When I was a boy I thought it would be great to see the future. My imagination ran wild. I imagined knowing test questions before tests; I dreamed about how much money I could make. The possibilities were endless! I thought that knowing the future would guarantee wealth, power, and prestige.
As an adult I know that seeing the future is impossible, and it’s a power I’m thankful that I don’t have. I cannot imagine the burden of that responsibility.
At the same time, I wish I had more insight into the future of the Christian Reformed Church. People often ask me questions about our future, and I long to have more clarity. The best I can do is to try to identify the issues that the church is facing and work with people to prayerfully address those issues.
I recently asked members of the CRC denominational ministry staff what they think are the three most important issues facing the world, North America, the Christian church, our own denomination, and our local churches in the coming year.
I received more than 50 responses reflecting the varied perspectives of those who work in ministry around the world. While many responded from a North American context, there were also responses from those living and working in Two-Thirds World countries. The results were delightfully surprising.
Given the collapse of the credit market, the severe downturn of the global stock exchanges, the breakdown of manufacturing giants, and the present global economic situation, I expected the economy to be identified as the single most important issue. Instead, I discovered that those who responded were far more focused on how we might engage our world with the gospel message. When the economy was mentioned, the response was not of fear but of opportunity.
Sure, some answers were pessimistic about the future, but most people spoke of the need to focus on hope and to find ways to change a culture obsessed with wealth and power to a culture that embodies the heart and mind of Christ.
In our world there is a huge gulf between rich and poor. Grave injustices must be addressed. The moral fiber of many cultures is breaking down. There are wars and rumors of wars. We could wring our hands, retreat into our homes, lock our doors, and ignore the painful realities. But as followers of Christ we should see these issues not as problems but as opportunities. Will we flee from the challenges of a sinful world, or will we embrace these challenges to further the mission of God?
Now is the time to ramp up our global engagement and focus less on ourselves and more on the kingdom of God. Jesus understood that his kingdom is very different from the kingdoms of this world. The first will be last and the last first. The kingdom belongs to the poor. The meek will inherit the earth. The pure in heart will see God.
We do not know the future. That knowledge belongs only to God, but God has invited us to be a part of that future. You and I have the opportunity to share God’s love and grace with others around the world.
We are the hands and feet of Jesus. We speak for the voiceless. We defend the helpless. We embrace people who have AIDS. We adjust our lifestyles so that the poor can live another day. We care for the creation. We spend less and give more. We proclaim the gospel in word and in deed in our neighborhoods and around the world.