REVIEW: *What Comes Next? Shaping the Future in an Ever-Changing World. A Guide for Christian Leaders* Nicholas Skytland & Alicia Llewellyn

In What Comes Next?, Nick Skytland and Ali Llewellyn provide us accessible concept frameworks that make the elements of strategic foresight (“futuring”) meaningful and manageable. I find that motivating! Church, ministry, and agency leaders don’t need (or want) yet another book that is too simplistic–cool, but not practical; or too complicated–erudite, but inscrutable. Because navigating current chaos and future uncertainty is too strategic to our congregations and organizations for us to miss the mark on this.

As futurists, Ali and Nick have years of experience applying their professional expertise to help leaders work with relevant principles and practices. They aren’t here to TELL us what our future holds and what to do. Instead, they provide a roadmap that SHOWS us how to figure out what is POSSIBLE and then apply foresight principles in our own context for what is PREFERABLE. I see this as inspiring hope, and hope is an active verb.

While they acknowledge our mixed feelings about things to come and how emotions can hold us back, they help us hearken back to when we were all futurists as children. They use relatable examples of how play, imagination, curiosity, and exploration set the course for things to come. They implant and feed the seed that we can be active shapers of the future instead of passive clay that takes the imprint of whatever may happen. Yes, we really can impact the way things go! But how?

Nick and Ali detail Four Forces that form this main framework in understanding and applying What Comes Next?–purpose, people, place, and technology. This is not just a set of factors, but a system of forces. A system implies more interconnections and interactions among the members, not just a bunch of independent pieces thrown into a set list. So, various intersections among these Four Forces bring out important questions that help us find clarity in our current times, so we can then navigate our own local situations.

And, as they emphasize, “Clarity precedes strategy. ” So, their equipping process facilitates better discussing, discerning, and deciding. Leaders will (1) learn about navigating uncertainty, (2) apply curiosity and creativity to have more “successful failures,” and ultimately, (3) use these experiences for a more positive trajectory in ministry endeavors.

I appreciate how they’ve made this book engaging for people like myself who process information better in pictures more than words. And in fact, they provide elements that connect with a diverse range of ways people learn: theory and story, principles and practices, statements and questions. But then, that makes sense, if we’re to lead a flock or a team, we need a field guide to conducting and compositing a theologically sound “spiritual MRI” on trends and issues that directly affect us, so we can navigate our way forward with hope and confidence, even in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty.

What Comes Next? is definitely is a five-star field guide to equip us as explorers and shapers of our group’s most preferable future!

Note: I received an advance readers copy of this book as part of the launch team.

For more details about the book, see The Futures Framework website.

And be sure to check out the podcast series–several episodes have already been posted and the series will run from January through March 2021.

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Two Must-Read Articles on Ravi Zacharias and RZIM, and a Reference Post

The past week, I have been compiling article links and analysis for “Ravi Zacharias and RZIM 2020 Research and Resource Post: Timeline, Links to Articles/Analysis, Nonprofit Reference.” The light for a change of discernment has been dawning for many associates of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), mostly since RZIM released an intermediate report confirming Mr. Zacharias had been sexually abusive to multiple women in spas that he had owned. The horizon is changing, and that compilation may help those who are in the process of understanding and reinterpreting what actually happened–despite earlier denials and deflections about the reported abuses. Continue reading

Redeeming Power / Diane Langberg–The Book I Waited 45 Years for it to be Written!

Redeeming Power by trauma psychologist Diane Langberg is the best book I’ve seen that introduces, equips, and challenges Christian leaders to deal with systemic abuse and historic oppression. Buy it, savor it, share it!

I have survived multiple situations of spiritual abuse by people in positions of power in churches, ministries, and non-profits—starting from my early 20s in the mid-1970s, and going into my 50s in the mid-2000s. I’ve invested much time over the last 15 years processing those destructive experiences and writing about what helped me understand and heal from them, and that supports other survivors. Continue reading

Redeeming Power / Diane Langberg–On Reversing Trauma and Evil

This quote from Dr. Langberg’s forthcoming book struck a chord for me. It’s worth reflecting on in this era of bitter polarization we’re experiencing, for considering what it means to be agents of support/healing instead of agents of abuse/damage.

Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church is available for pre-order. Check out Dr. Langberg’s website or the Brazos Press webpage for additional information about the book plus links to sources for pre-ordering. The book will be released Tuesday, October 20.

This futuristguy post on related thoughts on the significance of being agents of support/healing instead of agents of abuse/damage amplifies why I believe Dr. Langberg’s Christ-centered, redemptive approach is crucial in our times, which are riddled with anger, bitterness, and abuse.

You can follow Dr. Langberg on Twitter.

Facebook, book hashtag: #RedeemingPower.

Twitter, book hashtag: #RedeemingPower.

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Redeeming Power / Diane Langberg–Book Giveaway on Goodread

Enter for a chance to win 1 of 5 copies of *Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church* by Diane Langberg. Drawing/release date of October 20th.

