Retro Posters about Future Vacation Possibilities


Download the posters from JPL.
My friend, Joby Harris, created some beautiful posters for NASA to mark the discovery of habitable worlds.

From the CNN source:
These posters mark the discovery of potentially habitable worlds.

“Rendered in the retro style of classic travel billboards of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, the posters depict these distant worlds as pleasurable destinations.

The image for Kepler 16-b — previously compared to the fictional “Star Wars” planet of Tatooine because of its dual suns — shows a space-suited figure basking in the light from the twin orbs overhead.

“Relax on Kepler 16-b,” the poster says. “The land of two suns … Where your shadow always has company.”
HD_40307g_20x30Although the planet is depicted as a rocky, terrestrial world, NASA says it could also be a gas giant like Saturn with freezing temperatures that would make it hostile to known lifeforms.

A second poster shows an astronaut free-falling to experience the powerful gravity over HD 40307g, a “Super Earth” 44 light years — or 264 trillion miles — away.
Another sunny day on Kepler-16b.

The third depicts Kepler-186f (even further away at 500 light years) with a scene of red trees held back by a white picket fence.
Kepler_186f_39x27The planet has been previously described as “Earth’s cousin” because it’s similar in size to our own world. Because it orbits a cooler, redder sun there’s speculation that if plants did grow here, they’d be a different color to our own vegetation.

Where the grass is redder

“Kepler-186f, where the grass is always redder on the other side,” the poster’s slogan reads.”


Makers of Fire by Alex McManus

Thanks to missional maven, Alan Hirsch, global peacemaker, Bob Roberts, and professional futurist, Jay Gary, for their kind words featured in the Makers of Fire Video Trailer below.

Thanks to those of you who’ve purchased my book — now available on Amazon  — or have emailed me encouraging notes. Thanks!

What does it mean to lead from the future?

How important is it to develop the skill of leading from the future?

Well, first of all, what does it mean to lead from the future? It means

  • developing a clear picture of the future one prefers
  • cultivating the action-mindset to create it
  • calling on others to join you

An essential aspect of this skill is the ability to describe the present. This is not as easy as it might seem, especially in our time of exponentially rapid change. But without cultivating the ability to describe the present, leaders will not be able to anticipate the future.

That’s a skill the prophets of old developed to a high degree.

Many think of the prophets in the Old Testament as soothsayers who could predict the future. But they were mavens at describing the present. They had the courage to open their eyes, see what was really going on around them, and say something about it.

The prophet Nathan rebuked David for the murder of Uriah. The prophets of Israel pointed out the mistreatment of the poor, widowed, and orphaned. Jesus himself read the signs and anticipated the destruction of the Temple.

Twenty-first century leadership needs to hone the ability to describe the present.

In Makers of Fire I talk about three sets of triads or triangles:

  • The triad of fire,
  • the triad of change, and
  • the triad of leadership.


The Triads of Making Fire
Fuel | Oxygen | Heat = Fire
Artifacts | Meaning | Choice = Change
Describing | Discerning | Discovering = Leadership

from Makers of Fire: the spirituality of leading from the future


Leaders need to be able to fearlessly describe the world as it is, wisely discern the meaning in the moment, and creatively discover paths forward towards the world as they prefer it.

I mentioned in my last post that if I had to describe the present in one word, it would be that we live in a time of Redefinition. Makers_WordPressThe meaning of fundamental societal structures such as marriage, family, and even gender are being redefined.

We can be grateful for the real opportunity these redefinitions give us to re-engage our story. For one example,

  • What do we make of the fact that Jesus speaks about marriage being redefined at least once already?
  • How do we integrate the fact that polygyny seems to be an acceptable marital structure in the Old Testament (David, Abraham, others)?
  • How do we account for animal suffering and death before the “fall” of man?

Leaving the scripture for the world of science, our DNA tells us that polygyny was a more  common marital structure than one man and one woman. We have more “Moms” than we do “Dads” in our genes. We know today that animals lived, suffered, and died for millions of years before humankind appeared on Earth.

This kind of new data creates problems for those who read Genesis chronologically as a history. The way they read it, the first families were made up of marital units comprised of one man and one woman, and after “the fall” everything got screwed up. And, Adam and Eve’s sin allowed death to enter the world.

