Table of Contents


The Blogging Church: Sharing the Story of Your Church Through Blogs, Brian Bailey and Terry Storch
Church Turned Inside Out: A Guide for Designers, Refiners, and Re-Aligners, Linda Bergquist and Allan Karr
Leading from the Second Chair: Serving Your Church, Fulfilling Your Role, and Realizing Your Dreams, Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson The Way of Jesus: A Journey of Freedom for Pilgrims and Wanderers, Jonathan S. Campbell with Jennifer Campbell Leading the Team-Based Church: How Pastors and Church Staffs Can Grow Together into a Powerful Fellowship of Leaders, George Cladis
Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens, Neil Cole Church 3.0: Upgrades for the Future of the Church, Neil Cole Off-Road Disciplines: Spiritual Adventures of Missional Leaders, Earl Creps
Reverse Mentoring: How Young Leaders Can Transform the Church and Why We Should Let Them, Earl Creps
Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments, and Practices of a Diverse Congregation, Mark DeYmaz Leading Congregational Change Workbook, James H. Furr, Mike Bonem, and Jim Herrington
Baby Boomers and Beyond: Tapping the Ministry Talents and Passions of Adults over Fifty, Amy Hanson
The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community, Hugh Halter and Matt Smay
Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey, Jim Herrington, Mike Bonem, and James H. Furr
The Leader’s Journey: Accepting the Call to Personal and Congregational Transformation, Jim Herrington, Robert Creech, and Trisha Taylor
Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement, Mel Lawrenz
Culture Shift: Transforming Your Church from the Inside Out, Robert Lewis and Wayne Cordeiro, with Warren Bird
Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement, Will Mancini
A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey, Brian D. McLaren
The Story We Find Ourselves In: Further Adventures of a New Kind of Christian, Brian D. McLaren
Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church, Reggie McNeal
Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders, Reggie McNeal
The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church, Reggie McNeal
A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders, Reggie McNeal
The Millennium Matrix: Reclaiming the Past, Reframing the Future of the Church, M. Rex Miller
Shaped by God’s Heart: The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches, Milfred Minatrea
The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World, Alan J. Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk Missional Map-Making: Skills for Leading in Times of Transition, Alan J. Roxburgh
Relational Intelligence: How Leaders Can Expand Their Influence Through a New Way of Being Smart, Steve Saccone
Viral Churches: Helping Church Planters Become Movement Makers, Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird
The Externally Focused Quest: Becoming the Best Church for the Community, Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw
The Ascent of a Leader: How Ordinary Relationships Develop Extraordinary Character and Influence, Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and Ken McElrath
Beyond Megachurch Myths: What We Can Learn from America’s Largest Churches, Scott Thumma and Dave Travis
The Elephant in the Boardroom: Speaking the Unspoken About Pastoral Transitions, Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree

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AS A WRITER AND TEACHER on missional church, one of the axioms of leadership that we can assume is that every organization is perfectly designed to achieve what it is currently achieving. This comment usually raises a bit of pushback because it seems to put responsibility for any current situation back onto those who lead the organization. And this is in some ways true, but it’s only half the truth. It also suggests that there is something in the inherited ecclesial templates handed down, and subsequently adopted without serious critical reflection, that tend to factor in the propensity for either growth, or decline. So, the issues do concentrate around leadership imagination and inherent design flaws in the way we conceive of, and do, church.
If your church is in decline, it is probably because you are organizationally designed for it. Don’t complain ... redesign! And you need to redesign along the lines that Jesus intended. You see, the Church that Jesus built is designed for growth—and massive, highly transformative, growth at that. It was Jesus who said “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Hang on! It says that the gates of hell don’t prevail against us! It is the Church that is on the advance here, not hell! Contrary to many of the images of church as some sort of defensive fortress under the terrible, relentless, onslaughts of hell, the Church that Jesus built is designed to be an advancing, untamed and untamable, revolutionary force created to transform the world. And make no mistake: there is in Jesus’ words here a real sense of inevitability about the eventual triumph of the gospel. If we are not somehow part of this, then there is something wrong in the prevailing designs, and they must change.
