With God in the age of disruption

Why this could be our finest hour if we seize the opportunity before us.

By Peter Youngren

CHANGE is constant, but to say that we are living in changing times is an understatement – this is the Age of Disruption. Ideas, traditions and systems, as we have known them, are dissolving. We are surrounded by smart phones and sensors; we shop online while retailers we have known all of our lives close shop. We talk about driverless cars and though none of us have ever owned one, we probably will someday. Values that have seemed unshakable for generations are questioned and many are changing rapidly.

If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?

Happy, clappy statements about an impending great revival will not do – we need the gospel.

Communication disruption.

During an average minute, just one minute, almost 1 million people log into Facebook, there are close to half a million tweets, 156 million emails and 15 million text messages. For the last decade, these numbers have been doubling on the average every two years.

Work disruption.

When machines do the work that humans previously did the obvious question is: what are humans to do? Truck drivers, factory workers and office clerks wonder if their jobs will be there in 10 years.

Artificial Intelligence [AI] is disrupting.

This is what enables computers and machines to do what humans used to do. As I prepare this article, there is news that China has announced its plan to lead the world in artificial intelligence in 10 years. Computers can see [facial recognition software], read [that’s how your social media messages are analyzed], and speak [the phone, car or Amazon’s Alexa talking to you]. Speaking of Alexa, one of the most popular gifts this past Christmas, this gadget demonstrates that AI also listens. If you say, “Alexa, wake up”, there is a response, which means you didn’t really wake up your gadget. It was awake the whole time, or how else could it have heard your command. AI will change healthcare. Why wait in a doctor’s office when you can have a smartphone tell your blood pressure and sugar levels. 3D printers, virtual personal assistants, hologram technology, implanted microchips, robotic medical assistants, what’s next? Robots leading worship? I hope not.

When machines do the work of humans, what are humans to do?

Migration disruption.

The world is on the move. During certain periods of history, humanity has migrated. One example is the second half of the 19th century when millions migrated from northern Europe to America to escape poverty and injustice. Migrants have always looked for a better life. History shows that when people become wealthy they have fewer children, while poorer societies have higher birth rates. Eventually the demographics catch up as people living in densely populated areas move to areas of more space and opportunity. Who can blame people for wanting a better life? Imagine yourself a 25-year-old believer, unemployed and living in West Africa. When you read 3rd John verse 2: God wants you to prosper and be in health as your soul prospers, it’s not hard to see how you might come to the conclusion that your success will come by boarding a ship to Europe or North America. Here is the fact: Africa is on the move towards Europe and Central America towards the United States and there is not much anyone can do about it. So, where is the Gospel, what is our response to migration?

Political disruption.

For 70 years, since World War II, Western civilization has mostly followed the idea of globalism. Whatever brings countries together, militarily or in trade, has been considered desirable; the more cooperation the better. While globalization has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, it has also brought about huge and unparalleled income inequalities. Today, populist political parties that emphasize national identities have arisen to challenge globalism. Already we have seen dramatic changes in countries like Poland, Hungary, Brazil, Bolivia, the Philippines and the United States.

Nature is in disruption.

Last fall in Indonesia, a country that I know well, where we’ve conducted 28 Gospel Campaigns, more than 7000 died on the island of Sulawesi, while there were more than 1000 fatalities in West Java, as a result of earthquakes and tsunamis. Wildfires in Europe and America and more than half of Puerto Rico’s population without electricity for 11 months remind us that life is fragile.

Values are disrupted.

This is big! Political correctness threatens freedom of speech? It was just announced that two Canadian universities, in response to the attacks of freedom of speech, have initiated new policies to ensure this human right. Freedom of speech was always for the purpose of guaranteeing the rights of the person with whom you disagree, but in some quarters a political correctness that calls opposing ideas hate speech has taken over. In Canada, organizations that do not agree with the government’s policies on gender theory are barred from seeking federal grants. Speaking of gender theory, who thought that we would question the basic idea of male and female? Today, there is debate whether or not to include a third gender [or fourth or fifth] definition in the Constitution. Canadian Christian activist, Laura Lynn Thompson, has caused quite a stir, especially in British Columbia, and she recently addressed one of the Sunday services at the Toronto Celebration Church. Her activism is concerning the educational system that encourages little boys to explore whether they are actually girls, and vice versa. Who saw this coming 20 years ago? The reality is that many are afraid to even talk about the value disruption we are living through, for fear of being called a fascist or a bigot. Not surprisingly, Laura Lynn’s activism has cost her a great deal, even among her evangelical friends.
Globalism has dominated the last 70 years.

The church is in disruption.

The church’s credibility is in question. This is not new, there have always been doubters and speakers. There are two issues that are having a profound effect on the general public’s view of the church. One is the pedophilia scandal within the Roman Catholic Church, and second; the merging of evangelical Christianity with politics particularly in United States. The psalmist queried, if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? To put it in current terminology: what should be our response in the age of disruption?

