looking-ahead

By Sam Rainer

If you do not make assumptions about the future, then you are not leading. Good leaders constantly assess the cultural climate. In other words, they do research. Good leaders are also willing to change their assumptions. In other words, they are flexible. Holding firm to assumptions from the Y2K era is about as relevant as giving a set of Pokemon cards to your kids this year for Christmas.

So at the end of every year, I pause to challenge my underlying assumptions of what I believe the future holds. Vision is a key to leadership, and the nature of vision requires an assumption of what will happen in the future. Therefore, you cannot lead unless you are thinking about the future.

In a recent article about Ford Motor Company, the head of their trends and futuring department revealed several assumptions about the coming year. Though Ford is trying to determine consumer demand for automobiles three years in advance, their research is valuable to the church because they are assessing global trends within sociology, economics, technology, and politics, among others.

So what trends should the church expect to help define the cultural climate of 2013? More specifically, what assumptions do people have about organizations right now? The Ford consumer environment report has a lot of commonalities with current church research. I’ve listed below a few general, qualitative assumptions for church leaders to consider.

Lack of organizational trust. The fiscal cliff, BP, News International, bank after bank, public sector or private sector—the list of examples is long. Brand trust, organizational trust, and institutional trust are all low. We’re foolish to think this lack of trust in the culture does not apply to the church. The best way to combat a general lack of organizational trust is to build a specific reputation as a trustworthy church. You may not trust car mechanics—generally—but you probably put forth effort to find one you do trust. And the way you find the trustworthy mechanic is through word-of-mouth. It’s the same with doctors. I recently spent considerable time asking people about the best doctor in a particular field. People may not trust churches organizationally as a whole, but a specific reputation as a trustworthy church spreads rapidly through word-of-mouth.

Desire for accountability in leadership. The single most neglected leadership behavior among executives is… accountability. And it’s the most neglected leadership behavior from a global perspective. It should come as no surprise that people recognize the pervasive culture of unaccountability and desire leaders who not only hold others accountable but are also willing to be held accountable. A lack of leadership accountability precipitates almost every church scandal. People desire accountability. From a biblical perspective, the church should be well-positioned to fill this desire. Ironically, many church leaders avoid it.

Fickle commitment. Gone are the days of working for a company for 50 years. People were once loyal to a single employer. Those employers once went to great lengths to take care of their employees. It just doesn’t happen anymore. Over 90 percent of millennials expect to stay at a job for less than three years. Why would we expect anything different for the church? Many reasons exist as to why people church hop, but a large driving factor is the cultural force of fickleness. A church can build commitment levels by having a culture of high expectations. When these expectations are communicated clearly and upfront, the people that commit are more likely to stick.

Intimacy within the crowd. We are quickly becoming an urban society. Big cities are getting bigger. Big churches are getting bigger. People are leaving the countryside in favor of the concrete jungle. The gravitational pull of large cities and large churches will continue for a generation, at least. But the draw of the city and the large church does not mean people eschew intimacy. In fact, the crowds of megacities and megachurches mean people are more intentional about trying to find intimacy. Healthy churches will get bigger by getting smaller. In this era of urbanization, small group settings are arguably more important now than at any point in our history. Quite simply, you will not keep people in a large worship service for long without also connecting them to a small group.

Weariness of overwhelming amounts of information. Hyperlinks, RSS feeds, and Twitter—all are great until you just get overwhelmed. Access to information is no longer a problem. Everyone is talking, and it’s posted all over the Internet hinterland. Now people just want to know who to listen to. In the overwhelming, loud complexity of our culture, the church should be a solace of simplicity and clarity. Of course, most church leaders try to make their church simple for them. Making a church simple for the people, however, is tremendously difficult and entirely complex for the leadership. As church leaders, we’ve made simple about us. It’s time we make church simple for the people.

Projecting the cultural climate ten years out is about as exact as nailing the tenth day in a ten-day forecast. But there is great value in assessing your assumptions about the direction of the culture, especially within the next year or two. Our culture is constantly changing. What people think about organizations is changing. As a leader, you must become a student of the culture to recognize these changes, and you must be flexible enough to rework your assumptions when necessary.

