Smash your crystal ball

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18/12/2012 by Chris Green

trendsApparently we live in a VUCA time.

VUCA was an acronym developed by the military to summarise contexts like Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.  Everywhere is in a state of permanent change, and always has been, but VUCA describes something particular:

  • Volatile.  Issues can flare up suddenly, with no warning signs. Change has speeded up.
  • Unpredictable.  Although prediction is always hard, circumstances make this unusually difficult.  The phrase ‘if present trends continue’, never applies.
  • Complex.  Multiple issues which appear superficially unconnected still stand in some kind of relationship, however irrational. And some things are utterly unconnected and chaotic, but still come at the same time.
  • Ambiguous.  It is difficult to make one persuasive, coherent picture of events.  A number of alternative explanations can be given, all of which seem equally plausible.


I can hear someone muttering, forget Iraq, that sounds like my elders’ meeting.

Sarcasm aside, is it your experience?  Mine is that the task of being a responsible leader is getting increasingly hard, because the context in which we are making decisions is getting increasingly aligned with VUCA.

Three observations.

First: never, ever give in to nostalgia. Ecclesiastes says,

       Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’
       For it is not wise to ask such questions.  (Eccles. 7:10)

( “It is not wise”, is a polite way of saying, ‘Nostalgia is stupid.’)

Second, smash the crystal ball.  It is not our job to predict the future from the present.  A pastor’s job is to interpret the present in the light of the future and the past: that’s not prediction, it’s prophecy.

Third, let’s respond theologically.  Consider Christ – is he volatile, uncertain, complex or ambiguous? No.  He is our covenantal King, always exactly what he has promised himself to be, who yet becomes more wonderful the more we know him.

So here’s the good news to preach at Christmas.  Aim for relevance and you’re preaching into and out of VUCA. You’ll be an incoherent and neurotic wreck. Preach the consistent wonders of Christ and you will never be irrelevant.

Process questions:

1. Which aspects of your church and ministry feel most…

  • Volatile?
  • Uncertain?
  • Complex?
  • Ambiguous?


2. Are you tempted by nostalgia?  Who will hold you to account for that?

3. Are you taking regular time to adore and be satisfied in Christ? Consider him, our consistent, covenantal king, and pray to him in that light about your ministry concerns.

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