Death, Taxes, and Change

    We've all heard the saying, "Two things are certain: death and taxes." Well, we can add a third to that list: change. Change is not just inevitable, it's essential. Biologists say the absence of change is death. Well that may be true, but are we ready for the kinds of changes that are coming? In their prophetic new book, Boiling Point: Monitoring Cultural Shifts in the 21st Century, George Barna and Mark Hatch write that the changes coming in the next ten years may create a society that is radically different from the one in which we now live. In support of their argument, they offer some compelling examples. First, they say, many important changes will occur in demographics. The Census Bureau predicts that by the year 2010, whites will drop to sixty-eight percent of the population and Hispanics will overtake African- Americans as the nation's largest minority group. Also, certain parts of the nation will likely become ethnic colonies. Maryland and the District of Columbia will become a center for African-Americans, while Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California will develop into Hispanic colonies. Also, we can expect a widening gap between rich and poor, a larger percentage of the population as senior citizens, and further diversification of the family structure -- all important considerations for ministry, obviously. Second, technological advances will fuel the most dramatic changes, the authors say. For example, nanoprobes may be developed which can be injected into our bodies to clean arteries, strengthen bone tissue, or perform diagnostic tests. And gene manipulation may allow parents to screen out defects in their children before they're born. Therapeutic cloning to replace damaged body parts may gain congressional approval as Americans embrace "quality of life" over the inherent "dignity of life." With "smart houses," computers will control all the functions of your home. Businesses will rely more and more on the Internet and online transactions will be the norm. Computer chips may even become so powerful that artificial intelligence will be virtually indistinguishable from human thought. So, where will Christians be in all these changes? Barna and Hatch suggest that we have two options: either to be the victims who are trampled by the inevitable march of progress or to be the innovators who help to direct and shape these coming changes. Clearly, the second option is better. No one but God knows for certain what the future holds, but as Barna and Hatch write, "If the role of the church is to influence all dimensions of culture rather than to be shaped by the culture, then we must be alert and assertive in representing God to the best of our ability in the world." Despite the coming changes, Barna and Hatch contend that the church is the biggest wildcard in predicting the future of our nation. That's because historically the church has had such enormous influence in shaping the direction of the culture. Barna and Hatch have written this new book to help Christians deal with impending cultural shifts. But are we up to the task? That's the question. And tomorrow I'll tell you more about how changes in the 21st century will dramatically affect the church, and how the church must respond. For further reference: Barna, George and Mark Hatch. Boiling Point. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2001.


Chuck Colson


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