Since Cascadia generally experiences change before the rest of the nation, a book about how to handle this age of “accelerating change” is particularly important for those living out their faith and guiding their faith communities in this region. In 2020s Foresight:Three Vital Practices for Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change, local Cascadian authors Dwight Friesen and Tom Sine invite Christian leaders to join them in a three-step dance designed to help them not only survive the next decade, but also to develop flourishing communities in the midst of its challenges. Each chapter tackles a slew of changes anticipated during this decade and demonstrates how engaging in “three vital practices” can bring hope to daunting situations.
The description and implementation of these three vital practices—anticipating, reflecting, and innovating— make up the meat of this book. Anticipating draws from several business practices that enable companies to successfully forecast. Forecasting allows businesses to look for new opportunities rather than racing to catch up to changes that have already occurred. Importantly though, this is not a business book. Friesen and Sine deliberately emphasize the importance of centering God’s vision for the church and the world over societal and cultural markers of success. This is where reflection comes into play. Drawing upon the wisdom of theologian Walter Brueggemann, Friesen and Sine emphasize the importance of starting with a “shalomic imagination” to guide Christian efforts toward creating peaceful, just, and whole communities. The third part of the dance, innovating, encourages Christians to think outside the box and to look for examples of others who are doing just that. In every chapter, they present exemplary innovation stories that embody shalomic imagination. These creative examples are inspiring, and a testament to the Holy Spirit’s ability to work in contextual, powerful, and unusual ways.
Each chapter of 2020s Foresight includes multiple examples of impending changes that seem insurmountable. Even with the examples of innovative practices that demonstrate how these changes can lead to good fruit, Sine and Friesen do not sugarcoat the fact that this decade is sure to be a challenge to the church and to humanity’s very existence. Fortunately, the authors also make it clear that they are people of hope, and that their aim is to instill hope in their readers.
Still, each individual chapter can feel heavy and overwhelming. Hopeful language is interspersed throughout, but gets buried by the barrage of challenges. Had the authors included words of lament and confession during the discussion of challenges, this may have helped each chapter move from despair to hope. As their theological inspiration Walter Brueggemann explains in his book The Prophetic Imagination, lament allows us to grieve what is wrong and imagine a better future. The process of grief and lament cannot be rushed, otherwise we eschew true hope in favor of a Pollyanna cheeriness that is too shallow to provide the grit necessary to work for real, positive change. In that vein, to get the most out of 2020s Foresight, each chapter should not be rushed through, otherwise this book easily becomes overwhelming. Taking time to read, process, and use the reflection questions and prayers at the end of each chapter gives space for grief, lament, and the development of hope. This is a book best read and digested in community, perhaps with a small group or leadership team.
Friesen and Sine completed their writing as the COVID-19 pandemic appeared on the scene and this caused them to alter parts of the book just prior to publication. While COVID certainly presents a key example of a catalyst for accelerated change, delving into pandemic concerns gives the beginning of the book a shorter shelf life and delays the introduction of more important material—namely the three practices. While their desire to get advice out to those knocked off balance by the pandemic’s arrival is laudable, beginning the book with the three practices would have been a much more engaging opening than their predictions and proposed resources for the pandemic.
As people of hope, Friesen and Sine frame the deterioration of church as we know it as an opportunity for new beginnings. While many churches are declining in attendance, funding, and clout, they contend, “It may well be that the decline of the Christendom church we are witnessing in the Western world is a sign that God is refounding the church for the refounding of society.” They are open to—and even excited by—churches that operate in new and unconventional ways. Indeed, this emphasis on reimagination is perhaps the most powerful point of connection for Cascadian readers, since Cascadia is certainly a place where tradition is either absent or tossed in favor of new, creative expressions of faith. In that respect, 2020s Foresight adds helpful perspective on the future of faith-centered community in our region.
If you are interested in learning more about Dwight, Tom, and their new book, you can listen to this podcast interview conducted by Christ & Cascadia editor, Forrest Inslee.