with much of what he says. Inconsistent thinking may fuel this optimism. For example, he quotes Diogenes Allen p. l7, "A culture that is increasingly free of the assumptions of the Enlightenment of science, religion, morality, and society is a culture that is increasingly free of assumptions that prevent one from coming to an appreciation of the intellectual strength of Christianity." This makes little sense given that the assumptions which have replaced the assumptions of the Enlightenment are in fact even greater barriers to appreciating the intellectual strength of an exclusive Christianity! As bad as the Enlightenment was, what has emerged from the Enlightenment is much worse. "Unfortunately, with the loss of truth, people will now seek faith without boundaries, categories, or definition. The old parameters of belief do not exist. As a result, people will be increasingly open to knowing God, but on their own terms." (p. 31) While I admire Johnston's enthusiasm, he fails to explain how being open to an inclusive faith leads to being open to an exclusive faith. Repeating the conclusion does not reinforce its validity.

What Johnston suggests (prior to the climax of the book) as a fresh new way to approach postmodern listeners is not really new at all. In fact, much of that to which he objects has always been objectionable! Many of his suggestions are poignant, biblical, and seemingly obvious (despite evidence to the contrary in the populist Fundamentalist and Evangelical movements over the last century). His objections to the grosser errors of modernist preaching are valid, and the same ones I and my friends shared as children in the 1980s.

Unfortunately, arguments are often presented using a straw man. An example of this is encapsulated in the conclusion on p. 114, "Biblical communicators must learn to speak about God in more than sound bites [sic] and superficial jargon." Nobody would disagree with this. To characterize the preaching of yesteryear as "sound bites and superficial jargon" is ironically doing just what he is decrying - communicating in a shallow way that not only fails to engage the reader but insults his intelligence.

While Johnston never elaborates on his idea of worship, it appears that it is man-centered. The climax of his book challenges the reader to engage the listener and woo the lost with the all-important "relevance" of the preacher, err, "communicator" (p. 149) who exudes a studied, casual demeanor as he sits on his stool (p. 151) and tells stories with practiced comedy (p. 169), showing his relaxed listeners clips from Hollywood films (no doubt to stretch their moral imagination) and encourages them to imagine God as a great Forrest Gump (p. 163). The notion of worship as a reverent, God-centered activity, utterly incomprehensible to the lost, seems not only foreign to Johnston but even repugnant. By making "worship" into a "relevant" activity that appeals to the lost, Johnston wins them with the very thing that he should be winning them to, but no longer exists - because he has hijacked it! Perhaps the initial response to this banal thing that has replaced worship is what fuels Johnston's optimism that postmodernism is not really that bad, after all. And so the populist movements of American Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism race ever faster around the bend, plunging down their same old vortex in a constant headlong rush into oblivion.
Not bad if you're convinced already  Sep 6, 2004
This book is certainly not bad - it does provide some insight and practical advice for preaching to a postmodern world, and, in this way, may be helpful. My main criticism is that all of the (foot)notes quote other Evangelicals about their analyses and perspectives of postmodernism without letting postmodernists speak for themselves on the matter. Accordingly, this book may be a good introduction for someone who knows nothing about postmodernism and for someone who has an Evangelical background, but it is rather superficial and stereotypical in its presentation. If your primary exposure to postmodernism is from reading this book, you will not learn how to think as postmodernists think, you will learn only how some Evangelicals believe postmodernists think. For a non-religious, concise, and insightful approach, I highly recommend Christopher Butler's "Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction," published by Oxford University Press.
Very good, practical book on communicating to postmoderns  May 28, 2003
The deeper I got into this book, the better it got. There were a few moments that is got a little "deep" for me, but it turned out to be a very practical book, with great ideas on communicating to today's culture. I liked the author's views on how the church should not "run" from pop-culture, but rather embrace it and use it as an opporunity to reach people. I think this book would be a great read for any pastor or church leader in the midst of transition towards reaching unchurched people.
On the mark  Sep 27, 2002
Johnston's review of postmodernism is accurate and concise. Announcing that modernism has collapsed is one flaw. We live in a mixture of the two - dare I say - philosophies. The other complaint I have about the book is the reliance on secondary sources. Besides these two problems, this is an excellent book.

Postmodernism has come of age in the new century. It's been growing steadily since the sixties. Anyone who was around for the hippie movement can recognize all the signs. However, postmodernism has become mainstream and even adopted by some in the church. (Whatever happened to being renewed in the spirit of the mind?) Johnston not only shows how the world has infiltrated the church but how to reach those with the gospel without accommodating to this age. His understanding that popular postmodernism is a parasite feeding off of modernism is incisive. In essence, postmodernism is a reaction to modernism as feminism reacts against a male dominated society. Christians ought not imbibe either as a philosphy. We do better with pre-modern philosophy and its attention to reality.

This book is more than helpful. It ought to be read by all those who minister today.


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