Expand your vision–past, present and future! Rather than live as a “Me” generation, a “Mu” generation would live with a 200-year notion of the present. Discover how you can be a living letter to make all things new.
It’s not every day you get to open a letter sent to you a hundred years ago. But on January 1st our community opened a Century Chest filled with letters from the citizens of 1901.
Of great interest to me were the religious letters. What would these ministers have to say to us?
Three days after the opening ceremony, I was fortunate to get copies of these handwritten letters. I was not prepared for what I found.
Dr. Arthur Kieffer, a downtown minister, wrote, “There are many good people who think that the Christian church has had its day–that it has ceased to be the power for good that its founder intended it to be, and therefore will die before the coming of the 21st century.”
While not of that number, Kieffer held out hope that the church in our day would be different.
Kieffer confessed, “I am living in this church’s transition period…. Not a few of us churchmen are hoping and working for the restoration of what we believe was the original mission of the church.”
“It would be difficult for you to realize that the so-called followers of the Prince of Peace are the most strenuous advocates of war.”
Kieffer then mentioned how England was waging war on the Boers of South Africa and the U.S. on the Philippines. “And the most discouraging thing is that most of our Christian pulpit and Christian educators–and Christian people see nothing wrong with these wars–rather they encourage them–they favor the worship of Mars more than the Prince of Peace.”
“And yet there are hopeful signs that the Christian church might go forward by going backward.” Kieffer went on to describe that through courageous study “clearer views of the Bible” were starting to turn things around.
Rather than seeing the church merely as a “post mortem emigration society,” Kieffer felt many in his day were beginning to see the “Master’s original intention for building up “a kingdom of heaven’ on the Earth.”
He felt that we, in the year 2001, would “live in a Day of fuller religious truth” and find in the Bible “a fuller spiritual meaning than my fathers found.”
Being inspired by the whole Century Chest experience, a week later I hosted a TV program on our local Library Channel, sharing the letters from 1901 with the public.
And to return the favor, I invited about a dozen ministers in my community to write a letter to their successors in the year 2101!
Why would we, living in the year 2001, receive letters from 1901 and then write letters to 2101?
Contrary to so much of the “Last Days” epidemic prevalent in modern Christianity, as leaders I believe we need to see ourselves in the middle, not at the end.
Rather than the Alpha or Omega, we are the “Mu” generation. In the Greek language, “Mu” is the middle letter. It is not the “A” of primordial beginnings, nor the “Z” of cosmic endings, but the “M,” of middle time, where links to those before and those who come after us are made.
Dr. Richard Slaughter, Australian futurist notes, “The past has shaped us and the world we inhabit. We in turn, add our own contributions to shaping the world to come. Some way is needed of recognizing these relationships without overwhelming us.”
The way, Slaughter suggests, is for us to live in “a 200-year present,” one that stretches some 100 years back and 100 years forward. He draws a family chain of relationships, depicting those who have lived before us and those who will live after us.
Rather than live as a “Me” generation, a “Mu” generation would live with a notion of the present that is, 1) grounded in the past; 2) responsible for the present and near future, and 3) active in making choices that protect the long-term future and its generations.
Like Kieffer, I wonder whether the church has had its day. Assuming it does survive until the 22nd century, will it still be fighting imaginary enemies? Or will it be combining both tradition and innovation to build new community?
Like Dickens’s character, Ebenezer Scrooge, for me the Century Chest letters have been a visit from the ghost of Christmas past and the ghost of Christmas future. They have given me the encouragement to wake up and face the music. Happily, I find it is still Christmas day, and my generation and I have not lost the opportunity to be charitable.
Before us is a host of great problems, including the growing disparities between haves and have-nots, ethnic conflict, shrinking freshwater resources, and the loss of biodiversity. These problems are nearly impossible to solve with two-year terms, but they become easier to tackle if we think of them over a horizon of thirty years.
A glut of “End-Time” books has produced a lost generation given over to short-term and Terminal-Thinking. But biblical renewal that unleashes a torrent of Relational-Thinking can turn the tide.
Embrace the power of “Mu” and let’s call our churches and communities to be “living letters” that make all things new over the next hundred years.
Dr. Jay Gary is president of PeakFutures.com, a foresight consulting group. Over the past twenty years he has helped non-profits, foundations, civic leaders, and strategic alliances to create more promise filled futures. He also teaches strategic foresight, innovation and leadership at the graduate level and through professional development courses.