  • How can we understand the scriptural story of marriage, family, and sexuality as well the existence of death and suffering before the “fall” alongside a genetic and historical story that starts off messy rather than perfect?

Maybe it’s time to rethink our story, and make it bigger so that it accounts for deep time as well as the new data about life on Earth. How can we do this while being true to the biblical story that  we’re in?

Perhaps the vision of the garden and of the man and woman are not about the past at all. Perhaps they are a vision of the future, a future which no culture has yet attained, but towards which we are moving.

This is just one small example. And this one word, Redefinition, describes only one stream within our 21st century culture.

A second descriptor of our time is Exponentially Rapid Change. The Pew Research Group’s findings indicate that the rate of change in the 21st century would be a thousand times faster than in the 20th. And change in the 20th century was blazing fast. Not only are we defining and redefining, we’re doing it at lightning fast speed.

Are you ready?

In Makers of Fire, I offer a dozen descriptors of the present. Redefinition and Exponentially Rapid Rate of Change are two of them. I’ll offer the rest in posts to come. We’ll also be discussing this in the Master Certificate portion of the IMN 2015 Immersion in Orlando. Hope to see some of you there.

As you look around, what is it that you see?

Order your copy of Makers of Fire on Amazon.
Enroll in IMN 2015 in Orlando, Fl February 2-6. Click the link for more details.

The Nones

An excerpt from

MAKERS OF FIRE: the spirituality of leading from the future
by Alex McManus

The Nones

Unknown-2The longing for a new way to be human may be why so many in the USA, when polled about their religious affiliations, check the box “None.” We call them “the nones.” I know so many people of vibrant faith who classify themselves as “nones” because they’re detaching from traditional religious institutions in search of something more authentic. This is especially acute in the Christian faith because one is not born a Christian.

In the West, many have  forgotten how, and more importantly, why earlier generations came to believe. I suspect that the rise of those who identify themselves religiously as “nones” may reflect the rise of a deeper spirituality as much as it signals an abandonment of the institutions of faith.

In a recent conversation, a very thoughtful 25-year-old expressed this sentiment: “Even if all the claims of Christianity are true, I wouldn’t want to be a Christian.” Some have moved beyond their faith in Western Culture and it’s religion, Christianity. Because this person had at one time been a believer, I asked if there was something about faith that she missed. She informed me that she still believed that God hears her and that she had at one time heard from God, but she was no longer a Christian. Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 1.40.34 PM

Where might this phenomena of the nones be leading us? It many ways becoming a Christian today may include a turn away from Christendom and the traditional churches that developed during that time. In fact, following Christ, for some, will mean not becoming a Christian.

To make an analogy with the life of Christ, Jesus was crucified by the Romans, then buried by friends. On the third day, he walked among his disciples again, raised from the dead. There were three days of “space” and “time” between the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ.

Many today may be followers of Jesus who live in the liminal space after the death of the Christian religion but prior to the resurrection of an expression that can be  trusted again. Rather than rely on truth claims issued by an institution, it will try to remember how to trust again. Rather than institutional, the future of the Christ following faith will begin again as relational.

I suspect that the future of the church may be different than we suspect. Let’s put this radically: The Catholic church is not the church of the future.  Neither is the Orthodox church. The churches of the Reformation are not the church of the future. Neither are the evangelical churches, nor the emerging church, the church of the future. None of these are the church of the future nor the future of the church.


To borrow words from Jesus of Nazareth, these may be some of the seeds but we have not seen the tree. Some will fear the death of the seed. But if the seed doesn’t die, it remains just a single seed. But if it falls into the ground and dies, then it will reproduce itself many times over. (John 12.24)

The search for a new way of being human is the zeitgeist of our times, and many of us are going back to zero and starting again. This is a new  journey of discovery, a new time to seek, and our whole culture is on it.

MAKERS OF FIRE: the spirituality of leading from the future
by Alex McManus

4 Trends for Churches to Consider

When I first saw Ed Stetzer’s original article titled, MissionTrends: 4 Trends for Churches to Consider, I had some points of difference. But I wasn’t sufficiently motivated to write about them because, overall, I think we should all think more about the future.

But the article crossed my sights again in “Charisma News” post titled, 4 Trends in Christianity That Could Scare You, According to Ed Stetzer.

