The Great Acceleration and the Church

 Whitewater rafting on the Kennebec River, Maine, with my son (front) – 2001

If you were to describe the times in which we live in just one word, what would it be?  There are a few words that might sum it up quite well, but one that particularly comes to mind for me is the word “acceleration”.  We are living in a time of mind-boggling change in almost every aspect of human life, and this is increasing at an exponential rate.  I believe we are living in an era that may rightly be called “The Great Acceleration.”

One metric of this acceleration has been put forth by R. Buckminster Fuller.  In 1983 he calculated that the totality of human knowledge doubles over time according to an exponential curve.  He estimated that around 1900, knowledge was doubling approximately every century.  By the end of WWII, it was doubling in 25 years, and now it is doubling approximately every 12 months.  It is soon predicted to double every 12 hours.  When that happens, the increase in knowledge during the first half of any given day will be equal to the totality of all of human knowledge prior to that day.  By the end of the second half of that day, that doubled amount of knowledge will in turn double again.  (Double. Double. Repeat.)  That’s enough to give even a supercomputer a migraine! 😦

Another perspective of this dynamic of acceleration predicts that technological advances will increase at such an ever-accelerating pace that they will lead to a “technological singularity” sometime within the next thirty years.  Ray Kurzweil says that technological “paradigm shifts will become increasingly common, leading to technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history.”  Even Kurzweil’s predictions as to when we will reach this “Singularity” have recently accelerated, from 2045 to 2029, a mere twelve years from now.  (For a hint of what this may look like, check out the trailer to his docudrama: The Singularity is Near .)  Given the staggering advances in artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing (D-Wave), DNA computing, nanotechnology, genetic engineering (CRISPR), 3D bioprinting, transhumanism,  robotics, global 5G network , the Internet of Things (IoT), the Global Brain, and the like, it is not hard to conceive of such a Singularity being reached within our lifetime.  (Check out some of those links for a “crash course” on significant aspects of the Great Acceleration!)

In addition to all that is accelerating in the natural realm, there is also an acceleration of activity in the spiritual realm.  From Scripture we know that there is a time when Satan, and all of his angels, will be cast out of heaven and will come down to the earth with great fury knowing that their time is short. (Rev. 12)  The sign in the heavens related to this event, from Revelation 12, will astronomically appear in the sky for the first time in human history this year, on Sept. 23, 2017.  This aligns with many other significant prophetic time cycles. (For a brief overview, see here.)  We also know from Scripture that there will be a release of demonic activity from below in the end times with the opening of the Abyss, the bottomless pit (Rev. 9.)  This may very well take place through the nefarious workings of CERN.  The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) associated with CERN is built directly above the ancient temple to “Apollo” (“Apollyon” Gk., “Abaddon” Heb. – see Rev. 9:11) which was believed by the ancients to be at the entrance to the “bottomless pit.”  The Director for Research & Scientific Computing at CERN, Sergio Bertolucci, admitted that the experiments being conducted by CERN researchers “could open a doorway to an extra dimension and out of this door might come something.”  Little does he know (or does he?) what that “something” might be!  There is much occultism associated with CERN and it is something we should be awake to as to its profound prophetic significance.

All of this natural and spiritual acceleration will undoubtedly have major impacts on every aspect of human life.  If you think that change has been coming at us hard and fast over the past couple of decades, just wait to see what the next twenty or thirty years will bring, should the Lord tarry!  It is wholly believable that the human experience by even the middle of this century could be all but unrecognizable from what we presently know.  As mind-boggling and even disturbing as that may be, this exponential dynamic of change is the undeniable reality of the age in which we live.

In the face of this runaway acceleration, the question must be asked, how does the Church of Jesus Christ both stand fast and spiritually respond in the midst of this onslaught of change?  Because the Church is called to be in the world, but not of the world, she is faced with an immense challenge to both spiritually adapt to the radical changes in society around her as well as to hold fast to and manifest the unchanging realities of the eternal Kingdom of God.  Consequently, the Church is called to both radical change and radical constancy.  The discerning and balancing of these two conflicting dynamics lie at the heart of the Church’s calling and challenge in this end time.

The call to radical constancy

Of the two, the Church is called, first and foremost, to radical constancy.  The root and foundation of all that she is called to be and do is the immutable nature and purpose of God.  He says, “For I am the Lord, I change not.” (Hab. 3:6)  The radical constancy of the eternal I AM and all that emanates from Him is the bedrock of the radical constancy of the Church.

