Washington Mutual Bank failed this week. This is the largest bank failure in US history. Home foreclosures are on the rise.Â Lenders are tightening up on credit. The daily news is plastered with news of what may be the most serious economic downturn since the great depression. Many of us grow weary as Republicans and Democrats jockey for political posture while they seek to negotiate a so called “bail out” and keep our economy from crashing.
Of special interest to me, since I’ve chosen to drive from Orlando to Nashville for the Human Event with Gary Morgan, pastor of Mosaic Nashville, next week (Sept 30), is Hurricane Ike. Ike has not only shattered property along the Texas coast, but, because of the impact on the Texan oil industry, Ike also pinched the entire southeast with a gasoline shortage.
I have no choice now. I have to drive. Will I find gasoline on the way? Will I have to wait in line for hours? If prices spike upward will I have the budget to make it all the way there? Will I get stranded somewhere?
All of these kinds of things run through our minds in the context of a hot presidential race with lots of variables.
- -> Must we win in Iraq?
- -> Who in the world is Sarah Palin?
- -> Is our government just a bunch of profession politicians of all colors and both genders that aren’t really there to serve our country?
- -> Who in the world is Barack Obama?
- -> Who are the good guys in all this?
- -> Are we even good any more?
- -> Where is the price of gas going?
With all these variables, there is a question that may, in a pessimistic moment, cross our minds:
Are we the generation that will be able to say that we were there when America ended?
In 1908 the global currency was the British pound. Today, in 2008, the global currency is the dollar. What will the shape of the global economy look like in 2108? What will be the global currency be in 2108? What will be –if any– the dominant global culture in 2108?
besides the economic issues, there are deomographic issues that are changing the landscape of the western world. The south to north migration from Africa and Asia Minor into Europe has altered the profile of the west. for example:
- -> Large populations of south Asians in England led me to characterize London as fish and chips meets curry.
- -> France is a western center for Arabs.
- -> Turks are now a normal part of the German landscape.
The USA has not been exempt to change. As one standup comic noted, what he learned on his trip to LA is that Mexico must be empty. These demographic shifts have changed the perceived pigment of the face of America. They also effect the age distibution–except for immigrants, the US would be a way older nation– and language diversification — the huge number of latinos make spanish speaking a part of California living.
I was leading church planting seminars in the early 90’s and talking a lot about these things. I still have the Time Magazine Issue, The New Face of America, that came out in 1993. Here’s the cover:
Times like these tell us that things, really big things, can and do change. Of course, there is no guarantee in history nor in scripture that America will survive until God makes the world new again.Â America is not the Kingdom of God, nor is it a nation with a special place in sacred history. If America is special, and I think it is, it is because it has been influenced to a great degree by the story told in the Jewish/Christian scriptures. But historical moments like these when Americans feel their vulnerability should serve to remind us that nations do rise and fall.
So, what do we do in times like these? How do we think? Towards what do we set our compass?
Our task as Christ following people is not to save America as an economic and political entity, even though the health and well being of America provides many advantages to the work of the gospel.Â Our task is to take the gospel across cultures and through the generations.
- -> By across cultures I mean that we are called to make sure that the gospel, which we have received, travels to the end of the earth.
- -> By through the generations I mean that it is our task to make sure that the gospel travels into the future. Our task is not to make sure that our nation (or our religious institutions) survive(s) but that the gospel travels to and enters in the culture of emerging generations.
We created M, Voxtropolis and the IMN as vehicles for the task of recolonizing the west for Christ. [Not that we leave the rest of the world out]. My sense is that this is a three hundred year project.
Whatever else the world looks like in 2108 or in 2308, we would like to see millions of Christ following people and tens of thousands of Christ following communities shaping and influencing culture at the grassroots level. To get there, we’ll have to venture off of the beaten and well known paths and seeks new ways forward.
I say this because as I have looked throughout the west, I can see that if we are going to reach the west for Christ, we will have to –in large part –bypass the church.
I remember visiting churches in both the EU and the USA and thinking that they could never reach the world they live in much less the world that is coming. They are too comfortable with their buildings and budgets to worry about the quest to save the universe. But, while our religious structures may have stifled many Christ following people, I have an unrelenting optimism of what could happen when Christ following people are set free <from> bolstering up church structures out of duty <to> following Christ into the world while riding on the emotional energy of their real passions.
I remember walking on the streets of Zurich — supposedly over the vaults that contain large chunks of the worlds wealth — and thinking that I don’t want the west to fall to religious ideologies that will take the world backward. But our wealth, in which the West trusts, is being exposed right now for the false god it is. On the upside, uncertain times like ours can also be times of openness. My hope is that these times of chaos and change may be exactly what is needed to bring out the barbarian in all of us whose trust is in Christ.
My sense is that America is not ending but evolving. Nevertheless, our ultimate trust should not be in the USA. Churches open and close. Our ultimate trust should not be in a local church, a denomination or even in a religion. Where then do we place our eyes? Be alert for and look for the hope that Christ brings. The future that God is making for all of us through Christ is characterized by dancing. Times like these are moments in which we can build our lives, and the lives of those we reach, on He who does not fail.
With Christ in sight go out and vote, preach, feed the hungry, change the world. Do whatever it is that you love to do to call the world to a fiesta hosted by God.
What do you think?