HT: Josh Ellis for the Ford article

Sam S. Rainer is the senior pastor of Stevens Street Baptist Church in Cookeville, TN, and president of Rainer Research. He blogs regularly at SamRainer.com

Comments

  1. says

    The Church can expect whatever its pastors and small group teachers instruct their learners to expect. In other words, is the American Church painting an explicit picture of the “End Game: of the Christian life? If so, the lifestyles of fellow Christians will begin to look very differently from that of their non-Christian neighbors. They will stop tweaking their lifestyle by adding a few moralistic behaviors and begin to completely transform it. But if the Church continues to only accurately teach knowledge about God, its members will continue to store that information in their brain and continue to live like good Republicans, instead of Christians. Neither Ford Motor Company, your favorite sports team, or any other organization is successful by providing accurate information, but by combining the information with instruction about how and why it is necessary to use (apply) the information. But until the typical American Church stops fearing its congregation more than it fears God our culture will continue to disintegrate because Christians will imagine that their purpose is to be the smartest slaves on Satan’s plantation instead of realizing that their purpose is to kick him of OUR plantation.

  2. says

    Thanks so much for your post! I, too, believe it is important to seek the Holy Spirit in all things — moment by moment, year to year. This is what the Holy Spirit has pressed into my heart for what is to come in 2013, some of which I had to publicly walk out this year. 2012 was a very trying and sacrificial year for many in the Body of Christ. There was a great purpose for this. May Yeshua’s grace help us get the job done for 2013!

    Here is the link below:

    Prophetic Word for 2013: The Year of the Great Fall (Parts 1-4)

    malchishuahnew.wordpress.com

  3. Linda Hansen says

    @Buddy Hanson I agree! I have been exposed to both groups & either can be a cold place. If the Christians in either group are not growing in the HS and let the mind of Christ be in them & transform them they will either be full of themselves and think they have arrived, or worse confused and dragged around by every doctrine. It’s very hard to get accepted in many small groups when the Holy Spirit is not allowed to change hearts and minds! So much New Age doctrines have been allowed to mesh with GOD’s and that’s the shepherd’s fault & I See these 2 things in 2013 forward as the Body of Christ’s biggest challenge . I think GOD would say where are the real believers will they please stand up and show themselves.

  4. Linda Hansen says

    @Buddy Hanson I agree! I have been exposed to both groups & either can be a cold place. If the Christians in either group are not growing in the HS and let the mind of Christ be in them & transform them they will either be full of themselves and think they have arrived, or iworse confused and dragged around by every doctrine. It’s very hard to get accepted in many small groups when the Holy Spirit is not allowed to change hearts and minds! So much New Age doctrines have been allowed to mesh with GOD’s and that’s the shepherd’s fault & I See these 2 things in 2013 forward as the Body of Christ’s biggest challenge . I think GOD would say where are the real believers will they please stand up and show themselves.

  5. says

    As a graduateof one of the nation’s best law schools, a church and state law specialist, one studied in the biblical doctrines of church, state, and separation of church and state, and a Bible believing believer and member of a local autonomous New Testament church, I find this article discomfiting. First, the biblical doctrine of the church shows that only a small remnant of “churches” are in close conformity to the principles of the Bible. Applying business principles to the church takes a church further from the truth.
    A big mistake for any church is to look at business for direction for a church. That this is the norm for many “pastors” and “churches” reveals the degree of heresy in today’s “Christianity” and “churches.”
    See jeraldfinney.wordpress.com for more information.

    • Linda says

      Jerald, you are correct, why would we take our lead from the business world? We are to be led by the Holy Spirit who is the third person of the GODhead. He will lead us into all truth if we allow Him! GOD only knows the future and the world maybe only knows the trends and they are fickled.

      The BIG question for the ‘church” is are you really the Body of Christ have you really placed your complete trust/relying on Him, or are you just an assembly aka “church”, synagogue, or any other group gathering together? Are you looking above where you are heavenly seated, or for an earthly kingdom. Are you taking care of business as usual and material gains, or as Ambassadores for Christ in the ministry of Reconsiiation 2Cor. 5:18-20 as Paul has instructed us directly from Jesus?

      I suspect there’s a whole lot of playing church and fewer true Believers. Have you really repented Grk. Metanoia “a chang of mind”?

      • Linda says

        I wasn’t implying that those in a Synagogue do not worship GOD, but that the use of “church” in the Bible is translate poorly for both as in Rev. “The letters to the churches” aka synagogues. The church has imposed herself into everything not rightly dividing the Word of God! Synagogues/assemblies.

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