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/308937

A little about the book: Power has a God-given role in human relationships and institutions, but it can lead to abuse when used in unhealthy ways. Speaking into current #MeToo and #ChurchToo conversations, this book shows that the body of Christ desperately needs to understand the forms power takes, how it is abused, and how to respond to abuses of power.

See the Brazos Press publisher’s webpage for details about Redeeming Power, plus links.

You can follow Dr. Langberg on Twitter.

Facebook, book hashtag: #RedeemingPower.

Twitter, book hashtag: #RedeemingPower.

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Redeeming Power / Diane Langberg–Overview Video

I feel privileged to serve on Dr. Langberg’s launch team for Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church (Brazos Press; 2020). It is available for pre-order and the release date is scheduled for October 20th. I believe this book is certain to become a standard resource for vital, Christlike ministry to survivors of all forms of abuse, violence, and oppression. Watch for more videos, excerpts, and reviews on #redeemingpower

Meanwhile, check out this brief video by Dr. Langberg. In just over a minute, she eloquently summarizes themes and purposes of her book, distilled from 47 years serving survivors of abuse, violence, genocide, trafficking. It captures the book’s essence, plus her unique voice of Christlike advocacy for the vulnerable as presented in the Prelude section of her book.

See the Brazos Press publisher’s webpage for details about Redeeming Power, plus links:

  • Overview.
  • Contents.
  • Dr. Langberg’s bio.
  • Endorsements from people representing a wide range of theological, professional, and cultural backgrounds.
  • Downloadable excerpt of the Prelude and Chapter 1 on “The Source and Purpose of Power.”
  • Source options for book pre-order/purchase.

You can follow Dr. Langberg on Twitter.

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Redeeming Power / Diane Langberg–Details & Launch Team Application

Today I applied for the launch team of the forthcoming book from Dr. Diane Langberg, Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church (Brazos Press; 2020). It is available for pre-order and the release date is scheduled for October 20th. See the publisher’s webpage for details about the book and links:

  • Overview.
  • Contents.
  • Dr. Langberg’s bio,
  • Endorsement.
  • Downloadable excerpt.
  • Source options for book pre-order/purchase.

Dr. Langberg is well known among abuse survivor communities for her work globally on complex situations of trauma, resilience, and recovery. Her quotes and comments are frequently reposted/retweeted on social media. This is sure to be a significant book for survivors of abuse/violence — whether involving gender, race, religion/spiritual authorities, and/or social institutions–as well as for survivor advocates and advocates.

One of her primary target audiences includes pastors, other kinds of ministers, and church/denomination leaders. This book will fill a crucial need they have for understanding systems, systemic abuse and how to challenge it, and what this has to do with dynamics of power and how to bring redemption to situations where power has been abused.

If you are interested in being considered to participate on the publisher’s launch team for Redeeming Power, this link goes to the application. The launch team runs from September 21 to October 30. You’ll need to pre-order the book in order to apply for the launch team.

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Update 2020 on Abuse Survivor Communities: Patterns of Progress Amplify Hope

My extended series on Cultural Geography of Survivor Communities took a year to write. I completed it December 31, 2019. Much has happened since then. We’ve seen some leaps forward, some steps backward.

In an August 20th Twitter thread about what’s going on in our various communities and denominations, the issue of abuse solutions that scale came up. This sparked a lot of thoughts for me on where we are at and where we are going. I posted 20 tweets throughout the day.

The way my brain usually works, I don’t necessarily know what I’m thinking until I get it out of my head by either saying it aloud or writing it down. Partway through this bunch of tweets, I surprised myself at a conclusion that was forming: I realized I was relatively hopeful about the progress and trajectory of abuse survivor communities, and that this sense of a constructive pathway forward was based in patterns I could see in concrete actions–not mere “I hope so …” musings attached to imagined concepts.

Here is the Ruth D. Hutchins’ tweet that set up the consideration of scale, and a compilation of my responses. I have edited this slightly for clarity and to change abbreviations back to their full form. Continue reading

Update on Field Guide Training Series

It has been almost 3 months since I moved back to the Pacific Northwest, following a 6-month period of preparation and packing. I’m still recuperating from the physical exhaustion of it all. Thankfully, the bulk of the transition work is done.

But I’ve been antsy to get going again–restarting my writing projects (especially my Field Guides series) which have mostly lain dormant the last 9 months. However, there’s been purpose in the pauses and a major shift in the production of my Field Guide series. Namely, it looks like I’ll be developing my own layout templates to produce and print my books, charts, flashcards, games, and other training resources. I’ve been immersing myself in textbooks like The Non-Designers Guide to Design, Thinking with Type, Layout Workbook, Typography Workbook, Color Design Workbook, Thinking in Icons, Design is Storytelling, and Book Design Made Simple. Kind of fun, figuring out what I’ve got and what I’ve not, when it comes to proficiencies and possibilities for creating templates.

