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Missional Church– Minimal Thinking?

by Dr. Jay Gary, Apr 3, 2006

apf-imod2006_mIs the Missional church paradigm inadvertantly breeding minimal thinking? I just got back from Santa Fe, NM, where I attended the 4th annual gathering of the Association of Professional Futurists (APF). I’ve been a founding member of APF since 2002, but hadn’t attended one of their annual gatherings for quite some time. It was fantastic to get together with others to “hack the big ideas” related to the next two decades. APF is the best professional development association out there for people who want to hone their skills and make the jump from talking pop futures to earning their living by providing foresight services to organizations. Besides annual gatherings, they host professional development training days each summer. They have nearly 200 members, spread out in Europe, the U.S. and Australia. Over the past six years I have met about a third of them, either through their gatherings or through the more popular based World Future Society.


Bob Hawkins, futurist with Opportunity Engineering, briefs us on “Robot Gossip” and trends

APF meetings always combine great locations, great people, and great ideas. Here is Bob Hawkin’s of Opportunity Engineering, from Houston, giving us a briefing from Robot Gossip, or the latest trends in robotics and how they are being used around the home, in hospitals and in manufacturing. Artificial intelligence, whether embedded or embodied, will continue to improve and provide care and companionship to vunerable elders and young children. Hawkins reports Japan is investing a great deal in these technologies.

I wish APF had existed 15 years ago. The nearest equivalent would have been very active chapters with the World Future Society, in Minnesota or Washington. In the 1970s, these were great incubators for futurists like Tom Sine or Joel Barker. In the 1990s, I had to create a local chapter of this same society to generate enough outside the box thinking in my own life. But where do emerging Christian futurists go today to get vocational encouragement?

At APF I ate dinner with an Australian futurist, Wayne Petrick, of The Futures Lab. Wayne told me he had spoken to various emergent church gatherings down under led by Alan Hirsch. In fact he first heard about futures studies from Tom Sine in 1994, and later got his M.A. in that field. But he agreed, that emergent church in his context, like the U.S., is usually not conversant with emergent culture, emergent technology, emergent ecology, or emergent politics.

As people of faith, we should be interested and involved in all things, not just church growth. In Ephesians, Paul writes how Christ has filled and fulfilled all things. Yet often times our ecclesiology and our missiology has been so narrowed we are not conversant with other domains of society. When we only talk about missional church or missional lifestyles, we miss the fact that God is also working through missional schools, missional businesses, missional communities, missional governments, and missional systems– like water, electricity or transportation. While many emergent church activists have an integral understanding of these things, we need to further broaden our conversations. Let’s not reduce our futures to just church futures, but rather let’s build a Christian Futures worldview as wide as the spectrum of God’s kingdom that includes human futures, organization futures, societal futures, youth futures, technological futures, or political futures. Click here for more on how we can so “optimize” the gospel or any domain, that we can lose the diversity and breath of the kingdom as an eco-system, in all its languages.

One of my quests the past decade has been to help recover a broad dynamic of biblical transformation that can make all things new. Christian Futures just released a new DVD series that every Christian leader should buy for their team and work through. It is called Mapping Transformation. In it, Jaccaci offers a thinking tool, he calls the Metamatrix® that can give you a way to think across various domains, and understand how God brings about change through natural order. Many people talk about Intelligent Design, but we need to relate that to New Creation, more than Creation.

Christian Futures exist to help you rethink and recreate your vocation, your work and your vision. Thinking, acting and influencing in the forward tense is not only for futurists. Not all of us are called to be professional futurists, but all of us are called to work with God to create a future, filled with more life, love and justice.

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