By Bill Easum
Most of my life has been lived in a world of probabilities. Probability is the likelihood or chance that something is or will happen. Probability theory is used in statistics, mathematics, science and philosophy to draw conclusions about the likelihood of potential events.
For most of my life it was easy to examine the landscape and have a fair idea of the probability of where the future was heading. The only really serious wildcard was nuclear war- until recently (a wildcard is some major event that appears out of nowhere totally unexpected and changes the balance of everything).
Today’s world is filled with more wildcards than probabilities. If I were to list all the wildcards, this article would be too long. Let me mention a few of them in the order of their potential negative impact.
Extreme global climate change
U.S. decline as a world power
Rising of China and Iran
Volatile world stock market
Anyone of these wildcards could dramatically change the course of the world. In fact, because so many wildcards exist there is now a high probability a major wildcard will be played in the near future. We have entered world of multiple wildcards. It would not surprise me for more than one wildcard to be played at a time causing major havoc throughout the world.
In a wildcard world people need some basic anchors on which to cling to keep their equilibrium. Here are some thoughts about the kind of anchors needed in today’s preaching.
People need certainty in a world based on uncertainty. They need to know Jesus is the same today, yesterday, and forever. They need to know the historical Jesus and the Christ of Faith are one in the same. That is their certainty. The need for certainty is one of the reasons why liberal, mainline Protestantism is in such serious decline- they find it hard to be certain about Jesus and eternal life. It is also one of reasons I don’t feel as if the Emergent movement is going to be as major a player in the emerging world as some people think. The Emergent people are passionate but never certain. I don’t think that will play well in a wildcard world other than to the Christian intelligencia. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ–this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).
People need direction in a world tossed about by the wildcard dejure. The need for direction is the primary reason I don’t think effective churches can be run by consensus. A wildcard world doesn’t wait for people to form consensus. If churches are to survive in this emerging world they need leaders who aren’t afraid to set the agenda and give direction to the church. A wildcard world needs a leader more than a world of probabilities. Healthy people want a leader who can give direction. The problem with most dying churches is they are lead by unhealthy people who want a non-leader who will take care of them rather than expand the kingdom.
People need Hope in a world that is basically broken. Very little in the U.S. is working these days. Every day the news shares some story about the brokenness of our society (ever watched the TSA people in an airport). Churches that offer a big dose of hope have a much greater chance of growing than those who are always pointing fingers at the sinners. Look back over your last six months of messages and see how many were filled with hope. The more they are the more likely your people and your church are to grow.
We need to be careful here. By hope, I’m not talking about a Pollyanna approach to life like I hear in people like Joel Osteen. Hope has to be grounded in Scripture, not in psychology. Hope has to be real, not sweet. So be careful here. Ground the hope you offer in Jesus who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. “For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness (Gal.5:5).
In a wildcard world people need some form of sustainability. With many of the cherished aspects of their world under siege, people need to know they can count on something or someone. This is one of the reasons pastors with long term tenure tend to reach the most people and have the healthiest congregations. It is also why I don’t think the house church movement will ever be as effective as some think it can be.
What other wildcards and their accompanying implications do you see? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org