I don’t know why this was in my feed, but there it was. So, I decided to look at the article again. I think what tipped me over was that Charisma News added “That Could Scare You” in the title.

We should not be scared.
We should seize our moment.

For those of you who did not read Stetzer’s blogpost, here are his “4 trends”:

1. The word “Christian” will become less used and more clear”
2. The nominals will increasingly become “nones”
3. Christians Will Increasingly Change Cultural Tactics
4. More Robust Churches will Result from the Death of Nominalism

Here are some of the ways my take differs from Stetzer’s “4 Trends”.


1. The word “Christian” will become less used and more clear”

The first trend, according to Stetzer, is “less people are calling themselves Christians and those who are will take it more seriously.”

A trend can be described as a change in a variable over time. In this sense, I’m not sure I would classify any of these 4 as “trends.”  These “4 trends” seem more like forecasts based on experience (or hopes)  rather than extrapolations based on data. Ok, too nit-picky and this isn’t my point anyway. Let’s move on to the good stuff.

Stetzer goes on to say, “In the future, the word Christian will mean more to those who would be considered convictional Christians. However, it will mean-and be used-less to those who were nominal Christians in the first place. The word will be less used and more clear.”

In contrast, I think, that in the future, the word Christian may also be used less by those to whom it means more. In other words, those who follow Christ out of conviction, rather than simply because of culture, may use Christian less as a self designation because they recognize the cultural, political, economic acculturation of Christianity with modern culture.

In other words, they will use the word Christian less

  • in an attempt to be less syncretistic in their faith
  • in an attempt to be able to express their faith with less baggage
  • and because they honestly sense that their experience of faith is not represented well by the word

Those believers who are more attached to the status quo, who have less cognitive dissonance between the Modern era, America, and Christianity will be more likely to use the word Christian.

So, it may be Stetzer’s “squishy middle” —those who, according to Ed, were “nominal in the first place” — along with the keepers of the status quo who will actually more frequently use “Christian” as a self designation.

2. The nominals will increasingly become nones

Stetzer’s second “trend” is “The nominals will increasingly become nones.”

Stetzer argues that nominal Christians — those who are Christian in name only but not out of conviction — are becoming the “nones.” For those of you who may not be familiar with term, the “nones” are those who do not identify with any religion.

Ed notes that 30% among college students now count themselves among the “nones.” It’s true that many thoughtful and motivated young people are choosing against Christianity. In some cases it is because they have failed to be convinced by the evidence and by experience. In other cases, it’s because they can’t distinguish between the Christ following faith and the Christian religion as represented by some cultural artifact such as the political right wing or left wing. In yet other cases, the young may be leaving Christianity in a sincere attempt to follow Christ. So here I totally agree with Stetzer, but even more emphatically, when he writes, “we should change the way we think about engaging culture.”

However, the “nones” is not the new designation for nominal Christians. In contrast, I think that the “nones” may also be the new designation for the most zealous Christ followers. (For my post on the “Nones” click here.) I think the “nones” may include precisely those believers who are changing the ways they “think about engaging culture.” And, it’s not just about engagement, it’s about authentically feeling their way forward towards a new way of following Christ beyond Christianity.

I know many devout believers who would say they are a “none” when asked about their religious preferences because they do not believe their relationship to Christ is a religion.

Others refrain from using Christian as a self designation because being Christian is often perceived (depending on the listener) as belonging to a certain political party, or being anti-science, or having a particular attitude, etc. Perhaps we should consider returning —and perhaps will— to the days when others accused us of being Christians, rather than us resorting to self proclamation.


3. Christians Will Increasingly Change Cultural Tactics

I agree with Ed here. He argues that “convictional” Christians will advocate less for the legislation of traditional values and be more focused on protecting religious liberty.” Again, while this may not yet be a trend, this is a good tactical suggestion, as Ed states.

But focusing on “religious liberty,” as tactically correct as this might be, is not the gospel. We must focus on embodying Christ in the context of community as a way of announcing that in Christ God will make all things thrive. To exercise religious liberty will mean to live out, in our own faith communities, a new politic, economy, and society.

