Thomas L. Friedman released an important book a few months ago called Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations.
I usually take notes on the blank white pages in the back of a book. For a few seminal books, however, I actually type out key things God might be saying to me personally and as a leader. Thank You for Being Late was one of those books.
My goal here is not to do a book review, but to share with you my top applications:
- We must be self-motivated, life-long learners. The world is changing at a pace so fast it has risen above the rate at which most people can absorb all the changes. Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, says it best: “The 21st century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate of progress; organizations have to be able to redefine themselves at a faster and faster pace.” From the convergence of mobile devices, broadband connectivity, and cloud computing to issues of artificial intelligence and globalization, multiple factors are dramatically impacting the way we lead. What AT&T says to their workers may also be true for pastors today: “You can be a lifetime employee (or leader for Christ) if you are a lifelong learner.”
- We must address the unique discipleship challenges of our day. There are already 3 billion mobile phone subscriptions and more than half the world still does not have one. For example, on these mobile phones, eight to ten year olds are now regularly exposed to pornography, some of which is “hard-core.” Most of our youth and singles are now sexually active in ways that would shock us if we knew. Very, very few churches are discipling marrieds/singles and youth in their sexuality. A second example revolves around teaching people to love others. The Surgeon General recently said, “The biggest disease in the USA is not cancer or heart disease. It’s isolation.” We may be the most technologically connected generation in human history, and yet more people feel more isolated than ever. The rise of technology has also dramatically diminished people’s practices of reading Scripture, solitude, and a plethora of other spiritual disciplines we took for granted a generation ago.
- We must engage in the slow, hard work of building healthy church communities. Friedman ends his book with a general solution of helping people make deep human connections through anchoring people in healthy communities. He is right that people learn honesty, integrity, humility, and trust in communities. What made this the weakest part of the book was to think healthy towns, cities, and communities can fill this need. God created this need for stability, anchoring, and equipping to be met through the church of Jesus Christ. What an opportunity we have to proclaim the good news of Jesus through building strong communities.
- We must learn from the global church. Globalization is reshaping how fast ideas circulate and change. For example, if you are a software developer, you can go to a popular platform called GitHub where over 12 million people collaborate to write, improve, store, and share software applications. Autodesk is a platform designers use – whether they are in architecture, engineering, construction, manufacturing, media, or entertainment. Instead of the global church working in silos, I imagine a clearinghouse of best discipleship practices from around the world – be they Evangelical, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, mainline denominations, or the newer explosive church movements coming out of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Technology has now opened up doors for us to receive new, diverse ideas from around the world in ways that were impossible earlier.
- We must train the next generation for leadership. The world population is now 7.2 billion people. It will be 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion people by 2050. Think about that: We will add 2.5 BILLION people in the next 33 years! Who will be the apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists to equip these additional 2.5 billion people? Each local church, denomination, movement, Bible College, and seminary will need to adjust her wineskin and priorities to meet this acute need. (Oh yes, by 2100, the world population will be 11.2 billion.)
If the role of a leader is, as Harvard professor Ronald Heifetz says, “to help people face reality and to mobilize them to make changes,” then we must ask the Holy Spirit to guide us and his power to fill us amidst these great winds of change.