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WHATEVER HAPPENED TO HUMILITY?

When emerging church leaders think they have everything "all wrapped up," it’s time to yell, "Time Out!" Putting everything in a little box is not what the church needs at this moment in history. Instead, it’s time to sit on the edge of our seats and listen, look, and learn.

By now, it should be obvious that something big is happening. Bigger than what we’re doing. Bigger than what we’re predicting. We can’t see where it’s leading us, but we can certainly see "We’re not in Kansas anymore". . . .

. . . or in "Christendom."

We recognize this larger-than-life moment when something"other-than-us" precipitates things, when catalytic events cause seismic shifts, when outside forces drive history’s "quickenings." We recognize this colossal revelation when spiritual certainty turns uncertain, when it spirals out of control, when the spirituality we supposedly "controlled" now controls us.

We recognize this intrusive Otherness when moving events race forward at breathless speed, when multiple "tipping points" tumble headlong into the future, when the cascading rapids of change catch us by surprise. We recognize it when quixotic events move evermore quickly, when the rate of change accelerates, when our "feedback" loops compound their own force.

"So what?" the oblivious say. "Change is always with us." And true enough. Yet today, the dynamics of change have changed. Normal "change" has become abnormal, linear change has become exponential, and expected change has turned unexpected.

In short, we know something big is happening when reality moves beyond our understanding, when "knowing" is repeatedly overthrown, when the fabric of faith feels ruptured. We see it when conventional models of the future become irrelevant, when "event horizons" lie beyond our ability to predict, when hidden goals seem like "black holes"—refusing further light.

In other words, we’re rapidly approaching a time when the church—as we know it—cannot continue. We are arriving at a moment from which the illusions of the present can never return. We are facing an "essential strangeness" beyond which this era will end.

It is the end of something and the beginning of something totally Other—a transformation or creative mutation of spirituality itself.

See! I have set before you a door wide open which no one is able to shut.1

"Rare and Momentous"

These stark facts are not science fiction. They are not the pastimes of "end times," where fear and hope struggle for market supremacy. They are not the sectarian skirmishes of a "Second Reformation." Nor do they represent "rapture for nerds" or "grace for geeks."

And, contrary to opinion, these mutations are not the "latest and greatest" church rages. They are not "official" renewals, "just right" public policies or the pastor’s favorite programs. They are not mere "improvements" in the way we "do church." And, they are not the reworking of the past into the same untenable models.

For these historic transformations are larger than our sellout to show-business or our caricature of culture. They are larger than our accommodation to kids or their morphing of "cool" into a religion. And, they are larger than the "largest" of the churches or the latest list of God’s "chosen."

These looming events lie beyond even a "thinking man’s guide to the future"—newly invented social theories—or the next academic "think tank."

After all, all such efforts are "deja vu all over again"2—the continued, dreary rehearsals of Christendom’s failed glories.

Still, the epochal phenomena that lie beyond us are not"pie-in-the-sky" stuff. They’re right here—right now. What’s happening to the church is what we see happening. And, what’s happening reflects the actual world. Yet, it also reflects the world as it will be—a world far more real than the present world which, even now, is "passing away."3

It is "a rare and momentous alignment of forces."4 It is "the glow that suffuses everything here in the dawn of an expected new day."5

I am . . . He . . . Who is to come.6

The Fault Line of the Future

So, then, what do we see happening that confirms this Happening? What do we know that confirms this Knowing?

To begin, our "thinking"—or, more to the point, the way we think—is changing. And—as a result—the way we believe is changing. That belief, of course, is not a different "Word," it’s a different understanding of the Word. For spirituality is converting to new sympathies. Faith is transmuting to new sensitivities. And this Spirit-birthed age is birthing new spirit!

Consider where we’ve been: We’ve journeyed from farms, to factories, to "information." The agricultural and industrial ages were built on people’s backs. And the Information Age was built on people’s brains—logical and precise.

The future, though, no longer belongs to cold and calculating brains—the guys who know only "sequence," "literalness," and "analysis." It belongs, instead, to creativity, artistry, and empathy—metaphor, meaning, and emotion—pattern, synthesis, and the big picture.