I don’t have formal training in graphic design, but I do have relevant experience in phototypesetting, paste-up (the old-fashioned way, where you waxed the back of the photos and print sections), layout, graphics selection, game design and production. In the 1980s, a Bible translation ministry wanted me to join their team as a typeface designer, to adapt existing fonts to newly-written languages that needed an alphabet system. That didn’t work out, but I’ve always had an interest in scripts and calligraphy and different kinds of types. Also, periodically, I’ve picked up materials on color theory because I find color systems and mixing fascinating. And I’ve long been an admirer and a sometimes collector of transmedia–novels, movies, or TV series turned into various kinds of visual and concrete media (DVDs, trading cards, comics, games, action figures).

All of this reflection on print production and design work has boomeranged back into mind details of experiences that brought me to this point. Where did this all begin? Continue reading

Book Review and Resources: Emerging Gender Identities by Mark Yarhouse and Julia Sadusky

How do we show Christlike hospitality to gender sojourners? This valuable, nuanced resource brings clarity, elicits compassion, and defuses contempt on gender dysphoria and emerging gender identities.

Emerging Gender Identities: Understanding the Diverse Experiences of Today’s Youth, by Mark Yarhouse and Julia Sadusky (Brazos Press, 2020). Paperback: ISBN 9781587434341. E-Book: ISBN 9781493423811.

REVIEW

How do we show Christlike hospitality to gender sojourners? On that question, we all could use constructive frameworks and practical wisdom …

As a futurist, I am always scouring the horizon for resources that focus in on paradigms, paradigm shifts, and the most preferable ways forward in the midst of what is possible. As a Christian who strives to be a person of peace, I seek resources that display hospitality and dignity toward all people; advocate for social righteousness/justice and against abuse of power; and promote mutual, Christward transformation in our relationships. As a Christian futurist, my radar is tuned in to what provides people genuine hope and meaning in the midst of suffering and change. Emerging Gender Identities scores high on all those counts.

This book fills a unique need created by an era of cultural polarization and cancellation–to rise above the fray in order to analyze fairly what’s happening on the ground with opposing views, then find a peaceable pathway in between these paradigms that seeks for common ground. Creating an accessible, intermediate introduction like this calls for a saturation of knowledge from multiple academic disciplines, skilled ministry practices, and sophisticated processing to ensure it is both orthodox in approach and irenic in tone.

The team of Mark Yarhouse and Julia Sadusky already showed their skill set for responding to this need by their presentation and responses to other authors in the book, Understanding Transgender Identities: Four Views (Baker Academic, 2019). They role-model listening and processing that is active, empathic, and critical. In the case of emerging gender identities, this task requires familiarity with both personal and social realms: (1) the range of people whose lives have been affected; and (2) historical events, social dynamics, language changes, and cultural trends that have influenced the trajectory that got us to this point.

  • Relating with individuals navigating gender dysphoria and that represent a range of pathways to and through their sense of not fitting conventional versions of masculine and feminine, and whose identity is primarily at the private, public, or political level.
  • Relating with others in the circles of connection with those navigating gender dysphoria: parents, other family members, friends, ministry workers, counselors.
  • Identifying their typical questions and concerns, and responding with theological and psychological resources that will be of particular help to inform, equip, and encourage them.
  • Engaging with representatives from the range of competing views about gender dysphoria and transgenderism that we encounter in church and community.
  • Listening to adherents of these views carefully, to describe their assumptions, beliefs, and values accurately.
  • Sharing the critiques those from various views have with their polar opposite view.
  • Analyzing the set of views for where each falls short of or goes counter to biblical orthodoxy and orthopraxy, scientific and social research standards, and common courtesies for a civil society.

This gives them a solid base of information to develop a credible, biblically integrated approach that emphasizes relationship, discipleship, and mentoring—and demonstrates “wisdom, prudence, and discernment”–terms they mention repeatedly. Equipping elements include stories of different kinds of people and how they deal with gender issues; lists of real-world questions that help draw out personal narratives; and powerful metaphors (like navigating and being a trail guide) that bring together abstract principles with concrete practices.

Yes, it’s messy, because these are complex issues with difficult questions and personal discomforts to deal with. But Drs. Yarhouse and Sadusky ultimately developed a reasoned and workable process for customizing how we accompany any particular individual in their navigating of emerging gender identity concerns, while acknowledging our own level of discomfort, for the purposes of mutual learning and growth.

I believe they’ve presented a template for embodying Christlike love in our interactions with image-bearers on what are some of the most contentious of culture-current issues. Even if we may disagree with some of the authors’ analyses and conclusions, I don’t know where else we’d find such a comprehensive catalog with careful treatment on various views, relevant questions for reflection and action, and wide-ranging knowledge for effective ministry. Emerging Gender Identities provides a valuable resource for polarized times that can help bring clarity, elicit compassion, and defuse contempt on gender dysphoria and emerging identities.

NOTE: I received a digital Advanced Readers Copy of this title in exchange for my commitment to post a review, and no compensation or print copy of the book.

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RESOURCES

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