The call of the Church to radical constancy includes the following:

  • An unflagging faith in and proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • An unswerving devotion to fulfilling the Great Commission in the discipling of all nations.
  • An undying pursuit of the Kingdom of God and its spiritual manifestation in and through the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • An uncompromising commitment to righteousness and to being salt and light in the midst of an increasingly corrupt and darkening world.
  • An unshakable hope in the return of Jesus Christ and the ultimate restoration of all things.

As the Church is plunged in the coming years into a deluge of scientific, technological, sociological, cultural, religious, spiritual, geo-political, military, medical, environmental, geological, and economic mega-changes, she will be called to stand fast with an indomitable spiritual character and an unshakable Kingdom purpose.  All that is not of God, both within her and around her, will be shaken, while that which is of God will be purified and fortified.  Like a spiritual Gibraltar, stability and strength will increasingly be her character as all around her swirls and swells in increasing tempest and torrent.  Christ within her will be the resilient Rock to which the multitudes will clamor and cling for safety and refuge in the midst of the storm.  Radical constancy will be one of the primary hallmarks of the overcoming church at the end of the age.

The call to radical change

That being said, there will also be a second, seemingly contrary and conflicting, hallmark of the Church at the end of the age: radical change.  Although she is not of the world, she is in the world, and this will necessitate some deep and extensive transformations.  Even as it is wholly believable that the world will be all but unrecognizable in just a few decades, so the Church may very well be, in many respects, all but unrecognizable from what we presently know her to be then as well.

As an analogy of this radical change, consider a broad river that has little change to it.  It has its twists and turns, but generally flows along in a rather predictable and navigable manner.  Now picture that same river flowing into an area where the topography begins to drop off by ever-increasing degrees.  The flow of the current begins to accelerate gently, then moderately, and then, almost without warning, with great severity.  Calm navigable waters turn into 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class rapids, and then quickly plunge into 4th and 5th class whitewater.  Only those with the greatest courage, wisdom, and skill are able to navigate these waters.  Eventually, this river rushes out into a grand, wide-open bay with calm blue waters and lush tropical beaches.  Those who successfully navigate it are blessed to enjoy the exquisite beauty of its final destination.

This is a picture in my mind of what the Church will face in the coming Great Acceleration.  Drawing from its features, then, I would like to suggest three categories of radical change that will need to be embraced by the Church in order for her to navigate the increasingly turbulent waters ahead:

  • Vessels: The “vessels” in this analogy are the forms and structures that the body of Christ employ in her corporate expression.  Traditionally, these are institutional in nature and include special buildings, professional clergy, set services, specialized programs, and a generally consumer-based congregation.  These type of vessels come in all shapes and sizes and are very common and abundant in the broad flowing rivers of the Judeo-Christian-based cultures that have prevailed in many parts of the world for centuries and even millennia.  In the great acceleration that is coming, however, those cultures will rapidly change into hostile and dangerous whitewater environments.  We desperately need the prophetic foresight to understand that what we have traditionally known as “church” is going to be terribly unfit for the dramatic changes ahead.  These institutional vessels that we are so accustomed to, and even deem as indispensable, will either end up beached on the shores of yesteryear’s river, and cease going forward in God, or will be utterly dashed to pieces on the rocks of escalating cultural opposition and political and religious persecution.  The time for transition is now to smaller, more agile vessels that will be able to quickly move and adjust within the swirling dynamics of the great acceleration ahead.  It will be imperative for the Church’s survival that she learn to do with much less encumbrance, ballast, rigidity, formality, and external structure.  The way forward will be with smaller, closely knit, intensely committed, organic gatherings of believers, who are governed by the Holy Spirit in all of their actions, associations, and assemblies.  This is how the Church has always survived and thrived in times of tumultuous opposition and persecution.  We must learn from those who have traversed these waters before us and begin to transition now into these lighter-weight, whitewater vessels as the Body of Christ.  It will be incumbent in the very near future that our vessels will have already experienced radical change in this regard if we are ever going to survive the acceleration ahead.
  • Pilots and crew – Most vessels on the upper river are staffed by professional pilots and a mix of salaried and volunteer crew.  Of all of the people on the upper river, these are often the most resistant to radical change.  Many of these are comfortable in their positions for the sense of personal significance they derive from them as well as the feeling of security that their salaries provide.  To contemplate these elemental factors radically changing is repugnant to them.  Not only so, but the contemplation of giving up the comfortable craft of the upper river, with their stately cabins and cozy mate’s quarters, for the dangerous river dories, inflatable rafts, or whitewater kayaks of the lower river holds absolutely no appeal to them.  Even if some were willing to consider such changes, they have an acute awareness of how woefully unprepared they are for both the demands and dangers of life on the raging river below.  Given the choice, most will hold firmly to the status quo of what they have known rather than trade in their craft and lifestyle to join the feisty flotilla of the coming acceleration.  Among these ranks, however, there will be a remnant who will have the foresight, faith, and fortitude to make this radical transition.  Others will rise out of seeming obscurity who have been secretly prepared of the Lord to help lead in the coming day.  This remnant will not wait until the waters begin to rage, but will prepare ahead of time so that they will be sufficiently equipped, experienced, and positioned for the coming torrent.  They will humble themselves and seek the instruction and training of those who have gone before them.  They will pay a deep price for abandoning old concepts, roles, and courses of ministry for those less known, glorious, and certain.  These will develop a whole new mindset and skill set in order to be prepared of the Lord for the dangerous waters ahead.  This is the radical change that will be required of the remnant of the “pilots and crew.”
  • Passengers – In the upper river very little is required of the passengers on board. They enjoy sumptuously prepared meals, an array of entertainments, instructional lectures, activities for the children, and various social engagements.  There is an expected, yet voluntary, fare that is to be regularly offered, but beyond that, their own personal objectives and family interests determine and define their life onboard ship.  On the lower river, however, all of that is gone.  There, all hands are on deck and each person is required to man the oars with all their might to navigate the intense waters of the great acceleration.  Teamwork is what marks the lower river with every person working in harmony with the others and contributing their own special skills, knowledge, and strength to the effort.  No one is passive.  No one is along for the ride.  No one is unneedful.  Even as the pilots and crew must radically change their mindset and skill set, so the passengers must radically change theirs.  No longer is their experience primarily one of receiving, now it is one of giving.  No longer is it one of passivity, now it is one of intense activity.  This change will come with extreme difficulty for those who have only known the sumptuous, secure and sedative nature of life on the upper river.  Here, however, even as among the ranks of the pilots and crew, there will arise an overcoming remnant who will lay aside the malaise of upper river life and prepare themselves for the exhilarating thrill of whitewater venturing.  Only those who make this radical change will be prepared for the years and decades that lie ahead.