The reality is that the Western church is in a precarious situation today. Missional observation in Australia indicates that between 12 to 15 percent of the population will likely be attracted to the prevailing contemporary church growth model. This is not actual attendance, which is way below this figure (around 2.8 percent), rather it indicates “market appeal” or cultural connectivity. The rest of the population, most of whom describe themselves as “spiritually open,” will probably never find their place in a contemporary attractional church. It is simply out of their cultural orbit. If they are not repulsed by it, they are at least blase and/or turned off to the cultural forms inherent in the model.
In the United States the situation is not much better. I estimate that in the United States the percentage of people who find their spiritual connection through an attractional church is probably up to 40 percent. Again this is not attendance, which is more around 18 percent.
In both Australia and the United States the demographics of the group likely to “come to church” are probably what we can call the inspirational middle class, family-values segment—good, solid, well-educated, hard working, middle-class, suburbanites with Republican leanings. Contemporary attractional churches are really effective in reaching non-Christian people fitting this demographic, but it is unlikely that it can reach far beyond that—leaving about 60 percent of the population out of the equation. So the question we must ask is, “How will the 60 percent of our population access the gospel if they reject the current expression of existing church?”
This is precisely the issue that the missional church seeks to address. My contention is that it is going to take an “externally focused,” missional-incarnational, church approach to reach beyond the 40 percenters. It is only when the church decides to become the best church for the community that it at least has a fighting chance to reach the majority of the unchurched/dechurched population. The attractional church is about getting the community into the church. The missional, externally focused church is about getting the church into the community. Incarnational ministry, at its heart, is taking church to people by helping believers live out their calling among people who do not yet believe and follow Jesus.
The missional, externally focused church begins with the missionary questions: “What is good news for this people group?” “What would the church look and feel like among this people group?” Entering into a community through love, service, and blessing creates new proximate spaces as we become good news to the community. At the end of the day the impact of a church is not determined by who it wants to reach but by who it is willing to serve. Certainly missional living affects what happens outside the church, but it also greatly affects our own spiritual formation as disciples of Jesus. The Externally Focused Quest provides a significant part of the answer to the question of how we turn religious consumers into missional disciples that can impact the world around them for Jesus’ cause.
Building on the already significant insights from their previous writings, Eric and Rick blend years of direct leadership experience with great theological insights and a real heart for missional impact, and so concoct a really good book for our time. Our appropriate compliment ought to be to follow their advice, move into our communities, and transform them in Jesus’ name.
Los Angeles, California
January 2010
Alan Hirsch
Missional author, dreamer, and strategist

WE WISH TO THANK KRISTA PETTY, who once again served as editor, welder, and jury-rigger for this, our third writing project. We are grateful to Sheryl Fullerton, executive editor at Jossey-Bass, for the opportunity to take this message to the world and to Joanne Clapp Fullagar, editorial production manager at Jossey-Bass, and Bruce Emmer, who through their meticulous attention to detail make us better than we are. We thank Brian Mavis, whose externally focused example helps keep us going in the right direction. Eric is most grateful to Scott and Theresa Beck and Leadership Network for the opportunity to work alongside so many passionate and gifted leaders whose example fuels the fires of his life. Rick is grateful to the staff and leaders of LifeBridge, who continually surprise him with ways to love and serve the community. Together we thank all the externally focused leaders who continue to lead, adapt, and innovate outside the walls of the church to advance the kingdom.

To Andy and Natalie, Jenda and Blaise—kingdom workers in the
Middle Kingdom, whose power of courage is surpassed only by
the power of their love.—E.S.
To the LifeBridge family. Thanks for your friendship and
encouragement. You have risked, loved, and seen beyond the walls
of our church and are making a difference in our community. It has
been a privilege to journey with you.—R.R

As difficult as it is to learn to surf, it is far easier to catch a wave than to cause a wave.
EVERYWHERE WE GO, WE MEET PEOPLE WHO, after listening to either of us speak on externally focused church, will say something like, “What you said today was exactly what I’ve been thinking, but I didn’t have the terminology or diagrams to explain it.” There is a movement of God taking place, and as we often say, “As difficult as it is to learn to surf, it is far easier to catch a wave than to cause a wave.” When God is causing such a wave, we can stand on the pier and let it break over us, or we can grab a surfboard, hit the surf, and have the ride of our lives. What will you do?
