Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Friedman’

The New World: Fewer Limits. Fewer Guarantees

Monday, May 13th, 2013

We live in a brave world into which Christianity must offer a voice … a shift I wrote on several weeks ago, that needs addressed over and over as we sort through even what conversations need to be had.  Thomas Friedman, as noted in a previous blog, captured it well with his words in a recent Op-Ed piece carried in the New York Times.

What’s exciting is that this [hyper-connected] platform empowers individuals to access learning, retrain, engage in commerce, seek or advertise a job, invent, invest and crowd source — all online. But this huge expansion in an individual’s ability to do all these things comes with one big difference: more now rests on you.

If you are self-motivated, wow, this world is tailored for you. The boundaries are all gone. But if you’re not self-motivated, this world will be a challenge because the walls, ceilings and floors that protected people are also disappearing. That is what I mean when I say “it is a 401(k) world.” Government will do less for you. Companies will do less for you. Unions can do less for you. There will be fewer limits, but also fewer guarantees. Your specific contribution will define your specific benefits much more. Just showing up will not cut it.

We can rest fairly assured that the economic certainties our parents grew up with will continue to rapidly erode as life time employment and pensions slip into a bygone era.  Churches will live into that same era of economic uncertainty and into the endless possibilities as well that such an era ushers in.

This means churches will thrive provided they remain (a) mission centered and (b) highly innovative/ agile.   There are few other social bodies able to do the work that churches do.  The mission is unique and inspiration … a community of the willing organized around higher purpose, able to draw alongside the suffering of the world.  And to serve into that will call on congregations to bring fresh eyes and perspectives to the endeavor, employing the spirit of empowered partnership.

The model is messy.  The model is beautiful.   Fewer limits.  Fewer guarantees.

 

Hyper-connected

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

We have gone from being “connected” to being “hyper-connected” in a blink.   This is how Thomas Friendman, author of “The World is Flat” captured that shift in a recent NYT’s article

We went from a connected world to a hyperconnected world. I’m always struck that Facebook, Twitter, 4G, iPhones, iPads, high-speech broadband, ubiquitous wireless and Web-enabled cellphones, the cloud, Big Data, cellphone apps and Skype did not exist or were in their infancy a decade ago when I wrote a book called “The World Is Flat.” All of that came since then, and the combination of these tools of connectivity and creativity has created a global education, commercial, communication and innovation platform on which more people can start stuff, collaborate on stuff, learn stuff, make stuff (and destroy stuff) with more other people than ever before.

What’s exciting is that this platform empowers individuals to access learning, retrain, engage in commerce, seek or advertise a job, invent, invest and crowd source — all online. But this huge expansion in an individual’s ability to do all these things comes with one big difference: more now rests on you.

If you are self-motivated, wow, this world is tailored for you. The boundaries are all gone. But if you’re not self-motivated, this world will be a challenge because the walls, ceilings and floors that protected people are also disappearing. That is what I mean when I say “it is a 401(k) world.” Government will do less for you. Companies will do less for you. Unions can do less for you. There will be fewer limits, but also fewer guarantees. Your specific contribution will define your specific benefits much more. Just showing up will not cut it.

I can’t say it strongly enough – these are the waters in which we swim.  I remember a dear friend, Rev. Frank Rose, saying that churches cannot ignore demographics.  This is a key demographic shift.  We ignore it at our peril.  I believe that the shifts the above portends will impact churches far more than gay marriage or debates around divorce.

In this new era, churches do have a unique voice.  Churches need to speak “wisdom among the mature but not the wisdom of the age or the rulers of this age.”  (1 Cor. 2:6)  That voice must then be unique and it must be a caring voice as well.  As Emanuel Swedenborg noted in identifying sin, “The evil that is sinful is simply evil against our neighbor, and evil against our neighbor is evil against God.”  (TCR, 525)

Many will find themselves empowered in this new era.  Many will find themselves disenfranchised.  Churches need to serve both.  Could that mean the following will be true?

  1. Partnership: Clergy and Laity used to exist exist in a hierarchy.  Successful churches will quickly “flatten” themselves organizationally where the pastor becomes more of a partner than an expert.  Think marble cake more than layer cake.
  2. Art:  If you have not started reading Seth Godin, now is a good time to start.  He notes that people now posses the freedom to offer their “art”, whatever that might be, instantly to thousands.  Like the blog, it takes little and gives instant access to great swaths of the globe.  Churches will be part of that art.
  3. Service: “Charity unites.  Doctrine divides.”  This well worn New Church perspective will become increasingly true.  Denomination lines, outside of  select cadres who make division their reason d’être, will continue to blur.  Churches can offer their unique voice and perspective to the world.  Just don’t expect that to be what unites people.  Churches will find people searching more for connection than information.  Service in its many forms gives the most meaningful connection.
In closing, anticipate as well churches finding new footing in quieter spaces well, as guardians of the silence in which God often speaks.
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This era will have good and bad.  What is known?  That the hyper-connected world is here!