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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Three Questions to Help Us Discern and Decide Our Trajectory of Transformation

Earlier this month, I was out of town for my Aunt Virginia’s memorial service. Auntie V once was asked to sum up her life. She was a natural/intuitive futurist, and said it was “the ability to understand things to come.” She exercised *The Art of the Long View* in politics & community service decades before Peter Schwartz wrote his book by that title.

At her memorial, I shared how visionaries inspire individuals & communities to look beyond apparent limitations to see new POSSIBILITIES. Futurists don’t give THE answers to problems, but use research and questions to facilitate processes where you choose PREFERRED path forward. In essence, communities ARE the answer to their questions, and they can benefit from input to hold up a mirror so they can see it for themselves.

Figuring out our personal or social pathways forward is not a passive process. So, I also shared how I see hope, imagination, and prayer intertwined. Together, they activate our vision & motivate our work toward a future that is different from what otherwise seems inevitable.

If there is one “human universal” that drives a desire for transformation, it’s to make a better world for next generations. We could use more “futuring” to discover & pursue our personal passions, plus develop common ground for the common good in bettering our communities.

Doesn’t every era need this kind of input, to draw out & amplify our trajectory of transformation? I find it fascinating: 3,000+ years ago, the tribe of Issachar had members whose life & legacy was to understand the times & discern what Israel should do. (1 Chronicles 12:32)

If you’re interested in some of the specific tools and techniques involved in strategic foresight (studies of the future), here’s a tutorial, “So What’s a Futurist?” In it, I overview the kind of futuring skills I learned in a one-to-one intensive training over 20 years ago.

When I shared a tribute to Auntie V, I boiled futuring down to three key questions.

1. Helping people see our connections with one another, our interdependence–and welcoming all people of good will to consider how to seek common ground for the common good. The question is, WHO NOW?

2. Using either/or analysis plus both/and synthesis skills to find relevant cultural trends that no one can control–but that will deeply affect or direct our pathway forward as communities–and challenging us to imagine together the constructive (and potential destructive) possibilities. The question here is, WHAT IF?

3. Equipping people to see their way to a paradigm/culture shift by identifying trends that will have significant effects on them, finding patterns of plausible changes, and presenting that in story form to confront them with emotional impact of choices. The question: WHERE NEXT?

I had some fascinating conversations about geeky futurist stuff with my Aunt Virginia — social change, next generations, the pursuit of hope. I’m grateful to have had her as a role model in my own work in social change and advocacy … and to have shared that tribute in her honor.

Here are some quotes I particularly like related to the drive we have to pursue the common good, make things better for next generations, and be activated by hope and pray as we engage our imagination about a more preferable pathway forward.

Helen Haste Quote, *The Sexual Metaphor*, 1994

Angela Merkel Quote, July 2018


Forty Years of Trends Leading to #MeToo, #ChurchToo, and #SBCToo


The following article is compiled from a series of comments I made on a post at The Wartburg Watch in June 2018 about the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the impact of abuse survivor movements. I have only edited it for link format, indenting quotations, and bold-facing major points. I have also added some links to related resource posts and pages, and any add-on notes are in square brackets.

Historical Source Notes:

The “Me Too” movement was begun in 2006 by Tarana Burke, as documented on its website, and in this New York Times article: The Woman Who Created #MeToo Long Before Hashtags, by Sandra E. Garcia (October 20, 2017). It was picked up in late 2017 as the #MeToo hashtag campaign on social media, in the wake of a series of reports and revelations by survivors of sexual and power abuse by Harvey Weinstein and others.

Likewise, the #ChurchToo hashtag and campaign have a history. It goes back to about November 2017, when first used by Hannah Paasch and Emily Joy, as documented in their podcast with Exvangelical podcast host Blake Chastain: Ep. 59: #ChurchToo with Hannah Paasch & Emily Joy (December 6, 2017).

The #SBCToo hashtag campaign on Twitter apparently started April 28, 2018, following the detailed reports of abuse of power by Paige Patterson. It picked up significant pace and intensity with the approach of the SBC annual meeting (June 12-13, 2018), their resolution on abuse, the publication of two survivors’ experiences of SBC clergy sexual misconduct: Jules Woodson and Anne Marie Miller, and the publicity of these SBC situations via such sites as For Such A Time As This SBC Rally 2018 and Justice For Anne.

Other denominations and organizations have also adapted this hashtag campaign to their institution.

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My Comments on The Wartburg Watch:

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Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Uses/Abuses of Power and Foresight

As a break from curriculum writing, I’m reading my favorite sci-fi book: Dune by Frank Herbert. I’ve read it a few times, so I decided to do something a little different. So I’m noting passages that deal with dynamics of power in multiple fields (politics, economics, religion, technology, thinking abilities, etc.). He also has a most intriguing take on chaos, consequences, and the potential shapes of the future. These are worth exploring more in depth, and I’m really gonna just do it. Continue reading

Kingdom Leadership After Lakeland Part 3-Addendum #4: Reconstructing Ministry Systems-How Do We Fix a Leaky Boat, and Who Can Best Lead in Doing So?

If you haven’t read Addendum #3 yet, start with that. This post won’t make sense without it …

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Kingdom Leadership After Lakeland Part 3-Addendum #3: Reconstructing Ministry Systems-When Churches are Like Leaky Ships, How Do We Fix the Boat?

Addendum #3 deals with church systems being like leaky ships. Addendum #4 will suggest tools for fixing the boat, and preview who might be best equipped to lead in that process.

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Kingdom Leadership After Lakeland Part 3-Addendum #2: Reconstructing Ministry Systems-Six Trends toward Systems Solutions

This post and the next one pick up the theme of moving beyond the rubble of deconstruction. They deal with reconstructing ministry systems. After these, I’ll plan to continue with the planned posts on reconstructing “spiritual parenting,” and then on to reconstructing leadership. This may not seem like a very logical way to present this material, but all I can say to that is I post them when it seems like time to post them. I trust there’s a Spirit-directed flow to them for reasons I cannot fathom, and I’ve learned to be okay with that. And there you have it, so here we go!

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