When we wrote The Externally Focused Church in 2004, we invited our readers to think differently about what church could and should be. We included nearly every church we were aware of that was loving and ministering outside its walls. In the past six years, the externally focused church movement has matured to the extent that projects and initiatives that were rare in 2004 are now quite common in 2010. Believers are longing to do something besides take notes in a worship service. Thousands of churches are rediscovering the DNA of the gospel and are living the gospel outside the walls of the church. Since 2004, we have been with scores of churches and thousands of people and listened to their stories and have tried to allow their experiences to deepen our own thinking about God’s missional design in the world. We want to tell about all we’ve learned since 2004 through passionate practitioners of externally focused ministry. What we have discovered is contained in the nine missional paradigms that we write about here, and we believe they can determine what impact you will have on our changing world. For those of you who are new to the journey, we say, “Grab your board and get ready for the ride of your life.”
One hundred years ago, if you were to take a survey of every one of the 1.65 billion people alive at the time and asked each person to check a box indicating religious preference, approximately 34 percent would check the box “Christian” in one of its forms—Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox. Today, a century later, with all the technological advances, T all the church planting, the phenomenal evangelistic success of the Jesus film, the expansion of the Gospel in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and evangelistic efforts, the number of Christians has risen with the population, now estimated at 6.7 billion people, yet the percentage of Christians is still 34 percent. For all the investments of the past hundred years, we have just broken even. How can we change the trajectory of the church? Changing the trajectory will not come from doing harder, better, or more of what we’ve done in the past. Ministry effectiveness—changing the trajectory of the church—will come from understanding the times and hitching a ride on the wave where God is moving. We don’t propose that we have all the answers, of course, but we are willing to follow the clues to see where God is moving among his people and among those who are searching for him.
Christian magazines love publishing lists of the best churches—“The 100 Largest Churches,” “The 50 Most Innovative Churches,” “The 50 Fastest-Growing Churches,” and so on. Some pastors whose churches make these coveted lists often frame and hang these outcomes to display to the world that they are doing a good job. But what if “largest,” “most innovative,” and “fastest-growing” were the wrong measures? Is there something else we could be working toward?
One good question changes things. One great question has the power to change a life, a church, a community, and potentially the world. When we wrote The Externally Focused Church, our big provocative question was “If your church were to close its doors, would anyone in the community notice—would anyone in the community care?” It is no coincidence that this question set many church leaders on a journey, a quest. It is no coincidence that the word question comes from the same root as quest—a journey in search of something important. So let’s think of questions as the beginning of a quest of discovery. Jesus was a master at asking great questions. “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” “Who do you say I am?” “What good is salt if it’s lost its savor?” “Do you believe I am able to do this?” “Do you want to be well?” “Why are you so fearful... you who have no faith?” How we answer such questions shapes our lives and our futures.
We’ve discovered that questions are malleable and that rearranging a word here or there can result in a totally different answer. “Pastor, may I smoke while I’m praying?” “No!” “Pastor, while I’m smoking, is it OK if I pray?” “Why that would be a wonderful idea!” Changing the beneficiary of a question is a powerful way to transform a question to a quest. As Martin Luther King Jr. noted, the question that the Good Samaritan asked was not “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” but “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” A powerful question has implications for life. John F. Kennedy adapted a phrase in a way that a half century later, the question we should be asking still resonates: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
Most churches, blatantly or subtly, have an unspoken objective—“How can we be the ‘best church in our community?’”—and they staff, budget, and plan accordingly. How a church answers that question determines its entire approach to its members, staff, prayers, finances, time, technology, and facilities. Becoming an externally focused church is not about becoming the best church in the community. The externally focused church asks, “How can we be the best church for our community?” That one little preposition changes everything. And this is the big question this book seeks to answer. This is your question; this is your quest.
We have written the book around nine big missional concepts that need to be addressed in your quest to become the best church for the community—focus, purpose, scope, missions, partnering, evangelism, systems, creativity, and outcomes. Understanding and applying the truths of each concept will provide many of the tools you will need for your externally focused quest. We can’t guarantee that it will be easy to attain, but then again, things that we value and cherish rarely are. We’re glad you’ve picked up this book. We’re glad you’ve joined the journey. It’s going to be a great ride.

What Kind of Day Is Today?
The church must forever be asking, “What kind of day is it today?” for no two days are alike in her history.
David Smith, Mission After Christendom
JESUS DIDN’T ASK, “Would you like to walk?” He asked the invalid at the pool of Bethesda, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5). Rick admits that when he first read that story in the Bible, he thought, “It didn’t happen like that! What a rude question. Why did Jesus ask that? Of course the man wants to walk!”
