By Neil Cole Given the rapid changes occurring in our world right now that I discussed in a previous article, a question the late Francis Schaeffer posed is significant now: how shall we then live? How do these dramatic shifts affecting the world (population growth, technological advancements and economic redistribution) affect church and those who would follow Christ?
The sheer scale of change is a challenge. How much bigger can our population grow? Are we near the end? How can we not be? What is the point of no return for the capacity of this planet to sustain this population bloom? As great commission adherents the target we aim at is increasing at an exponential rate, how can we possibly reach them if they are so big and getting bigger every second?
The speed of change is also a huge challenge. What’s scary is not how fast we have come, but how much faster will we go? How much can the pace multiply? It isn’t enough to catch up; we have to keep up, and that seems almost impossible. Here are a few ideas for how we can face this consuming tidal wave of global change.
- Credentials, in most fields, lose relevancy in a day. Education must be constant. Expertise is no longer a valid currency because the inflation rate is just too high. In some fields, people are more interested in the way you think, and how you process and adapt to data and new ideas, than in the experience and accumulated knowledge you have in the subject. There are many PhDs that are brewing lattes or flipping burgers in this world. There are others getting ahead while some are off at school learning stuff that will not be relevant when they graduate. I loved my years at school where I learned so much more then just academic content, but many cannot afford the time and money for it today. Today’s education is a life-long pursuit. You don’t graduate until there is a flat line on the screen next to your bed.
- A leader is no longer a bridge from the present to the future as we were all taught to believe. It’s a challenge to bridge from yesterday to today. A leader must help people be ready for the now. Vision casting is less important than value seeding.
- Resources shouldn’t be banked; they should be used while they have value.
- The younger you are the more adept you are at being missional in this environment, but also more blinded to the rapid changes. If you can sing the theme song to Gilligan’s Island you are already at an age where you should be investing in younger people. Don’t strive to be relevant, rather strive to resource others. That is the true call of a leader.
- Strategic planning must be replaced with strategic people. Gone are the days of going away on retreat to come up with a ten-year plan using post-it notes on a big board. Blockbuster Video had a ten-year plan just a few years ago and no one is interested. We need to prepare people to excel in the now. Ramo calls this: “Mastery of the passing instant.” (The Age of the Unthinkable)
Good News In the Midst of Chaos
There is some good news. There are some advantages presented to us in the midst of this global transformation. We can catch and ride the tidal wave of change. Here are a few ideas that can help:
- Not everything is changing. God is immutable. His kingdom is unshakeable. Find your identity, purpose and calling there. Everything else is up for grabs, where moths and rust destroy and where thieves can break in and steal.
- The Gospel is still the good news. It doesn’t cost a dime to make a disciple; it only costs your life. If we can structure for multiplication we will be released from dependency upon money and that’s a good thing. The Church has always been at its best when it has had no budget, no buildings and no big shots. These days may truly be our finest.
- Not only is the world developing faster it is becoming flatter. Anyone, anywhere can publish anything and have a global voice immediately. The avenues for the Gospel are increasing at an exponential rate. There is a whole lot of white noise because of this so you have to have something interesting to say, say it well and keep it short. All followers of Christ can and should be a difference maker in this bold new world.
- Because of social media we are also a shrinking world where any 2 people on the planet are only 4º of separation from each other. That means that these two people have are connected by only four relationship jumps. A few years ago it was 6º of separation but due to increased connectivity the distance is actually shrinking. We are closer then ever to those who are yet to believe the good news; but we have to be authentic, vulnerable and available in relationships to make this an advantage. Performance oriented ministry will not take advantage of this factor.
- The massive moving of entire populations is opening the door to reach people that once were unreachable. Those forced from their homelands are often leaving more than their nation; many are leaving their religion and are open to something more hopeful and kind. Mass amounts of people are open to the gospel and they are already apostolic and now accustomed to being marginalized––they were sent before they were saved. Imagine the possibilities for this rapidly emerging and fluid mission field full of ready made missionaries.
- The power of multiplication can work for us as well, but we must do things differently. If just one person read this article and decided to take a whole year to make only one disciple in such a way that the new disciple could do the same the next year; we would be on the path to fulfilling the great commission in our generation. If they all continued multiplying like that within only 36 years they will have reached everyone on the planet. We can do this, but we can’t do it the way we’ve been trying to do it. Its time to realize that the way we’ve been doing church isn’t going to suddenly start multiplying. At this point it is insane to believe it will. We must courageously make changes so that we can multiply or we risk losing everything much faster than we ever thought we could.
One of the six areas of focus for 100m is organizing for multiplication. In this article I want you to realize that we can no longer afford to remain the same while the world around us seems to be spinning faster then ever before. We must change just to survive. We must learn to multiply if we want to fulfill our calling and destiny in this world.