The prophet Daniel said, “The end will come like a flood.” (Dan.9:26)  Jesus compared the events of the end of the age to “birth pangs” (Matt.24:8) which come with ever-increasing intensity and frequency until the time of delivery.  The changes that lie ahead for all of humanity will, likewise, come with escalating speed and unrelenting force!  It is time for the followers of Jesus Christ to prepare NOW, as individuals, families, and the Body of Christ for a future that will be marked by great acceleration and radical change.  In doing so, we must remain radically constant in those aspects that God has called us to remain radically constant in, and radically change in those respects that God has called us to radically change in.  May God give us the wisdom to discern the difference and the grace to walk in their contrasting dynamics.  Our ability to faithfully maintain the testimony of Jesus in the turbulent days ahead will surely depend on it.  May He find us faithful unto the end!!


Recommended resource: “Principles for the Gathering of Believers Under the Headship of Jesus Christ” by Gospel Fellowships.  A free resource for the Body of Christ to help prepare for “life on the lower river!”

About David Bolton

Following Him who is the Way; Learning of Him who is the Truth; Living in Him who is the Life. - John 14:6
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6 Responses to The Great Acceleration and the Church

  1. Brian Haferkamp says:

    Thank you, brother. May God prepare us all for the days ahead.

    I keep thinking about Bonhoeffer’s prophetic word about “religionless Christianity.” He thought it would be necessary in Germany. I’m seeing its necessity already in the US.

    May God help and care for his true Church. Let us remember that the One we serve is able even to calm the violent storm with a single word.

    Liked by 3 people

    • David Bolton says:

      Thank you, brother. I agree with your thoughts. Even as we seek to be like the men of Issachar “who understood the times, and knew what Israel should do,” we must keep our eyes ever fixed on Jesus Who always has the final word. Our rest and our peace is in Him and Him alone! Grace and peace!

      Like

  2. janloyd says:

    This so overwhelms me, David. I cling to “whole-hearted devotion to Christ” — my Lord, Savior, and Lover of my Soul. I need to read this again more slowly and prayerfully. Thank you, brother!

    Liked by 1 person

    • David Bolton says:

      Thank you for sharing, Jan. I can sympathize with your feeling of being overwhelmed by the things shared in this post. My intent is not to cause undue fear or panic, but to soberly awaken us to the hour in which we live that we may press in more fully to the Lord Jesus Himself. He is our refuge and our strength. He also has things planned for this hour that we know not of. It’s been said, “The enemy plays checkers, while the Lord plays chess!” When I look at the expression of my son in the picture of us rafting, I feel encouraged in the Lord! I think that will be us!
      All blessings!

      Like

  3. Lloyd Bowden says:

    Wow! All true David…we discussed these same dynamics at our home group, just this week!

    Liked by 1 person

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