Two Major Shifts: Dematerialization and On-demand

Last year I led a sessionyoungspock on the Future of Education for the Orlando extension of Asbury Seminary. We discussed two major cultural/technological shifts- Dematerialization and On-Demand- and their implications for education over the next few decades. What are the implications of these same shifts for the mission of your business, organization, or church?

DEMATERIALIZATION

Dematerialization has been a major shift in the entertainment industry.

Think Blockbuster and Netflix. (This was spotted for you almost two years ago in our “How Life Changed in the Last Decade” series). The material, brick-and-mortar business is gone. The digital business thrives.

It’s a major shift for readers. Think Borders (now gone) and Amazon (now ubiquitous). Think paperbacks and Kindle.

What are the implications of this shift for brick-and-mortar business, shopping malls, universities and seminaries, and churches? An example of the implications of Dematerialization comes from the world education in the MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). Through Udacity a student can earn a Master’s degree from Georgia Tech for about $7,000.00. And you don’t have all those expenses related to relocation. And now, as MOOCs team up with Educational Institutions AND employers, this is a game changer.

Here’s the fun part: Imagine a university or seminary campus 25 – 50 years deeper into this century. What do you see? Any university or seminary that is investing in brick-and-mortar facilities needs to consider the “dematerialized” future.

ON-DEMAND

How many of you have needed to learn how to do something and immediately turned to Youtube for the answers? My wife, Niza, came home from a college class a while back confused from a lecture. She searched it on Youtube and found the videos that helped her understand what she was supposed to be learning in college.

The three “Rs” of learning used to be reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. Add “R”search. Today, we can discover what we want/need to know on-demand by searching for it online. But the key here is not that we can find what we want, as cool as that is, but that we can find it when we want it.

On-demand.

This means ultimately customized and personal. What might the implications be for your organization? Not in 2050, but today?

THE DEMATERIALIZED AND ON-DEMAND FUTURE

Ok, so let’s paint a picture.

You’re a young person in India or Kenya born in 2015. futurecityWhen you’re in your early 20s, you feel a calling to study X — engineering, theology, etc.

Unlike the first billion people on Earth who came online during the bulky desktop era, the last billion people to come online, of whom you are one, all did so in a completely mobile digital world.

High quality content comes to you, wherever you are whenever you want it. The quality of your learning corresponds to the level of your interest. You are in charge of how much, how deep, how fast, and how far you go.

And the goal isn’t even a degree.  The immediate goal is a skill, a practice, a competency. The long term objective is to be deeply connected to opportunities for life long learning.

Ok, back to the present.

Leaders, you’re probably already responding to these shifts whether you know it or not. And, an important skill for leadership in the 21st century is the ability to fearlessly describe the present. But, just in case, here are some processing questions for you and your team.

  • Are we seeing these shifts in our field and relationships?
  • How are these shifts changing behavior?
  • What are ways that we’ve already begun to shift our practices and strategies?
  • What are some strategically intentional shifts we can make to pre-position ourselves for these shifts?

Alex McManus
Author of Makers of Fire: the spirituality of leading from the future

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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 amzn.to/1rjTqzJ  — or have emailed me encouraging notes. Thanks!

Three Aspects of 21st Century Leadership

Leadership in the 21st century has three aspects:

  1. Fearlessly DEFINING Reality
  2. Mindfully DISCERNING the Meaning in the Mix
  3. Creatively DISCOVERING New Paths Forward

In my new book, Makers of Fire, I layer this TRIAD of defining, discerning, and discovering on two others. The triangle of combustion and the triangle of social change.

DEFINING   |  DISCERNING   |  DISCOVERING     =LEADERSHIP

ARTIFACTS   |     MEANING       |   CREATIVTY         =CHANGE

FUEL            |       OXYGEN        |    HEAT                    = FIRE

(1) DEFINING

Leaders have to stare reality in the eye. What’s out there? What’s really happening? If I had to give a one line description of reality I would say that we live in a time of “redefinition.”

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“If I had to give a one line description of today’s reality
I would say that we live in a time of “redefinition.”
 

