Spirituality, Discipleship, and Liquid Modernity
By Marcelo Gomes
What is the connection between churched and unchurched people? As we see the decline of church attendance, we need to consider this question as we attempt to make connections between church and community for growth and discipleship effectiveness. We may need to consider changes in relationships and societal interactions, especially given the advent of social media.
Relationships are the center of spiritual life – humankind (re)connecting with God in Christ. The church as the “body” where everyone is interconnected is in a constant and transformative relationship with others. Discipleship is the encounter between spirituality and relational experience. Those are strong aspects of how we should define who we are and how we function among the ekklesia.
Were relationships in today different from those in the past? I believe they are! They are different due to the advent of the virtual world and social media. Metaverse, avatars, emojis, and reels are examples of how we are emotionally connecting to others in new ways and how we are building relationships differently. Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman named this time “liquid modernity” – a time of uncertainty where nothing is permanent but is instead transitory, liquid, and fluid.
Considering Bauman’s idea, I’d rephrase my initial question to “What is the connection between churched and unchurched people in this time of postmodern liquid modernity?” Traditionally, we would talk about theology, liturgy, church activities, and other important components of our faith. However, we need to adapt and perhaps replace the idea that people don’t want to come to church because of secularization. We need to innovate and rethink our connections with the world.
Because of my academic experience and work as an educator, I take a systems approach. In this case, I’d like to see innovation in ministry around three components (as in a system that works with different parts): language, space, and engagement. How do we reform these three missional tools for a liquid society? How do we reframe these tools in a time where relationships are not necessarily connected through a building or a liturgical practice? I believe these are the challenges before us as we look forward to innovation, growth, and discipleship.
 Greek. A called-out assembly or congregation.
 Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000).
Rev. Dr. Marcelo Gomes, DMin, is the Director of Training and Church Planting with Path 1 at Discipleship Ministries.