Face reality.

The proverbial ostrich needs to pull its head out of the sand. Times of great struggle are times of great opportunities, but not without facing reality. Happy, clappy statements about an impending great revival will not do. Creative speculations about blood moons and the end times are not helpful. Calls to prayer that do not result in action will disappoint. It’s time to assess our message [is it really the gospel?] and our prayers [are we waiting for God to move, or should we move with what God has already given to us?].

Recognize that Cultural Christianity is insufficient.

In our attempt to present our faith in the marketplace we have become skilled at using coded language, rather than “bearing Jesus’ name” before people. We try to win people by talking about Christian values, about our church, about our pastor, about our program rather than about Jesus Christ. To speak up for Christian morality is not the same as presenting the gospel. Good morals do not come from upholding good morals; good morals are the results of the gospel changing hearts. The gospel is not behavior modification; it’s heart transformation. And once the heart is changed, things will change also on the outside.

Rediscover the gospel.

The gospel is not a morality, self-help message, pull yourself up by the bootstraps and try harder. It is the story of the unlimited God who came into limited human flesh, to enlighten our darkened minds about who we are and who God is, to redeem us, to defeat death and hell and sin, and to win an everlasting victory for everyone, And then Christ lives and expresses Himself through us by the Holy Spirit. WOW, that’s good news!

You, with Christ, are the solution.

We are not consumers of ministry, worship and sermons; Jesus said we are the light of the world. We are not waiting for God to move; he already moved 2000 years ago by sending Jesus Christ. Too much pining, begging for God to bless, anoint and empower us! It’s time to see that you have something. You have the bread of life and you’ll never be hungry again. You have the fountain of living water and you’ll never thirst again. We are not longing and yearning for something out of our reach. The Scripture is clear; we have all [not just a few of us] received Christ fullness. Like Simon Peter we say, what we have we give you!

A strategy for migrants.

Migration is here to stay. Governments, churches and charitable organizations provide language courses, food, social assistance and more. However, without believers having a revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ and a strategy to share it with others, Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist friends that are coming into our country will largely remin unreached. [One small but powerful way to share the gospel with people, including migrants, in your community, could be by distributing the pamphlet, Enlightenment – The Global Quest for God.]

Rediscover prayer.

The purpose of prayer was never to change God, who is unchangeably committed to love the world, but to change us. If you missed my article, Rediscover The Power of Prayer in the Winter 2019 Impact Magazine, check it out at peteryoungren.org.

Offer abundant life.

Christ offers first and foremost eternal life, but this new life involves everything, including finances. There are charlatans who preach a prosperity gospel for selfish gain, but don’t let them have monopoly on the subject. There is a healthy longing for prosperity and a good life that God put in the human heart. Teaching that God is our source for life, including wisdom for finances, is not a fad, it is reality. The wave of migration is driven by hunger for a better life. That better life, including a better financial life, is found in the wisdom of the indwelling Christ.
Moses encountered God in an age of disruption for the nation of Israel.

Take courage from the story of Moses.

Moses lived in an age of disruption. Israel had been a favored nation just a generation earlier, but by the time Moses was born there was political upheaval, and Israel had become slaves.

Moses tried to handle the problems of his time in this own strength. His well-intentioned attempt to deliver Israel only made him a laughingstock. That’s not untypical. The Bible is full of examples of people who tried in their own strength but failed.

Moses encountered God. The angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire within a bush, Exodus 3:2. I suggest that Moses, an ordinary man, saw himself in that very ordinary desert bush. But he also saw God in the bush. A bush, by its nature, cannot contain fire, because fire consumes it. That’s what God does with ordinary people; he transforms them. To encounter God is much more than a feeling. Sometimes people talk about experiencing God’s presence, but it doesn’t seem to bring a lasting change. It’s just an emotion, a good feeling during a worship service. The God encounter I’m talking about is transformational; you are forever changed.

Moses made new choices. He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and chose instead to be mistreated along with the people of God. Life is a trade-off. When you refuse one thing you get to say “yes” to another.

The scripture explains the change in Moses’ behavior. It happened because he saw Him, who is invisible, and therefore he didn’t fear the king’s anger. There is fear of being rejected, fear of failure, fear of losing friends or having no money. Fear results in negative choices. Love conquers fear, and causes faith to flourish. Faith causes us to see ourselves as we really are in Christ. An encounter with God results in new choices.

When everything is shaken, Christ is not, His ultimate victory is certain. That motivates me to keep going in the age of disruption, because this is our finest hour, if we seize the opportunity for the Gospel.

Too much pining, begging for God to bless, anoint and empower us!

The kind of God encounter I’m talking about is transformational; you are forever changed.

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