Again, Jesus didn’t ask if he wanted to walk. He asked, “Do you want to get well?” Maybe Jesus was alluding to something more than just walking. When he asks, “Do you want to get well?” Jesus is asking the man if he is ready for the change that is coming. The man’s friends will most likely change. He won’t be begging anymore; he won’t be by the pool anymore. If he gets well, a lot of things would likely change.
“Do you want to get well?” That’s the question Jesus asked the man at the pool, and it’s the question we asked at the end of our first book, The Externally Focused Church. We thought that would be a good place to start this journey, asking some more tough questions about change—change that affects our churches and our communities.
We’ve come to discover that “Do you want to get well?” is one of many great questions Jesus asks. After thirty years in the “people” business—most of it with congregations and their leaders—we have found that we don’t always want to get well. We want the pain or angst to stop, or we want good things to come, but the bottom line is that most of us don’t really want change.
Have you ever noticed that the guy at the pool doesn’t really answer this great question from Jesus? His response was something like, “Sir, every time I try to get in the water, someone always gets in ahead of me.” In other words, he says, “I would if I could but I can’t, so I am not. It’s not my fault.”
What is true for us as individuals is almost always magnified when we get in a group. We have been with thousands of church leaders, and we often talk about how we want to get better as people, as leaders, as congregations. We want to be more effective, reach more people, help people grow in their faith, serve more effectively. We want to get well! While a whole lot of us talk about what we ought to do, could do, might do, or should do, most of us end up sitting around the pool explaining to one another what’s holding us back from change.
Change is hard but necessary. In The Externally Focused Church, we asked leaders to change their conversations by changing their questions. Instead of asking, “How big is your church?” ask, “What’s your church’s impact in the community?” We also asked, “If your church disappeared, would your community notice?” Asking those questions has sparked change—a lot of change—in our own churches and others.
That’s what we want to do with this book. We want to see continued transformation in our churches and in our communities by asking better questions. Sometimes the questions are tough, but we have a responsibility to take the gospel that never changes to a world that will never be the same. In other words, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but the world we are living in is changing every day. Are you ready to ask some more tough questions about your church and the community? Are you ready to change the conversation once again? Do you want to get well?

Waking Up to a New Day

A few years ago, Eric met a young pastor named Jeff Waldo from University Baptist Church, outside of Houston. Jeff had just finished a master’s program in future studies from the University of Houston. After the disappointing discovery that he knew nothing of horoscopes, crystal balls, tarot cards, or fortune cookies, Jeff told Eric what future studies was about. Future studies is not about prediction but about imagining plausible and possible scenarios for the future so that we can plan accordingly. “If things continue along this trajectory, this is what we can expect.” Of course, the future rarely has the decency to conform to our expectations, and prognosticators are notoriously bad at predicting future outcomes. Consider this prediction regarding the automobile from the Literary Digest in 1899: “The ordinary ‘horseless carriage’ is at present a luxury for the wealthy; and although its price will probably fall in the future, it will never, of course, come into as common use as the bicycle.”
Just how accurately can anyone predict the future? If anyone should know, it would be Phillip Tetlock. For twenty years, this psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, worked with 284 people who made their living as “experts” in prognostication about politics and economics. By the end of the study, the experts had made 82,361 forecasts, placing most of the forecasting questions into a three possible future outcomes: things would stay the same (status quo), get better (political freedom, economic growth), or get worse (repression, recession). What was the outcome? Statistically untrained chimps, with a dartboard, would have come up with more accurate predictions!
Predicting the future is not our goal here, but discovering today’s trends and patterns is. Why? Those discoveries do help shape tomorrow and enlighten us. We must wake up and ask ourselves, “What kind of day is today?”

STEEPR: A Leadership Skill to Master

To understand the times and to be in step with what God is doing, all leaders need the ability to answer the question “What kind of day is today?” You probably remember the men of Issachar from 1 Chronicles 12:32 “who understood the times and [therefore] knew what Israel should do.” In Luke 12:54-56, Jesus poses this question to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?
