“All these men understood the temper of the times and
understood the best course for Israel to take.”
1 Chronicles 12:32
The year 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic changed almost everything. But maybe not all the change was bad. It brought the world to a place of introspection, examination and perspective. It slowed us down and allowed us to ask important questions about life, about family, about ministry, about priorities, our place in the world and in the scheme of things. As Christians, however, we should be asking, “what is God up to?”
In Matthew 16:3, Jesus said, “You can read the weather by looking at the sky, but you cannot discern and understand the signs of the times.”
It is difficult not to see the impact unprecedented change is having on the world, ministry, and ministers. It has been said that we now live in a context of turbulence, unpredictability, and quantum change. More specifically, it is referred to under the acronym of VUCA—a season of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Add to this, the multiple forces driving what is being called irreversible change. A paradigm shift is taking place like none other in history.
In fact, it has been reported that 80-85% of America’s churches are plateaued or in decline, and the main reason? Not knowing how to deal with spiraling, complex change.
Some people are holding on to what was with great anxiety, possibly because change demands a temporary surrender of security. Professor John Kotter of Harvard stated it well in the title of his book on change, “Our Iceberg is Melting.” Change has changed and the toothpaste cannot be shoved back into the tube. We must learn to live and lead within this new world of change.
We’ve been somewhat aware of the change. We were aware that a crack had separated us from the past, but as each day passes it appears more profound than we dare acknowledge. What was once incremental change has become whitewater, bullet train, and light speed change.
We find ourselves living in a short-term transitional period, having left much of the world as we knew it forever. As of March 2020, it seems an avalanche of change is now underway and we are living in it.
Jesus seemed to approach the idea of change when he said, “New wine needs a new wine skin.” Implied is the idea of adaptation, adjustment, and modification. One of my favorite quotes says, “The first responsibility of leadership is to define reality.” And the truth about life and our present reality is that change is constant.
We have been inventing, exploring, and pioneering since the beginning of time. The world has been in a state of change since its beginning. But we cannot become consumed with the present, its struggles, or its worries. We need visionaries—men and women who can cast a vision of a preferred future built on the good news of the gospel, a gospel of hope.
We are left to choose how we will see it and deal with it. Is the glass half empty or is the glass half full? Are there challenges? Yes, always. But, “I am more overwhelmed by the opportunities than I am by the challenges.”
According to Amos 9:13, “The days are coming," says the Lord, "when grain will grow faster than it can be harvested, and grapes will grow faster than the wine can be made.” This day of opportunity is upon us and Kingdom prospects are plenty.
For instance, as of 2020, the world population was 7.8 billion, and it’s projected to increase another 25% by 2050, reaching 9.9 billion. Pew research reports there are presently 2.3 billion Christians in the world, growing to approximately 3 billion in the next 30 years. Additionally, statistics reveal there are 5.5 billion non-Christians in the world today, with the number expanding to 6.9 billion by 2050 if trends continue.
Jesus said in Matthew 9:37, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Add to this the words of Jesus, in Matthew 26:1, “The poor you will always have with you.”
These realities alone should be reason enough for Christians to frame our changing times through the prism of Kingdom service and opportunity, instead of calamity and anxiety. An environment like this requires perspective, vision, and deeply embedded values.
The theme of a recent LeaderCast Leadership Conference boldly and rightly declared that we should be visionaries… architects and cheerleaders for change.
Christian leaders today, more than ever before, must be cheerleaders for community, servanthood, and evangelism by modeling the way; admitting that we are not “of this world” but we are “in it” and therefore, should intentionally work to make a positive difference in the lives of others. We should walk out our Christian faith for others to see.
Author and journalist, Gail Sheehy, has written much about an intriguing and empowering consequence of this unparalleled change—the revolution in the human life cycle. I see it as a Kingdom blessing and unequaled opportunity.
People today are leaving childhood sooner, but they are taking longer to grow up and much longer to grow old – shifting adulthood ahead – by up to ten, often twenty years or more. The territory of the fifties, sixties, and beyond is changing so radically that it now opens possibilities that our parents or grandparents never imagined. Middle age has already been pushed far into the fifties.
Adult life of such quantity and quality has never before been experienced by a mass human civilization. Life expectancy was around 45 years in 1900, but now, imagine the day you turn 45 as the infancy of another life – a second adulthood in middle life. The current life expectancy is about 79 years and is expected to rise to 90 to 100 in the foreseeable future.
We now have not one, but three adult lives to be anticipated, prepared for, mapped out:
PROVISIONAL ADULTHOOD – (18 - 30)
FIRST ADULTHOOD – (30 - 45)
SECOND ADULTHOOD – (45 - 85+).
The new map of adult life goes something like this:
Do you think it’s a coincidence that you’re alive during this season of unprecedented change? Does all this change take God by surprise? Or could it be that we’re all a part of a much bigger plan? A divine strategy?
Andre Crouch, grammy award-winning gospel artist challenged us well in his song entitled, “Only One Life.”
“Only one life
So soon it will pass
Only what's done for Christ will last
Only one chance to do His will
So give to Jesus all you days
It's the only life that pays
When you recall
You have but one life.”
It’s time to ask yourself some new questions.
What will you do with this new life? This second adulthood? What old shells or habits or routines can be abandoned? Are there fatal traps you should avoid? How can you best give back? How will you now plan, prepare, and anticipate this brand new, unprecedented opportunity? What investments in learning and changes in attitudes and lifestyle are you willing to undertake in order to make all these extra years ahead livable, profitable, and significant?
Here’s my challenge to us all.
Plan, anticipate, and prepare for an eventuality you don’t know is going to happen. Proceed into the future with faith, optimism, and hope that the Lord can use us to accomplish extraordinary things during a season of unprecedented change. Bar a disease or mortal accident, the new reality is that the day you turn 50 years old, you have a new lease on life—another entire life to live.
This article was extracted from Advance, a Church of God publication. Register for the Advance Online event and get a free book courtesy of Advance!
Fred Garmon is the founder of LeaderLabs, Inc, a leadership development and research non-profit serving ministers and faith-based non-profits. Fred has served over 40 years as a pastor, missionary, professor, and is presently a leadership trainer, consultant, and lecturer. Learn more about how Dr. Garmon might serve you at www.leaderlabs.com.
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