It is interesting to listen to what people talk about when they are out with friends having a coffee together at the local coffee shop. I was sitting yesterday for several hours in a coffee shop – a planned wait so I had my laptop and internet connecting system in place so I could be working. However, people were coming and going all around me and I managed to hear tidbits of various conversations. Here were some of my thoughts while I sat there and worked and listened…
1> The rules have changed
People are making up their own rules when it comes to family life, relationships at work, moral and ethical issues, and what they believe about God, the Lord Jesus and the local church. It has become “every man doing what is right in their own eyes” and believing whatever they are comfortable with. There are no “standards” any longer and so anything and everything goes. “Tolerance” is the key word and “entertainment” is a major goal. “Holidays” are something people see as a right and so demand to have. “Loyalty” and “commitment” are things of the past as now it is every person for themselves and you better not get in their way.
2> Life is faster
Not always better but obviously life is moving faster for most people. For me personally I something think I am simply moving slower due to age and so it only appears that life is moving at a faster clip … But, in general, life is being lived in the fast lane and people are working longer hours and often more than one job to enable their chosen lifestyle. It seems as if people are trying to squeeze more in to the time they have available and so are living at breakneck speed. However, this has, in my opinion, led to a shallow life lived on the surface without much meaningful interaction between people and little of any value happening in individuals. Life is remaining unexamined and so the quality goes down faster than the quantity of life being squeezed into the given time space increases.
3> Change is accelerating
This is a no brainer. The fact that I was sitting in a coffee shop working on a laptop no bigger than a good size book and connected to the internet when not in a Wi-Fi area speaks volumes regarding the rapid rate of change. I was having coffee later in the day with one of my daughters – a different coffee shop – and we were talking about the speed of change and how much her children now take for granted things that were not even dreamed of 30 years ago… And, as I think about the work that I do for the Lord and the way it is now being done compared to 25 years ago… change is accelerating and amazing. And, it is not always adding to the quality of life we are experiencing.
4> Expectations are higher
More is expected of us than ever before. Companies are expecting more of their employees as they downsize. People are expecting more and better from places they shop and churches they attend. People, in general, want to give less (commitment, loyalty, involvement, money) but are demanding more for their less. People expect more from others than they are willing to give themselves. They live with a double standard in many areas of their life and daily behaviors. This is putting extreme pressure on many who are in the service industry, politics and various levels of government, company owners and those in full-time ministry.
5> The culture is in moral decay
This one is obvious. Just watch television for an hour. Life seems to have little value. People are being shot nightly on the streets of the cities. Drug dealers control many areas of the inner cities and many districts of some nations. Movies are going down the toilet as are many of the stars – Mel Gibson being a current example. Most movies are not worth the time it takes to watch them. Listen to what the teenagers are talking about at their local hangout. Take note of how many of the younger generation are now living an openly gay lifestyle.
In the midst of these signs that we are in trouble I would say that Christians and Christian leaders need to realize a number of things…
1> You are a limited resource
And as a limited resource recognize that you cannot do everything and meet every need that is out there crying for attention. As a limited resource you need to know what it is that the Lord is calling you to do, how He wants you to do it, and where, and then focus on that and not spread yourself too thin. You need time to recharge and this may mean retreating from the fast lane and finding solitude and silence on a regular basis so that when you re-enter the regular flow of daily traffic you are ready for whatever opportunities come your way. But, you are not God’s answer to everyone’s problems or issues – Jesus is!
2> Leadership is a draining experience
In the 21st century Christian leadership is more dreaining than ever before. This is partly because of the decaying nature of the society in which we live, partly the result of the changing nature of the challenges that leaders are faced with today, and partly due to the higher expectations placed on those who dare to be a leader in this “demand more and give less” culture. What use to work when it came to leading people and building churches no longer works. Today we are not sure what works anymore when it comes to the changing face of the Christian sub-culture. People are not getting saved and so the size of the organizations are slowly shrinking and yet we are expected to o more even when we have less to work with. Very draining at the best of times.
3> More is not the answer
We live in a society where we assume that more is better. We want more money, more credit, more entertainment, more holidays, more food, more vehicles, more “home” (so thus bigger and better places to live)… And for Christian leaders we need to be careful not to get caught up in this ‘more’ mentality or “begger is better” approach to life. More prayer, more programs, more services, more people, more outreach, more… More is not the answer. Jesus is! And often He would have us live with less, do less, be involved in fewer things, and accumulate less. “Less is better” is soon to be the directing influence for believers.
4> There is hope
And finally there is hope. Jesus is our hope. If we live without hope in the future we live without power in the present. So, as Christian leaders we need to maintain a high level of hope. People can change when they know Jesus. The Church will reach the world with the Gospel because Jesus said we would. He is building His Church and knows what He is doing and se we can have hope because “all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and His purposes.”
So I am having this bottle of Diet Pepsi at the coffee shop yesterday as I waited and, as a people watcher, I enjoyed my time thinking, watching, observing and listening (and yes – working as well). Interesting to see how others spend their mornings… And, I walked away thankful that I am a believer in the resurrected Jesus and thus can see life differently than others and live life with eternity in view and thus live with a purpose that goes beyond daily life. I walked away with an added burden and resolve for those who live without the Lord and so live without hope and with little to look forward to except another day tomorrow – maybe!