So how do futurists think about the future? Jeff identified the constructs he and other futurists use. The broad bellwether categories futurists pay attention to are society, technology, economics, environment, and politics. To these five categories Jeff insightfully adds religion—now forming the acronym STEEPR. Using these six categories helps us think about what kind of day it is. It helps us become men and women who interpret the present and know what new questions to ask and what changes to make. Let’s take a brief snapshot, from a 30,000-foot altitude, of what kind of day it is today using the STEEPR approach.


What has happened in society in the past twenty years? How about the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of Soviet communism, and end of the Cold War, just to name a few. For the past two decades, the United States, with a mere 4 to 5 percent of the world’s population, has been the unilateral power in the world, producing a quarter of the world’s economic output and militarily controlling land, air, space, and sea. People are on the move. Displaced by war, famine, or economic factors, the numbers of people migrating are greater than ever before. A friend recently told us that there were over 120 ethnicities in his Washington, D.C., ZIP code.
Society has its share of global problems. AIDS is a killer disease. Twenty years ago, HIV was barely making the radar screen. But this morning, we wake up to a different day. Thousands of children are orphaned every day by this deadly disease. And even curable diseases are taking their toll on the most vulnerable of our population: one child dies of malaria every twenty-nine seconds in Africa, and three people die every minute of tuberculosis. “According to the World Water Council, 1.1 billion people live without clean drinking water, 2.6 billion lack adequate sanitation, 1.8 million die every year from diarrheal diseases, and 3,900 children die every day from waterborne diseases.” But could tragedy and opportunity for the church be two sides of the same coin?
As populations grow, we are becoming more familiar with how people around the world are living. Societies are no longer defined solely as nation-states but also can be defined by generations. Thanks to the Internet and the proliferation of American TV programming abroad, teens in New York City feel more akin to teens in Mexico City, Sao Paulo, or Tokyo than they do with an older generation in Des Moines.
Add to these global challenges our local challenges of divorce, fatherless children, broken-down family structures, the aging boomer population, and urban gang activity, and we have tremendous new potential growth opportunities for the church—if we see them as new avenues of ministry rather than hindrances to ministry. How will the church respond to the influx of migrants and immigrants? How will the church respond to the pervasiveness of AIDS and the need for clean water? How will the church respond to rapid social change? Do we know what day today is?


In Bold New World, the futurist William Knoke describes how he wrestled with describing what kind of day we live in today. Knoke puts forth the idea that human society was first organized as “dots”—small communities living in isolation from one another. Small bands of people living in isolation proved to be more efficient in terms of access to supplies of food and fuel. But isolation also meant that knowledge and ideas had little opportunity to spread and cross-pollinate. So if one tribe figured out a better way to attach the head of a spear to its shaft, that breakthrough never spread beyond that tribe, and progress as a whole was stunted.
In time, trade routes were established, carrying goods and ideas along the connections of overland paths and rivers. These dots were eventually connected by lines. These “first-dimension” people operated from point to point along the Amber Route of northern Europe, the Silk Road of Asia, the Roman Road of the Mediterranean, and the Inca Road of South America. As trade routes crisscrossed, the “second dimension” of the plane was formed, allowing people to explore the length and width of their world.
By the sixteenth century, thanks to technological maritime advancements, humans—especially Europeans—could circumnavigate the globe. By the end of the nineteenth century, 85 percent of the world’s landmass was controlled by just a handful of European nations. As odious as some aspects of colonization were, it was not without future beneficial ramifications. Niall Ferguson, a history professor at Harvard University, “argued that the British Empire is responsible for the worldwide spread of the English language, banking, the common law, Protestantism, team sports, the limited state, representative government, and the idea of liberty.”
The mid-twentieth century ushered in the “third dimension” with the advent and perfection of commercial air travel, satellites, and space travel. This third dimension—the “cube”—was controlled not by nation-states but by multinational corporations and airlines.
So what kind of day do we live in today? Knoke says that we live in the fourth dimension—a “placeless” society where “everything and everybody is at once everywhere.” Far and near are the same. The primacy of place is quickly being supplanted by the placeless society, where global communication is instantaneous and corporations run a “just in time” global assembly line.
Technology has played a tremendous role in this placeless society. Think about how it changes our habits and the way we live. For example, Eric carries one device, an iPhone, that serves as a phone, e-mail server, Web browser, camera, and video and music storage system—but then, you probably do also. This combination that allows him to stay connected to people all over the world. He talks to his brother in Australia and his grandchildren in Asia via a computer with a built-in camera through Skype. He keeps friends and family abreast of his activities (sometimes to the chagrin of his wife) via his blog (), Twitter, and Facebook pages and stores family pictures online with Shutterfly.
