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Exponential times.


It's a common theme in this space, exponential times. What is the lure that has hooked my attention over the past couple of years? It's not that complicated. My love for and belief in the local church has me wondering why so many evangelical congregations are in the doldrums. The answer to that one seems mysterious and perplexing. It's a point of discussion and debate among cultural observers, at denominational levels, in local churches, and at the coffee shop down the street. In my personal study there are many possible reasons for the lack of church spiritual influence in our culture. Primary among them is the reluctance of spiritual leaders to acknowledge the impact of exponential times on our diverse population.


Exponential isn't a terribly difficult concept to understand. Basically it is a word expressing exaggerated circumstances. You know, bigger, faster, more plenteous, rising and expanding, rampant, aggressive, and many other synonymous terms. There is a more specific mathematical explanation, but I'll leave that to be educated professors over in the math department. Applied to culture as a whole, exponential times are those occasioned by the technological advances of everyday life. Data engineering, program interfaces, platforms, networks, and infrastructure are no longer the secret language of the techie world. Our children and grandchildren move through this stuff with ease. We experience these marvels at the checkout counter, in communication, and virtually every area of daily life. They have altered almost everything we do.


Observers affirm that exponential times are characterized by three primary traits: velocity, complexity, and mobility. Everything today is faster, more complicated, and on the move more than in previous times. Yes, Covid 19 has been a temporary reprieve in some regards.. Still, in the last decade or two people have had to make major life adjustments to remain functional participants in even every day activities. And, they are hard in the older generational cohorts---the builders and boomers among us. Some of us have made these transitions, even at an elementary level. Others have not. The speed, sophistication, and movement have left many people and organizations trying to exist in this new world relying on our old world systems.


Understanding the times is a significant Biblical theme. To be effective in our mission to make disciples of all nations we must grasp change as one of those rapid, perplexing, and transitioning life dynamics. If we are to exercise spiritual influence in a world like this one we must at the least know what is happening around us. To ignore them is to disconnect ourselves from those caught in the often frantic whirlwind of change. Several Scripture passages address this issue---


Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.

1 Chronicles 12: 32, ESV


You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why

do you not know how to interpret the present time?

Luke 12: 56, ESV


Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

2 Timothy 2: 7, ESV


Look at what is before your eyes.

2 Corinthians 10:7, ESV


Understanding these exponential times is perhaps more important today than any period in my seventy years. Recent events, including Covid 19 and the killing of George Floyd have ramped up cultural and spiritual change. Many Christian denominations, congregations, and spiritual leaders are functioning in exponential times with dated and worn approaches to mission. I am always drawn to the Word God gave to prophet Isaiah---


Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a

new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the

wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43: 18-19, ESV


This does not mean abandoning the absolutes of faith. That will be the topic tomorrow. God is forever doing a new thing, and we must understand it and embrace his provision in these exponential times.


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