(Click to tweet)
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Marriage is being redefined. Gender is being redefined. History is being redefined. Identity is being redefined. Nation States are being redefined. Right and wrong, good and evil are being redefined. In this time of redefinition, sources of authority are challenged. Standing on the Bible, the Constitution, an interpretation of history, a tradition, or even on “what works” are no longer credible supports for what is good, right, and true.

All of these are “Artifacts,” things humans make, ways humans think, patterns in which human organize themselves. They are future artifacts. Future archaeologists will study the things we make today and try to understand us. We can also study them as a way of studying the potential futures we are making possible.

(2) DISCERNING

I wrote Makers of Fire to help reorient the church towards the future that it might better influence the present. Preorder your copy today.

I wrote Makers of Fire to help reorient the church towards the future that it might better influence the present. Preorder your copy today.

To make our time of redefinition even more complex, media keeps everyone alert to the fact that there are contrasting “redefinitions” emerging. Not everyone agrees on what marriage means, whether the United States is right or wrong, whether murdering infants in the womb is good or evil. Not everyone even agrees that there is such a thing as good and evil.

Leaders must look for meaning and purpose within this chaos. They must create compelling narratives, which give context and meaning to human existence, in which others can see themselves fitting and belonging and becoming the people they desire.

For Church leaders this means learning to be comfortable in a setting in which their narrative is not the narrative of the majority, but of a niche. But “narrative” doesn’t mean just a tagline. It means telling a story one deeply believes and believing the story one tells enough to inhabit it.

(3) DISCOVERING

Leaders must nurture new communities which will create new ways forward. For church leaders and churches this will mean “living out” their story with daring and risk. Rather than seeing the Bible or tradition as a limiting factor, it needs to see these as launching pads for improvisation. There’s an old joke that if, while playing a guitar, you hit a bad note, it’s a mistake. If you hit two bad notes, again, it’s a mistake. But of you hit three bad notes, it’s jazz.

Well, no. It’s not.

Improvisation is not just hitting any random note, as if anyone can do it. Improvisation is best accomplished by those who know the fret board best. When you know how a line is supposed to go and you deviate from it in search of something new and fresh, then you’re improvising.

Our season of “redefinition” is not always one of improvisation. We’re often just hitting bad notes.

Leaders and communities who know their story well, believe it, and live it out, will need to improvise… will want to improvise …even if we hit a bad note here and again, in the pursuit of their mission.

To make gains in the public sphere, leaders will need to become media savvy because “social” is the new campfire around which the stories that shape us are being told. Story telling and story tellers will open up possibilities for the future. Communities that live out the future they prefer will redefine the world. (Click to tweet)

The Newest Mission Field

This article is about an extraordinary opportunity that may be emerging before our very eyes. You may, at first, not take it seriously. But keep reading. After a few minutes, your stomach will tighten and go sour as you realize that God may call your children or grandchildren to boldly go where no others have gone before.

So here we go… How would you like to lead a team on mission to Mars? Think mid 2030s…that’s more or less the time frame that tech visionary Elon Musk has in mind to begin the colonization of Mars.

Colonization.

We’re not talking here of a skeleton crew of a half dozen making a voyage to Mars and back. We’re talking about one million citizens of earth with a one way ticket.

Don’t doubt it. The race for Mars is on. India just placed a satellite in Mars orbit last month. Elon Musk, who owns SpaceX, has previously set the year 2026 as the target date for a manned excursion to the Red Planet. The Mars One project has received some 200,000 applicants for their colonization strategy. They plan to start sending crews of 4 starting in 2024. Now, recently, Elon Musk has called for a Million Person March to Mars.

Imagine sending people, one hundred at a time, to terra-form, raise families, live out their lives, and finally die upon another planet. If anything like this happens, Elon Musk may be the most significant leader of the 21st century. And he may be creating one of the greatest mission opportunities of the 22nd century. In the same way that we challenge our young adults to relocate around the world that they might benefit the nations, we should begin to cultivate among our youth the skills to be among the One Million.

I wrote Makers of Fire to help reorient the church towards the future.