Consider how we access information. The Google search engine has become a verb—“to Google something” is understood to mean to track it down on the Internet. Google has the ambition “to organize all the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” But there is more. In 2000, Jimmy Wales launched a free online encyclopedia called Nupedia. There were seven arduous steps to get something published in Nupedia, from assignment to final approval. Ph.D.’s and other experts were recruited. Wales’s editor in chief proposed a different solution: let the site users create and continually edit the content themselves! “Within five years, Wikipedia (wiki is a Hawaiian word meaning “quick”) was available in two hundred languages and had ... more than one million [articles] in the English-language section alone.... As for Nupedia, it managed to squeeze out twenty-four finalized articles and seventy-four articles still in progress before it shut down.” Wales’s vision for sharing knowledge is compelling: “Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.”
Companies like Procter & Gamble, which alone has 7,500 researches, are using technology to solve their toughest problems. Rather than hiring more researchers, P&G is posting problems and challenges on the InnoCentive network, “where ninety thousand other scientists around the world can help solve tough R&D problems for a cash reward.”
Technology is changing how we access and customize our entertainment. Whereas the baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) of America grew up watching the same network television shows (Bonanza, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Andy Griffith Show, M*A*S*H, Star Trek), today’s generation has literally hundreds of entertainment options through cable and satellite TV, XM and Sirius Radio, and the Internet. Audiences have the ever-increasing ability to piece together their own customized versions of digital music and video and access them through a variety of digital and screen-equipped devises. Singer Colbie Caillat’s song “Bubbly” was downloaded 14 million times through her MySpace site before she even signed with a record label. Singers and underground bands are taking a similar path by gaining a Web following and commanding a higher price before signing with a record company.
News stories, once the privy of reporters and telejournalists, are increasingly broken by common folk with a camera or cell phone. In May 2008, the earthquake that devastated Sichuan, China, was reported as it happened via camera cell phone and social media sites. The BBC reportedly heard of the quake via Twitter. The communication was powerful and instant. By contrast, in previous times, the government would have taken months to even disclose that an earthquake had occurred. In the summer of 2009, hundreds of Iranians used cell phone video cameras to capture the dissent of thousands of Iranians expressing their reaction to a flawed election. If you find yourself saying, “This is old news!—and by the time you read this, it will be—you only help drive home the point of how quickly our world is changing.
On July 23, 2007, the first presidential debate was held in which questions from voters were asked via YouTube, bringing voters a little closer to the politicians. The first question, from a voter named Zach, who introduced himself with “Wassup?” was a foretaste of things to come. Democratic candidates were asked questions about global warming by a snowman and about Second Amendment rights by a redneck brandishing an automatic weapon. Some questions came through guitar-wielding singers. What was clear was that Internet technology and politics would never be the same. This format has since become commonplace. The same can be true in reverse. Speakers and singers can instantly poll their audiences using an iPhone application. The Refuge Church in Concord, North Carolina, has been known to poll its audience of young adults in the middle of the message. Attentive twenty-somethings can text a response to the pastor’s question, and his iPhone “app” instantly gives him the results of the poll. Nowadays, if you can imagine it, there’s probably an app for it!
Churches and believers that understand the times are using digital communications beyond church walls to further kingdom causes. Walt Wilson, the founder and chairman of Global Media Outreach, reports that “each day, more than 5 million searches are done on the Internet for spiritual terms.” On his own Web site, they “see a decision for Jesus Christ every 35 seconds.” Many churches use technology to start video congregations as part of their multisite expansion. They understand that once people are comfortable interacting with digital sound and digital images, it matters little if the speaker is on the stage, in the next room, five miles away, or home in bed, having delivered the message last night. Tech-savvy mission leaders are shrinking the world with technology.