Stetzer argues that we must “hold the Word of God in high authority” and that “we should also wisely discern the present culture…”

I would say it this way: we must know our story and live in it and we must know the competing narratives that surround us.

I would add that we must start new communities of faith that embody this story. Starting new communities of faith is a way of creating the future. And these new communities are the greatest evidence of the trustworthiness of our story.

4. More Robust Churches will Result from the Death of Nominalism

Again, this is not a trend based on data, but something akin to “hope” and more along the lines of “prophesying the way forward.” Stetzer argues that “Churches that are preaching the gospel and are focusing on biblical truths are going to become more clearly distinct from the culture around them.”

Well, first, I think nominalism will survive. There have always be those who say, “Lord, Lord…” (Matthew 7) and I don’t see that changing. And, if more robust churches emerge, it won’t be because of the death of nominalism. It will be because robust churches continually choose to die to themselves and give birth to new communities of faith. If this happens, the spirit may move, regardless of what happens to nominal churches and christians.

I do agree that new unique and distinct communities of faith will arise. But I also think that many new communities will both embody Christ’s resurrection and meld with culture as opposed to “be distinct from” culture, if by this we mean separated/ isolated from culture.

So What is the Way Forward?

There will be the stream that seeks to accommodate the new culture. They will lose a large part of their narrative. There will be the stream that runs counter to culture. They will disappear into antagonistic irrelevance. There will be the stream that retreats from culture. They will have no impact. There will be the stream that tries to educate the new culture. They will leave the will untransformed. There will be the stream that seeks to become the new culture, the future culture, the culture that follows wholeheartedly after Christ. And they will create the future.

Letting Go and Holding On

As we take a turn towards the 22nd century, what do we “let go of” and “to what do we hold on”?
That was a question that came out of the MAKERS OF FIRE SESSION webinar yesterday.

It was asked from the perspective of faith
and so we discussed letting go of…


  • …truths (propositional) and holding on to trust (personal)
  • …letting go of doctrines and holding on to directions
  • …letting go of cultural power and holding on to spirit
  • …letting go of certainty and holding on to faith


Here are some examples of things that some of us “hold onto” and some ideas about where we might be going.

HEAVEN. Not too long ago, many Christians evangelized using heaven as an incentive (at least in the Souther part of the United States). Now Christians are beginning to flip over towards an understanding that humans are not intended for heaven but for earth. (What makes this more interesting is that these same Christians warned new converts against cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who teach that God is making a new heaven and a new Earth. So, at least in terms of language with regard to this one idea, we should congratulate the Jehovah’s witness for leading the way!)

WOMEN AND THE ENVIRONMENT. From the 60’s on Pagans (Yes, the religion) led the way in terms of the role of women in society and in terms of valuing the Earth. Now Christians are adopting a more “biblical” perspective on the natural world and are rereading the scriptures about the role of women. (Again, should not Christ followers applaud the Pagans for pointing us in the right direction?)

HELL. The idea of hell as a place of eternal suffering is falling out of favor and ideas like annihilationism (also maintained by the Jehovah’s witnesses) are stepping up as viable alternatives.

CHURCH. The idea of church as a sunday morning gathering plateaus and church as a path journeyed in community rises. (Yes, the “church gathering” and the mega church will be a part of the future).

CLERGY. The idea of ministry as a career plateaus and ministry as a charism and calling rises. (Yes, there will continue to be leaders whom the “community on journey together” slingshot forward to announce the gospel where needed).

EVOLUTION. Imagine a future in which every Christ following person has evolutionary frameworks for how life emerges on Earth and works out a theology from there. Welcome to the future.

ATONEMENT. Good bye to the idea that God was getting his pound of flesh on Christ. Goodbye angry God and his angry pastors. Human evil, however, is still real and invisible to secular eyes.

HUMANKIND. Good bye to the idea that humanity is the problem and hello to the idea that humanity is the goal. This is what I call, making the world human.

ORGATHETIC.  We will let go of the idea of humanity as a purely organic creature and move towards the embrace of the human-machine merger, the melding together of the organic with the synthetic, what I call the Orgathetic future.

THE RETURN OF CHRIST. What meaning will the “soon return of Christ” have in 3000AD or 4000AD? That’s pretty much the meaning in 2014AD. Alternatives include that the coming of the spirit was the return of Christ AND that the return of Christ and the end of the universe some 14 billion years in the future are one and the same thing.

