One leading cause of the leadership issue the issue of leading today is our inability to see the major nature of the paradigm shift in our culture today. Most of our so-called leaders are still stuck with the old paradigm and really are geldings when it comes to helping to change things. I believe today we are witnessing only the third major paradigm shift in the spiritual history of the world since the time of Christ.
The first paradigm shift is recorded in the Bible in the book of Acts and the story looks, to a casual reader, as the history of the early church. More accurately, it looks to us as the story of the birth of the Church. The book is much more than that. A birthing is always traumatic, and this one certainly was.
Acts is the story of a major paradigm shift. It begins with the disciples seeing a vision of a political kingdom of which Jesus would be King and they would be the top guys with Him in ruling this kingdom. Then we see the Gospel bursting out of the Jewish wineskin and spilling out and moving over the entire world, to Jews and Gentiles. Not even Rome could stop it. The story in Acts is written by a Gentile to a Gentile. Even Peter had to have some rather traumatic experiences to understand this.
The vehicle for propagating the news of this paradigm shift was basically oral. Jews from all over the world were in Jerusalem for the Pentecost, another name for the Jewish Feast of Weeks (Acts 2:5-12). As these men returned home, they began sharing the Pentecost experience and news of the risen Christ with people in their own countries. The birth of the Church had begun. Luke records very little of the history of that early Church or the lives of the Apostles. What we do see, however, is the beginning of the paradigm shift.
The second major paradigm shift in the Church began as Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. The paper was in Latin and targeted to the church leaders. Soon it was translated to German and the Gutenberg Press â€“ the vehicle for the transmission this time â€“ used to print copies that soon flooded the entire country and beyond. Most the people could not read or write, but the message was soon clear to everyone: The just shall live by faith, not indulgences. The Press was used to print many papers to fuel the Reformation. In addition, the first book printed on the Gutenberg Press was actually a Bible. A massive awakening soon swept all of Northern Europe. It affected the art (I have a Rembrandt copy of his St. Paul in my home), the music, architecture, and even the political systems. It was a major cultural and spiritual shift, and the early settlers of America were driven from their attempt to escape the effects of this Protestant Reformation.
Today, a new and major paradigm shift is emerging. All of our cultural systems are failing â€“ political, business, economic, education, medical â€“ you name it. If you think the last election in America was a wake-up call, wait until you see the next one. Even the church institutions are failing and church growth leaders are well aware of this. Of the millennial generation (age 29 and below), Reggie McNeal of the Leadership Network says only one in ten is in the [institutional] church today.
Whereas the driving vehicle for the last shift was the Gutenberg Press, in the new paradigm today the driving vehicle is the Internet. And most people trying to use this media are still trying to use it from the old paradigm.
Hereâ€™s an example of political and business thinking today from the old paradigm. The Unit Stated Postal Service (USPS) is financially in the hole and has appealed to let it stop Saturday delivery service. Never mind why theyâ€™re losing money. The major competitor of the USPS is the Internet which is available 24/7. The Postal Service, by stopping Saturday delivery, is really going the opposite direction. My TIME magazine now comes on Saturday. Logically, this means my TIME will then come on Monday. Since the mail would be backed up by then, I wonâ€™t get TIME until Tuesday. On a holiday weekend (and Lord knows they get a lot of those) I will get the magazine Wednesday or Thursday. The magazine is worthless by then. Iâ€™ve already gotten my news from the Internet by then.
The reality is that TIME would go to electronic publishing and you would read it on your iPad. With more pictures and with video and sound. And almost all televisions, DVD players, and game consoles now are sold with the Netflix chip. No need to get the movies by mail. Netflix would stream them down to your television on the Internet. Instead of mailing bill payments, Iâ€™d pay them using the Internet. The Post Office is roadkill.
In the same way, other institutions, even the institutional church, must change or they will die. The Church will not die â€“ it will be here until the Lord returns. The way we do Church, however, changes and the way we do missions changes.