There are now Internet churches with thousands of members who have never met in real life. To understand the times is to understand what is happening today with technology. Pastor Tom Mullins of Christ Fellowship Church in West Palm Beach, Florida, explains that his church has an online congregation of ten thousand people, each of whom stays online an average of forty-six minutes of a seventy-minute service. Because Christ Fellowship broadcasts church services in real time, it is not unusual to have people from other parts of the world respond to the message in real time. “Our objective is to connect people to a community and connect people to Christ,” Internet church pastor Dave Helbig told Eric in early 2009. “The ‘Is this real community?’ question is asked only by those over thirty-five years of age. It’s a beautiful thing. We had a quadriplegic baptized who was living locally but came to Christ online. Now he is doing follow-up for new believers all over the world as part of our Internet church. ‘No one knows I’m a quadriplegic online,’ he says.” , based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has experienced more decisions for Christ at its Internet campus than it has at its eleven brick-and-mortar sites.


There is no doubt that we in the United States, even in spite of our current economic crisis, are consumers, and many of us possess an abundance of stuff. We have “more cars than licensed drivers” and “spend more on trash bags than ninety other countries spend on everything.” To understand what is happening economically today, one has to consider what is happening with globalization. Globalization is the interconnectedness of people, goods, and services in the world. That your cell phone may have been designed in the United States and manufactured in China using components from Malaysia, Brazil, and Taiwan is symptomatic of globalization.
You’ve heard the word outsourcing. It refers to products and services that were once produced domestically by U.S. companies and workers that are now produced by the same companies in countries where labor is cheaper, environmental laws are looser, and people are desperate to better their lives. And no job seems to be safe from export. Call the service department of almost any company, and it is very likely that you will be connected to Bangalore, India, or another of the call centers scattered around India. Any job that can be outsourced either has already been outsourced or soon will be. Thomas Friedman, in a 2005 New York Times interview, noted, “When I was growing up, my parents used to say to me, ‘Tom, finish your dinner. People in China and India are starving.’ Today I tell my girls, ‘Finish your homework. People in China and India are starving for your jobs.”’ We are now competing with workers on a global scale. Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International, writes, “No worker from a rich country will ever be able to equal the energy and ambition of people making $5 a day and trying desperately to move out of poverty.”
To understand the economic forces of our world today, we need to understand what is happening with globalization and with China. China is booming—sustaining a torrid 9.5 percent annual economic growth rate for the past generation with no slowdown in sight. “In two decades, China has experienced the same degree of industrialization, urbanization and social transformation as Europe did in two centuries.” Even amid the global recession of 2008-2009, China maintained a positive economic growth rate. The constant influx of rural migrant workers into the cities of China creates a stable and growing labor force that is paid, on average, around $70 a month to produce electronic parts, toys, socks, furniture, computers—you name it. Ted Fishman, author of China, Inc., writes, “China is an ever increasing presence and influence in our lives, connected to us by the world’s shipping lanes, financial markets, telecommunications, and above all, by the globalization of appetites. China sews more clothes and stitches more shoes and assembles more toys than any other nation.” Although China’s gross domestic product is only seventh-largest economy in the world and only one-seventh the size of that of the United States, “in China one dollar buys about what $4.70 does in Indianapolis” making China’s economy “closer to four-fifths the size of the U.S. economy than it is to one-sixth.” The Institute for International Economics in Washington calculates that “the average American household enjoys ... savings that start at around $500” because of China’s low prices. If you have bought a color TV for under $90 or a DVD player for under $40, you have China to thank.
China is not alone as an economic juggernaut. “Over the past 15 years, India has been the second-fastest-growing country in the world—after China—averaging above 6% growth per year.” In a 2003 study by Goldman Sachs, researchers predicted that by 2040, India “will boast the world’s third largest economy. By 2050, it will be five times the size of Japan’s and its per capita income will have risen to 35 times its current level.” Daniel Pink notes that “each year, India’s colleges and universities produce about 350,000 engineering graduates. That’s one reason that more than half of Fortune 500 companies now outsource software work to India.”
The economic role of the United States is certainly impressive. “With 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States has generated between 20 and 30 percent of world output for 125 years.” After World War II, America’s gross domestic product “made up almost 50 percent of the global economy.” Today, thanks to the demise of economic communism (which left emerging nations with only one true economic alternative), the investment of Western capital around the world, and the free flow of goods and services, “between 1990 and 2007, the global economy grew from $22.8 trillion to $53.3 trillion,” with emerging markets accounting for “over 40 percent of the world economy.”
While it can be mind-boggling to try to grasp economic trends, it is critical to gain an understanding of global economics. It often serves as the “X factor” for the future. Everything changes when the economy changes. We saw how true that is in 2008 when oil prices rocketed to nearly $150 a barrel in the summer before plummeting to under $40 a barrel in December. Gas prices surpassed $4.00 a gallon in July before returning to under $1.60 a gallon by the end of the year.
