Throughout history, especially the last 200 years, everything has constantly and consistently changed. No one would deny that.

However, today, it’s not just that things are changing; it’s that nothing is the same as it was just a few years ago. We aren’t just living in changing times; we are living in a time of radical discontinuity.

Who would have thought twenty years ago that people would spend so much of their free time thumb texting people all over the world at little to no cost? Who would have thought a phone could easily fit in your shirt pocket and you could carry it anywhere? And who would have thought this phone could calculate, tell you the weather, allow you to play games, and remind you of your appointments, just to name a few of its tasks?

A phone is no longer just a phone, and that change has taken place in slightly more than a decade. What occupies the waking hours of many young adults didn’t exist twenty years ago. Add to this the fact that the vast majority of Apple’s income wasn’t in existence ten years ago and what does this say to you?

To me it says that life as we know it is undergoing a radical change that eventually will impact all of Christianity.

Over the past twenty years the following jobs have either disappeared or are about to:

  1. Social Media Experts
  2. Video Store Clerks
  3. Taxi Dispatchers
  4. Toll Booth Operators
  5. Retail Cashiers
  6. Word Processors/Typists
  7. Switchboard Operators
  8. Photo Finishers
  9. Postal Workers
  10. Paper Boys
  11. Print Journalists
  12. Encyclopedia Salesmen
  13. VCR Repairmen
  14. Spell Checkers and Editors
  15. Milk Deliverymen

Much of what we have relied on for centuries will not be in existence 25 years from now. I would include in that:

  1. The family farm
  2. Most mainline denominations (all will have to merge except UMC and Southern Baptist)
  3. The small family type church
  4. Libraries
  5. Baseball umpires
  6. Travel agents
  7. Supermarket cashiers
  8. On air DJs
  9. File clerks

What this means is that many people who will graduate from college this year have been prepared for a job that won’t exist in 10-20 years. And if a job does remain, it won’t rely on the same skills as before. If you see the world this way, it explains why our educational system is in crisis.

Why is this happening?

The world is going through only the fourth epoch transition in recorded history. And in every previous such transition everything changed over the next few decades. Like the monk having to learn how to open a book instead of unrolling a scroll, those leaders who want to be effective will have to learn totally new skills. That will happen only if we open our eyes to what is happening all around us and realize with Toto that we’re not in Kansas any more.

So take an imaginary journey with me for a walk through our possible future. You will see numerous possible scenarios because no one is intuitive enough to predict the future. All we can do is look at what is happening today and try to extrapolate some theories. Everything about the future is foreshadowed today in what is already happening. Let me share with you some of the scenarios I see foreshadowed now in the present. As you read, keep in mind that each of these scenarios that come true will challenge the existence of Christianity as we know it.

  • The use of visuals in the church was foreshadowed when TV became a household item.
  • The multi-site church was foreshadowed when churches begin to add two and three services and experimented with video overflow rooms.
  • Missional communities were foreshadowed in the emphasis on small groups that met in homes.
  • Executive pastors were foreshadowed when the use of words out of the corporate world began to be used by church leaders.
  • The eventual dominance of the Southern Hemisphere is foreshadowed in the rapid rise of Christianity there.
  • The near-term elimination of many life-threatening illnesses is foreshadowed in the Human Genome Project.
  • The virtual elimination of fossil fuel is foreshadowed in emerging solar experiments, which will lead to the closing of many churches in states like Texas and North Dakota.
  • The return of the home visit by a physician is foreshadowed in the emerging digital connection between physician and patient.
  • The eventual discovery of life on another planet is foreshadowed by the upcoming trip to Mars and will challenge the existence of God as we know it.
  • The disappearance of the institution of Christianity as we know it is foreshadowed by the rise of secularism and missional communities that deny the worth of the institution.
  • The disappearance of most denominations is foreshadowed in two things: their continual decline in numbers and their degenerating morals.
  • A decline in college and graduate students is foreshadowed in the high cost and low payback of tuition costs.
  • The decline in the need for human labor is foreshadowed in the emerging world of robots.
  • The ability of nations to feed their people is foreshadowed in the rise of genetically modified organisms/food.
  • The inability to carry on a conversation is foreshadowed in the pervasive presence of cell phones.
  • The decline in conservative Christianity is foreshadowed in the anti-institutional sentiment of our time, the rise of liberalism, and the secular nature of our present world.
  • Credit will undergo a major change as foreshadowed in the increasing cyber attacks on credit cards.
  • The disappearance of stockbrokers on the NYSE trading floor is foreshadowed in the rise of automated trading based on elaborate algorithms.

All in all, the rest of the twenty-first century looks to be one in which more change will occur than in all the rest of history combined. I pray the Church is up to the challenge. It hasn’t been in the past. Where will your church be when it has to reposition itself to reach this emerging world?

I write more extensively about this epoch change in the first chapter of my new book, Turning Dreams into Reality.

Question: What are your predictions about the church and the future? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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