It belongs to those who crave a different beauty—a postmodern beauty—a virtual (yet more real) beauty.

Today, it is their "thinking" that matters most. Their yearning marks the fault line between those who get ahead and those who fall behind—those who win and those who lose—those who innovate and those who stagnate.

Even church leaders are "thinking" differently. What was once a "subculture" is now mainstream. What was once embarrassing is now respectable. What was once powerless is now empowered. For once again, "spiritual" leaders are allowing a Sovereign Spirit to speak through their "spirit-filled" spirits.

This new spirituality may reflect Christianity, but not "Christendom." It may reflect the Hebrews, but not the Greeks. And, it may reflect the first century, but not the twenty-first century.

In Cahoots

Such epiphanies already shock "enlightened" civilization. Yet, the "magic" of technology and the "miracles" of modern physics will soon overwhelm even common sense. Science and the supernatural, it seems, are increasingly in cahoots. And we’ve missed it because we’ve seen only the warm-up act.

When church leaders finally grasp the amazing implications, the "proof" of ancient Scripture will change dramatically. No longer will we hide behind the worn out dogmas of the past—doctrines that are only "believed"and can never be "lived."

New forces—both sensuous and caring—are already blending the scientific with the senses, technology with touch, and the Internet with intimacy. And, fearfully, we’ll even reshape life through genetic manipulation, we’ll remold matter through nanotechnology, and we’ll recast consciousness through super-intelligent machines.

As if this isn’t supernatural enough, embarrassed physicists now admit that a miraculous realm exists within this realm. They confess an "Other World" within this world. And, they claim a prophetic power within a commonplace power.

Take quantum physics as example: In the odd world of quantum, things exist in a multitude of states until tipped toward a definite outcome by our "participation." It’s impossible, for example, to look at a quantum event without changing it. There’s an unavoidable bond, in other words, between the observer and the world observed.

So we are participants more than spectators. We are coauthors more than bystanders. Our world is more a "Creating" than a "Creation." In other words, our "desire reveals design, and (our) design reveals destiny."7

The quantum world promises we can "make the Holy Spirit offers He can’t refuse." And Jesus made the same promise.8

A New Empowerment of Faith

This discovery would not have surprised the early Hebrews. They knew all things exist in the invisible realm before they appear in the visible realm. That’s the reason Hebrew faith was the "substance"—or raw material—of which things were made.9 They simply copied the example of God who spoke "of nonexistent things . . . as if they [already] existed"—"declaring the end and the result from the beginning."10

It was not unusual, in other words, that under dry skies, Elijah announces, "There is the sound of abundance of rain." Nor was it rare when Jesus declared, "I have overcome the world," when—in reality—His victory became fact when He later died and rose again.

Of course, the spiritual implications of modern physics are enormous.11 When our decisions and God’s will mutually move each other, the role of divine action takes on totally new meaning. The Church must learn to embolden these understandings in a new empowerment of faith.

The world of invisible forces is more real than reality itself. Today, our imagination is being baptized, and our windows on God’s miraculous presence are reopening. Our "thinking" is no longer bound to an ancient Greek world. . . .

. . . we are projecting a new world.12

© 2010 Thomas Hohstadt

Endnotes

1. Revelation 3:8, The Amplified Bible.

2. Attributed to Yoggi Berra.

3. I Corinthians 7:31, The Amplified Bible.

4. Steven Johnson, Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate (New York: Basic Books, 1997) p. 187.

5. Jürgen Moltmann, quoted in Grenz and Franke, Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology In A Postmodern Context (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001) p. 239.

6. Revelation 1:8, The Amplified Bible.

7. John Eldredge, Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001) p. 48.

8. Matthew 17:20.

9. Hebrews 11:1.

10. Romans 4:17, Isaiah 46:10; The Amplified Bible.

11. We include other theories as well—especially "string theory."

12. William Irwin Thompson, Coming Into Being (NewYork: St. Martin’s Press, 1996) p. 73.



Future Church Administrator