We could only wish that the other sectors of the economy—housing, industry, the credit and business markets—might rebound so well. Once mainstays of the American economy, these markets have now had to be bailed out by the government. The years 2008 and 2009 saw the financial markets plummet, with the best and brightest minds befuddled at finding ways to fix the ailing economy. And when the United States coughs, the whole world catches a cold. How does the church respond to people in need during a time of major recession? Do we know what kind of day it is?


The year 2005 was a wake-up call for Americans. The tsunami that washed over the coastlines of South Asia and East Africa in late December 2004, killing tens of thousands and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless, was just the beginning. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit our own shores with a fury, leaving in their wake devastation and loss on a scale largely unknown to this generation of Americans. Our sophistication and technology were no match against the unleashed forces of nature. Devastating droughts, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes get nearly everyone’s attention around the world. Environmental issues don’t just affect the quality of life but threaten life itself. “Of China’s 560 million urban residents, only one percent breathe air considered safe by European Union standards.” Over one billion people do not have daily access to clean drinking water.
The environment is becoming more and more of an issue to politicians and public alike. Former vice president Al Gore garnered not only an Emmy Award for his documentary film An Inconvenient Truth but also shared in receiving the acme of all awards, the Nobel Peace Prize, for his lifelong environmental efforts. There are new economic opportunities associated with environmental issues. As energy prices climb, the quest for cleaner alternative energy sources is escalating, along with business opportunities and wealth awaiting the clever people who come up with solutions. Entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, committed $3 billion over the next ten years to combat global warming. It is a cause people are passionate about.
And now many Christians are getting on board. In early 2006, the New York Times published an article about eighty-six evangelical leaders who signed a document backing a major initiative to fight global warming, citing that “millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.” Signers of the statement included presidents of thirty-nine evangelical colleges; parachurch leaders; and megachurch pastors, including Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren, Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr. of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, and the Rev. Floyd Flake of the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in New York City; as well as Hispanic leaders like the Rev. Jesse Miranda, president of AMEN in Costa Mesa, California.
In part, the statement read, “For most of us, until recently this has not been treated as a pressing issue or major priority. Indeed, many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians. But now we have seen and heard enough.” In a television advertisement, Joel Hunter, pastor of a megachurch outside Orlando, Florida, stated, “As Christians, our faith in Jesus Christ compels us to love our neighbors and to be stewards of God’s creation. The good news is that with God’s help, we can stop global warming, for our kids, [for] our world and for the Lord.”
What is indisputable is that glaciers are melting and global temperatures are rising. Eleven of the twelve years from 1995 and 2006 were the hottest ever recorded.“ In February 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), composed of more than two thousand scientists from 154 countries, released its summary report on global warming. By comparing different future scenario models, the consensus was that the world will warm 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.7 degrees Fahrenheit) in the next twenty years.
It seems that in spite of a growing scientific consensus that human activity and fossil fuels are at least partly responsible for disappearing ice caps and rising sea levels, many Christians take a stand against such findings simply because the findings are supported by scientists (or movie stars or Democrats or some other group). Whereas in the past, Christians were often at the forefront of science, believing they were discovering, through their research, the very manner, mind, and methods of God, scientific evidence, for some believers, is rejected simply because it comes from the field of science. Are we alienating the scientific community and the younger generation by clinging to stubborn provincial views? Are these people thinking, “How can I believe what this guy says about God and the unseen world when he rejects the evidence of the seen world?”
Maybe we need to get ahead of the culture on things God cares about-including stewardship of our planet. Peachtree Baptist Church in Atlanta has given legs to the stewardship of creation through its Faith and Environment Ministry. “We believe that we are called as Christians to care for and sustain God’s creation,” reads the church’s environmental ministry mission statement. The Faith and Environment ministry focuses on congregational and community activities that create awareness of earth stewardship. This is accomplished through educational programs, community events, and adopting green practices as a congregation. The ministry focuses on several Scriptures, including these:
The land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land [Leviticus 25:23-24].
Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? [Ezekiel 34:17-18].
Would it be so radical for a church to have its own recycling center or administer a neighborhood car pool to get to church? Would it be that out of the ordinary? On a day like today, what should we be doing?