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Billboard-size messages point to hearts yearning for God, she says

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–God has posted billboard-size signs indicating people are hungry for faith, but Christians aren’t getting the message, a consultant on worship and culture noted.

“Whatever we are doing in the church, we have a decision to make. We can settle for the safe, or we can start reading the signs God has put up — billboard size — on the highway of faith,” Sally Morgenthaler, a Southern Baptist musician and president of Worship Evangelism Concepts in Littleton, Colo., said during the July 14-20 Church Music Leadership Conference at Glorieta (N.M.), a LifeWay Conference Center.

God has created a hunger for spiritual things that is unprecedented, Morgenthaler said.

“[The signs] just don’t look like what we are used to,” she said, citing the wide range of religions, non-Christian spiritual activities and entertainment, based in supernatural stories that youth and young adults explore. “It is a new, new world.”

On the surface, it might seem like people are not hungry for God, but closer observation indicates people are hungrier than ever for a personal relationship with God, Morgenthaler said.

“Many of us were trained in college and seminary to minister in that world that no longer exists,” she said. “What did Jesus do in a world of change? The Pharisees were in a changing world, and they didn’t like it.”

Citing Matthew 16:2-3, she referenced Jesus’ words: “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

She said today’s postmodern adults, born between 1963 and 1980, grew up with divorce, day care, digitalization, debt and downsizings.

“They are the first generation that people took pills not to have,” Morgenthaler said. “And despite of the fact that we are a culture searching for something outside of ourselves, approximately 15 percent of that generation goes to church.”

Five hundred years ago, God was the center of truth and meaning and 300 years ago human reason became the center of truth and meaning, Morgenthaler said.

“Today,” she said, “relationship is at the center of truth and meaning. To be a part of the postmodern generation means truth is something you and your friends create. Postmoderns crave mystery and are supernaturalists.

“Since this generation defines itself by relationships above anything else, they wonder if we, the church, are really who we say we are.”

Ministers of an older generation have a difficult time understanding today’s postmodern adults, she said.

“We have a hard time loving this world. We are enamored with the way we’ve always done it. But it’s time to swallow our pride and our fixation on an earlier decade or century.”

For those who read God’s billboards as signs of the times, she said, “It is a great time to be in ministry.”

The music ministries department of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention sponsored Church Music Leadership Conference 2000 at Glorieta, a LifeWay Conference Center.
A sidebar follows with a test to rate readers on their cultural status as a pre-modern, modern or postmodern person.

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  • Charles Willis