Friday, June 20, 2008

The World Is Flat - Review

At any given period, I am usually reading through several different books. For personal enjoyment, I try to rotate through fun fiction, classics, and theology/ministry books that I really want to read. For professional enrichment, I usually try to read at least a chapter a week from a book that will be helpful to my ministry - usually related to leadership, theology, or spiritual formation. Sarah and I almost always have a book we are reading out loud together - usually fun fiction. Usually, our pastoral staff is reading a book together, slowly a chapter every few weeks. Sometimes, our small group is also reading a book together, again a chapter a week.
When I finish a book, I usually try to write a blog entry about it. But two things have happened recently to make this more difficult. 1) I've had lots of extra reading time because of travel and computer problems. 2) I've finished up books in several categories at the same time.
Over the past month or two, I've finished 5 books in various categories. All have been good. A few have been excellent. Over the next week, I hope to write about them one at a time. Here's the first one.

The World Is Flat - Thomas Friedman - JJJJJ
This is one of the best books I've read in the past few years. It is about globalization, and how our world is shrinking or flattening. The internet and the systems of interaction and collaboration enabled by the internet have radically and fundamentally changed our world. National borders have far less meaning. The economic market is becoming far less fluid. The internet enables the free transmition of work units, education, news, and entertainment around a borderless world.
Of course, there are upsides and downsides to all of this, but the huge upside is increased collaboration. Think of a basketball team that doesn't play well together as a team. Maybe they have tallented players, but everyone is an individual and plays an isolated game - very little passing or teamwork. Now imagine if that team learns teamwork. Every player works in a groove with the team. They pass to each other, set picks, support each other, and communicate constantly. The performance of the team and of each individual will go up dramatically. (For a case in point, see the Pheonix Suns. Personal statistics for each player improved dramatically when they joined the Suns' team-based approach.)
Basically, the internet and its surrounding systems are teaching our world to play together as a team. Global production of knowledge, technology, and services is increasing dramatically in both quantity and quality. The net result is that the entire world benefits -at least in the short term. We still have not addressed the environmental consequences of making the whole world rich. For the first time in history, we have the systems and the resources to completely eliminate systemic poverty. Beautifully, most of this elimination will happen simply through global participation in the global economy. (The systems most entrenched in poverty and unhealth will still demand much direct intervention.)
In business, education, technology, and religion, we are seeing and will see even more global leaders coming from every corner of the globe. As education and economic participation become freely available, more and more people will become active participants in the global village.
As a pastor and one who thinks about the Church, I have lots of questions here. How is this impacting the Church? How is the Church impacting this? What can we do to ride this wave instead of getting our boat rolled under by this unstoppable wave?
My intuition is that globalization is a very positive development. I expect that it will lead us in some very postitive directions - particularly toward empowering the formerly marginalized and toward diversifying global leadership and the leadership of institutions (like denominations). This is an exciting era - or more correctly - we are experiencing the excitement of a shift in eras.
By the way, while reading this book, I began to understand more clearly my ONE PRAYER for the Church: "Make Us Connected." Actually, for a while, I considered, "Make Us Flat."
Post a Comment