I wrote Makers of Fire to help reorient the church towards the future that we might have greater impact in the present. Alex McManus

Perhaps now, when someone feels called to service, we should point them towards cross disciplinary programs that include the sciences. We should encourage them to master their bodies, so that they are fit enough to endure the hazardous journey between our two planets, to immerse themselves in the STEM disciplines, and to master wilderness survival strategies and techniques. (Though, the Mars colony, to be sure, will also need artists!) Whether or not they ever leave this planet, this will benefit the church. Especially those churches that are left behind on Earth (no reference to the movie intended).

Many Christians today live in the world as if it were 1858 – the year before Darwin published On the Origin of Species. Many of them believe the earth is young, that animals didn’t suffer and die for millions of years before “the fall,” and that humans are not part of the animal kingdom.

They haven’t grasped the fact that evolutionary theory strengthens and gains explanatory power with every passing year. And the world has moved far beyond just evolutionary biology and space travel. The race for genetic enhancements will be to the 21st century what the race to the moon was to the 20th. The age of the X-men is here. We will continue to see a merger between humans and technology, the organic with the synthetic. This is what I call the Orgathetic Future.

This may lead to the creation of different species of humans in the future, as there were in the past. We will see the resurrection of extinct species and we may discover signs of extraterrestrial life on one of the many Earth-like planets now being discovered. Robust Human rejuvenation may extend our life spans into the hundreds of years and beyond.

Because parts of the church resisted the new discoveries being made about God’s world and universe, others were able to frame these discoveries along secular lines. As a result, the church is unintelligible to many who do not yet believe. In fact, I wrote a book that is scheduled to come out November 15 titled, MAKERS OF FIRE: the spirituality of leading from the future, because many churches are drowning and need the air that turning towards the future will bring.

So here is another chance to move the church into the 21st century and beyond. As we become a multi-planetary species, the church will become multi-planetary as well. But we have to refresh and update our love for science and engage this science with open minds and hearts empowered by the spirit. Our theology, the way we talk about our story and the unique and precious journey we are on with Christ, needs to match the moment. Rather than resisting, let’s go mobile. Let’s follow Christ… to Mars and beyond. Alex McManus Author, Makers of Fire: the spirituality of leading from the future

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.

cover

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

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…

Makers_WordPress

  • …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

14 EXAMPLES

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.

RISK

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.

Makers_WordPress

What do you think?

“And the word was made flesh…”

Future Skill #1: Simplify

“Leading from the future” is the tagline of my new book, MAKERS OF FIRE. As we make a turn towards the 22nd century, what are some of the leadership skills we’ll need to navigate our rapidly changing world?

Four of the skills we’ll need are

  1. The drive to simplify
  2. The instinct to make
  3. The hunger to make the world thrive
  4. The imagination to connect seemingly unrelated dots

THE DRIVE TO SIMPLIFY
One of the characteristics of our age is that of increasing complexity. It’s not that our age is complicated. Our age is complex. The difference is that in complicated systems one can predict the outcomes by understanding the starting conditions, while in complex systems outcomes are unpredictable. For example,

  • Building a Rocket is complicated
  • Formulaic
  • Linear
  • Static
  • Leading a Community is complex
  • Self evolving and determining
  • Multi-dimensional
  •  Dynamic

If you build one rocket, you can build another one exactly the same way, and get the exact same result. If you lead a group of people to live in healthy community, and you lead another group exactly same way, anything can happen.

Our complex age resists linear, one size fits all, and formulaic strategies for success. In order to lead in a complex environment, an important skill we’ll need to develop is the ability to simplify. To simplify is to clarify. We live in a world so obsessed with consumption that we lose the ability to know what we want and don’t want. We don’t know what we need and don’t need. To lead in a world of such clutter, we’ll need to see through the commercials, conflicting truth claims, alternative strategies, and opposing demands that clutter the world around us to a future that others can not yet see.

Describing that future — a skill which in the leadership literature is called casting “Vision” and in the discipline of Strategic Foresight is called creating the “preferred future” — until it becomes the north star within a world of tempestuous change simplifies the world. Others may become paralyzed or frazzled by all the contradictions and competing demands, but leaders must keep their eyes on that star. This will help simplify things without being simplistic. Getting there becomes the goal. That’s tight. How to get there can vary as widely as the conditions dictate. That’s loose.

Hold tight. Hang loose. Make Fire!

Alex McManus

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

Preorder your copy now.

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