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For 2,000 years faith has been built on constants, can it now be built on change?

Christian Futures Network
Empowering Christians to Create the Future
Version 1.9 — 22 December 2017
by Jay Gary, PhD

Keywords: future of faith, research, creativity, change, forecasting, spirituality, creativity, millennialism, theology, culture, leadership, strategic foresight, development, emergent leaders, science and theology

1. What is the Christian Futures Network?

We are a leadership ministry that exists to empower you to create the future. Through our consultations, webinars and coaching we can help you think creatively and critically about the future of society and help you reinvent your ministry in light of those new contexts. Most Christians realize that change in the culture often outpaces our ability to respond. We need something new from the “mind of Christ” that might release us from our collective blind spots (Col 3:16).

2. Why does faith need foresight?

Faith needs foresight in order to give birth to new creative possibilities for life and society. Faith operates in three dimensions. The backward look trusts God for what he has done. We call that hindsight. The upward look, or insight, looks to God for what he does in us each day. The forward view, or foresight, trusts God for what he will yet do through us from next week through the next two decades, in the church, through organizations, and through society.

3. How does faith cultivate foresight beyond just impressions?

A famous French mathematician once wrote, “It is by logic that we prove, but by intuition that we discover.” In her writings on Defining Future Fluencies, Wendy Schultz shares five ways in which we intuitively and critically focus on the future. First we aspire to see what is happening. Second we fear, who is this happening to? Third we wonder, how might things work out differently? Fourth we desire: what do we want to happen? Fifth, we do, we act and inquire how we can make things happen.

The study of the future of faith is therefore the pursuit of the ideal, the search for God’s highest and best will. It is the quest, by God’s grace, to improve all things, including faith. What dream of a better church and society has God placed in your heart?

4. How did Jesus see the future?

Jesus did not endorse the “official future” before him, that which Herod or Caesar offered. Neither did he accept the “alternative futures” that others were promoting by inspiring flights into the desert or by armed fights against Roman occupation. Jesus intutively saw these two futures clashing, leading to the collapse of Israeli society and the Jewish Temple state in his generation. To save Israel from the coming Great War (A.D. 66-74), Jesus enacted a third way. That path was the way of faith, believing that God would raise the dead nation. Jesus claimed he would take upon himself Israel’s rage and defeat the violence, saving her from the judgment to come. After his death, Jesus resurrection became the sign that God was raising up a New House, in view of impending collapse of the Old (Heb. 10:9). Those gathered would guarantee that a full harvest, a full restoration of Israel and humanity would follow. So in the short-run, Jesus saw a catastrophic future for his generation, filled with tribulation, but in the long-run, Jesus foresaw a constructive future, where humans could fulfill their potential because they were restored to God’s covenant. For more, see the article, “The Future According to Jesus.”

5. What distinguishes Christian futures from other mindsets?

Christian educators today often emphasize the importance of developing a biblical worldview. Yet few worldview books emphasize how Jesus engaged his society as a leader. Therefore, the field of Christian Futures emphasizes that the creation of a Christian worldview must start with Jesus, and explore his approach to personal, community and societal change.

As a way of living and leading, this field rejects a naive Bible prophecy on the one hand and a Christian triumphalism on the other. It sees the future as both the product of both human initiative and divine grace. Rather than focus on the study of last things, Christian futurists focus on the study of first things, and ask how both individuals and societies can “put off the old and put on the new.”

6. Aren’t you really talking about leadership?

Exactly. But not generic leadership, but generative leadership. This includes servant leadership, but encompasses transformational leadership. It is spiritual leadership at the highest level. Managers focus on the present, leaders focus on the future. Leadership focuses on how to take one’s organization, community or discipline from Model 1 to Model 2. So the purpose of leadership, according to Joel Barker is “leadershift” or transforming followers and organizations into greater wholes. In contrast to more tactical-based professional associations, like the Christian Leadership Alliance, Christian Futures deals with the big picture of God’s work in the world, and our practice of mind-set management. Rather than just think about restructuring or reengineering your organization, we can help you discover how to reinvent your organization within your sector. So as a professional association, Christian Futures will help you recognize your blind spots, learn from previous breakdowns, pinpoint your group’s present breakpoints, and take action to create team breakthroughs.

7. Doesn’t the use of futures thinking as a Christian conflict with God’s sovereignty?

We don’t think so. Theologians, philosophers and historians have pondered this question for centuries. Through the Renaissance, the Reformation and into the Enlightenment, religionists and scientists have debated providence versus progress, determinism vs. volunteerism, or agency vs. structure. At times, the conversation between faith and science has seemed to be at odds, at other times, the discussions have approached convergence. Some secular futurists maintain that futures studies is inconsistent with religion, especially if faith is defined primarily by determinism, fatalism, apocalypticism or after-life beliefs. On the other hand, many religionists consider empirical planning and rationalism as deficient to capture the beauty, wonder and mystery of God’s world. The most important thing about reality and the future is that it must continue to be a conversation that everyone might join. Whether we see the future as predetermined by God, or open-ended, we are called to serve the generations to come.

8. What training can I get in this field?

We offer a variety of training options, both custom and scheduled.

Seminars: We launched our “Future Proof Your Ministry” workshop series in 2002. This popular workshop, led by Dr. Jay Gary, explores the biblical basis of futures thinking, its five critical fluencies, and tools for mapping change in your ministry and community. It also shows you how to lead your team in a foresight process. In addition to a one-day 6-hour live format, we also offer this workshop in a two morning or a two evening format via webinars. If you have a training need for strategic foresight in your organization, contact us and we can schedule a workshop.

Courses: Through our sister organization, PeakFutures, we also offer short 6-week online courses. You can earn a “Certificate of Strategic Foresight” in as little as 3 courses, or an “Advanced Certificate” through 6 courses. We also teach “organizational leadership” and “strategic foresight” at the graduate level for mid-career professionals.

Conferences: Over the past ten years we have hosted numerous regional consultations on foresight, leadership or organizational transformation, including consultations on “the Future of Christianity,” that focus on both global and American scenarios. We have also conducted annual Foresight conferences for Christian leaders. In addition we also gather annually at the Association of Professional Futurists.

Custom: Contact us if you would like to host a custom training session for your team. We offer both on-location and on-line training programs, that fit any budget or organizational culture.

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