Eric Hoffer puts his finger on a critical truth when the world in which we live is in significant change.  “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” 

One of the central jobs of a leader is not to specialize in what is today but to anticipate what will be tomorrow. It is to live in the present and the future at the same time knowing that the present will soon be history and the future will soon be today.

Take the US Postal Service which is hemorrhaging red ink as people send far fewer letters. The day the first fax was sent was the day that the Postal Service became obsolete. But no one noticed. Today they are begging junk mailers to send more stuff because the rest of us are using email. They are beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.

Or think of the evangelism strategies of most local churches which assume that people who don't know Christ will come to our church and find Him through some program. For the most part that world no longer exists but the church has not yet noticed. While we are beautifully equipped to put on programs that share the gospel at church the people we want to reach are less and less likely to come to church! The future is going to where people are who need Jesus, not expecting them to come to us - but the church continues to be blissfully unaware that it is bringing the gospel to every sector of life and work that is the key to evangelism.

The most beautifully equipped institutions to deal with a world that no longer exists are seminaries who continue to sell us on the idea that one cannot minister effectively without their education which entails sitting at the feet of the professors for four years. In the meantime many of the most effective workers today are being raised up in the context of ministry, are getting their education on the job and are not infected with the traditional ministry paradigms that still drive the church world. But try to get ordained in most denominations without a seminary education! We have professionalized ministry but the future is the releasing of people into ministry who are called, creative and equipped but not necessary in traditional ways. It almost sounds like the New Testament church!

I work in the world of missions where the whitewater of change is huge. As a group, western missions are beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. Today it belongs to those who are equippers of indigenous workers, rather than those who are still doing what nationals could be doing better than they. 

If you lead anything, one needs to be living in the present and the future simultaneously or run the real risk of becoming museum pieces beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. Learners inherit the earth. Learners are those who are paying close attention to the changing environment and are adapting to that change. Learners know that the status quo is not static for long and that tomorrows realities will be different than today's. There are plenty of people who are beautifully equipped to deal with today's realities. Leaders are learners who are equipped to anticipate the needs of tomorrow which will be today all too soon.

  • Dec 26, 2011
  • Category: News
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