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Driving into the Future with Our Eyes on the Rear-View Mirror


Homes were already expensive in my part of Melbourne. Now, after a massive real estate boom lasting several years, many cost 50% more. I don’t know how young families can afford to live in the area, unless both parents are well-paid, super-busy professionals.


I sometimes wonder if our evangelical churches are aware of local demographics when they form their ambitious growth strategies.


Tom Sine in Mustard Seed Versus McWorld warned:


We are living in a world changing at blinding speed and yet in our homes, churches and Christian colleges we unconsciously prepare our young to live and serve God in the world their parents grew up in….As a consequence of leaders failing to lead with foresight, churches and Christian organisations have, in recent years, been repeatedly hammered by change and missed a lot of opportunities to bring the gospel of Christ to a changing world. Instead of driving into the future with our eyes fixed firmly on our rear-view mirrors we need a new generation of leaders who learn to lead with foresight.


In my own life I’ve missed the future often. As a freelance journalist in Tokyo in the early 1980s, I sometimes contributed restaurant and store reviews to local tourist publications. Once I was asked to write a review of an electronics store that sold duty-free items to tourists. But what do you say about an electronics store? Tokyo is full of them, each the same as the other.


I asked the manager to point out all the new products in the store. He showed me a new tape recorder from Sony. It was weird. You couldn’t even record on it. And it didn’t have proper speakers. You had to put on a pair of special headphones to listen to tapes. I don’t recall my exact words, but I think I wrote something sarcastic, wondering how on earth Sony could expect anyone to buy a tape recorder that didn’t record and which lacked proper speakers.


The tape recorder was of course the newly launched Sony Walkman, which went on to become one of Sony’s most popular-ever new products.


Later I joined the Tokyo branch of a British bank. We were continually astonished at the rapid ascent during the 1980s of the Tokyo stock market. When the Nikkei Stock Average was around the 20,000 mark, and looking far too high already, one of my bosses returned from a trip to London. “Some fund managers reckon the market’s headed for 25,000,” he told us. We laughed. Unbelievable, we thought.


In fact, the market didn’t stop climbing until it had nearly touched 40,000. It was one of the biggest financial bubbles in world history.


Later, when stocks were tumbling, and the market had dropped to around 35,000, a Swiss fund manager told us he’d been examining some charts. “The market will eventually bottom at around 6,000,” he said. Unbelievable, we again thought.


Check your newspapers. Yesterday, the Nikkei Stock Average closed at 8,460.


Christians too often adopt a “put your faith in God and everything will be okay” attitude. That is, of course, not wrong. (After all, there is nothing new under the sun.) Or we concentrate on big picture scenarios like the Middle East.


And repeatedly we get hammered by change.


Meanwhile, everyone else in Melbourne seems to be discussing local real estate prices. Perhaps Christians too should talk more often on this topic.


November 12th, 2002