Friday, May 24, 2013

How Should We Then Code?

A short while ago I discovered Francis Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live? videos on the web.
I still find much of it a powerful perspective on history, even if the story telling is a little dated. But as he gets closer to our own times (1977) I think the presentation becomes a little less accurate and his last episode shows how problematic prediction is.

Curiously, in his last episode he puts forward the view that the only answer for future societies in the absence of 'the Christian consensus'.is for an elite to dictate ethics. This has obviously been shown to be wildly wrong. We don't have an elite as an arbiter of certainty. In the post modern world, we have the very opposite, a completely fragmentary view of reality and truth. But it is the role of technology in making that prediction so wrong which is of course interesting. Schaeffer and others thought that the coming technological age would enhance the power of the powerful technocrats - and in someways this is true. But what the futurists were completely blindsided by was the opposite - the fragmentation of power. Social media, the disaffection with spin etc and now a fair percentage of the population who will believe anything so long as it is opposite to the elite they don't like. Societies are it seems immensely adaptable and so it seems the conditions for collapse based on the lack of a moral consensus are not valid yet. Social media allows simultaneous fragmentation and a gluing together of societies.

And this is a point that has been said a little bit but is generally under appreciated - technological trends are somewhat predictable for a period of 10-20 years but social trends in general not just in relation to the technologies are to a much higher degree uncertain. 

But the question Schaeffer asks is an eternal one: How Should we Then Live?
Or to put a modern spin on it How Should We Then Code?

Some time ago Ethos Australia published a thought provoking article: Hold Your Nerve And Do Nothing by Steve McAlpine . Of course the point of the article is not to do nothing, but it is to do nothing less than to be the community of believers the New Testament envisions. It is a great article and one that is definitely worth reading. 

Galatians 5 states:

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. .... 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

In churches we spend most of our time reading the theology of the New Testament, but as I discover some of the literature on the new testament church, I get more inspired for my own living. There is much that we can should change to be better witnesses, but probably nothing as important as being genuinely people of faith.

How shall we code, the same way we work as bankers and entrepreneurs as homemakers and artists. We need to be people of integrity, a people who care for others, a people belonging to God. Lets not get to fussed up about the future. As Schaeffer shows, the business of prediction is precarious.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Church as an organisation and the changing labour market

Over here, in another blog I write, I wrote recently of emerging patterns of work. I focused on drawing a distinction between people employed in jobs and people employed to do a task.

Jobs I defined as being for an organisation either for a specified period or indefinite and which comes with a set salary and benefits. Often they are associated with a career path. Societally, jobs are associated with high wages and health outcomes.

Tasks, on the other hand is an emerging class of work at the other end of the scale. Beyond the point of consultants that going fishing for work, at rates of pay that are survivable tasks are single discreet packages of work. Mechanical Turk is the current extreme example of outsourcing tasks at, for the most part, an extremely low rate. However, there are other platforms emerging to outsource 'tasks' and each task may be at quite low pay rates.

Now I understand that there will be a group of people this pattern may well benefit, but at the level of the economy it is problematic as a recent Economist article revealed in discussing massive global youth unemployment.

But I'll also want to repeat what I said in the other blog - it maybe that certain cities keep producing jobs with only a marginal creation of tasks activities while other cities will produce a much higher percentage of task activities. You need to be discerning about your environment.

In this blog I want to focus on the impact on churches. This is not about good or bad it is just about change at this stage.

Changing church finances. Middle class city churches in the West have generally been able to afford a middleclass lifestyle. A building, at least one Pastor and often some help and then maybe a little bit of paid administrative help. Now obviously, many Churches do better than this and some that do worse. Now for those cities or regions that trend towards a task economy it is possible that many churches will no longer afford a building or pastor.

Attitudes. Protestant churches still largely affirm the Protestant work ethic of: get a job! This may not be so possible in the near future at least for task regions. Entrepreneuring your way to an income will be tougher and more taxing.

Church demographics.   Again middleclass churches often had quite high employment levels, and good education backgrounds - not necessarily tertiary but skilled and high school completions. But if jobs begin to get harder to get we will see a growing rich poor divide in our churches between those who work hard at piece work tasks and those that are somewhat more secure.

Church leadership. I think  it is still pretty common for churches to have hierarchical leadership structures of a small leadership group (board, council or deacons) and then committees etc. As workplaces flatten their structures people have less experience and less desire to work hierarchically so we will need to flatten our church structures. After all the we have been democratising and flattening church structures since the middle ages as we became familiar with parliaments and private organisation of work.

Just a few thoughts to mull over......are you already seeing this in your church?