THE NATURE AND ROLE OF THE SCRIPTURES. The Bible as revelation goes away and the Bible as a culturally conditioned human witness rises. There will be a factual component — the bible is a work of humans — and a faith component — the Bible is a human witness to the Acts of God within history and life experience.

GOD. The ideas of God’s transcendence  and immanence will race to the extreme edges of the spectrum. We will become more humble as we realize that our goldfish has a better chance of understanding our calculus homework than we do of understanding God. And we will become more alert as we begin to experience God more fully within everything around us. The shifts will run from Knowing God in terms of knowledge to knowing God in terms of personal experience and from theism, in the sense of a strict separation between God and everything else, to panentheism (vs pantheism), a sense of God in all things.

EARTH. As we colonize Mars, we will let go of Earth as the final destination of life and instead embrace it as the womb of life from which life spreads across the universe. We will embrace orgathetic humanity as a multi-planetary species and possibly as the launching pad for life across the galaxy.


Letting go doesn’t mean abdicating the responsibility to articulate, embody, and name the relationship of trust, the trajectories of our journey, the meaning of the spirit, and the understanding of faith, and it certainly doesn’t mean detaching ourselves from the historical source of the Christ following movement, but it does mean recognizing that we are evolving. And, in fact, evolving makes articulating, embodying, and naming … even more important. It is a risk of love we must take because we are all feeling our way forward. And we won’t get there alone. And we won’t be alone, for Christ journeys with us.


What do you think?

“And the word was made flesh…”

Future Skill #4: Connect

Another skill needed to lead from the future is systems thinking, the ability to connect the dots.

Just as a reminder, the four skills (we’re looking at) needed to lead from the future are

1) SIMPLIFY: the drive to simplify
2) MAKE: the instinct to make
3) THRIVE: the hunger to make the world thrive
4) CONNECT: the imagination to connect seemingly unrelated dots

When thinking about the future, it is not enough to ask what happens next? We must also ask, what happens because of what happens next?

At the personal level this means reconsidering any idea that goes something like this: Well if it doesn’t hurt anyone else, what’s wrong with it? The idea here assumes a nonexistent isolation, and extreme individualism that fails to recognize that we are all connected. The creation is an interconnected system made up of interconnected systems.

At the environmental level, it means seeing the big picture in little actions. For example, recognizing that littering plastic in my neighborhood may end up fortifying the Pacific Garbage Gyre.

I think the science of evolution, the merger of man with machine, the race for genetic enhancements, and the full mapping of the wild and largely unexplored universe we call the human brain will create new ways to think about God.

I think the rising tide of those who are exploring how to be spiritual without being religious will highlight just how religious the human species is. Yes, even the nonreligious, the secularist, and the atheist.

And these are the obvious connections.

Here are a few others that may be less obvious …

What’s happening? We are developing the world’s first affectionate robots.

What happens because this happens? MIGRATION. The affectionate robots being developed in Japan (that will be commercially available next year) may eventually ( say, 5-7 years) lessen demand for filipino migration to Canada.

What else happens because this happens? CHURCH. Pastors of filipino churches in Canada, pay attention. If you depend on these migrant workers for your membership roles, start working on your plan B.

What else happens because this happens? SEXUALITY. Affectionate Sexbots will end human sex trafficking. Or, at least, put a huge dent in it. At the same time, as  human “sex work” goes mainstream, prostitution will go upscale as sex therapists — think of the consort on the popular television series, Firefly — or as technology “pimps.”

The list goes on. Start with any change and, with a little imagination, you can begin to map, hundreds of other resulting changes. (One tool we use for this in our IMN training is the Futures Wheel.) You get the idea.

Leading from the future will mean stepping back and seeing the Big picture. It means thinking in systems. It also means understanding the small picture, the little things, and recognizing how a little action may impact the whole.

At the theological level, remember the profoundly “systems thinking” element of the cross of Christ. We need to ask, How does the death of Jesus on the cross impact the world? And, for a spiritual reflection, think of how Jesus’ words might impact the whole world: “love your neighbor as yourself.”

All things are connected.

Alex McManus

Author, Makers of Fire: the spirituality of leading from the future

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