Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The End is Near…or is it?

Written by: on March 23, 2023

I can still remember a few times as a kid when I believed I had been “left behind”. Meaning I thought Jesus had come, taken my family, and left me behind on earth. Just watch the movies. I grew up in a faith tradition that preached all kinds of ideas around the “end times”. These apocalyptic expectations handed all of us a set of lenses to view negative events or societal change as “signs of the times”, so most of us anticipated the return of God’s kingdom at any minute.

Memories of believing I was left alone to endure the great tribulation are kind of funny NOW but at the time they were traumatic. Violence and horrible events portrayed in the news meant the world was getting “worse and worse”. Many social justice developments were viewed as moral decline. Some in my denomination perceived women preaching in church, interracial marriage, new fashion trends, gender roles expanding, less censorship in the media, and tolerance for the LGBTQ community as the “the world getting worse and worse.”

My churches confident biblical interpretations about the state of the globe and Jesus’ imminent return, largely based off media coverage, was obviously wrong since we’re still here. Even after Y2K! On top of that, every generation in Christian history has believed their time was the one when history ends since “the world has never been as bad as it is now”. According to Bobby Duffy, in Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything, humans have a tendency toward delusion and misperceiving reality quite frequently for a multitude of internal and external reasons. A vicious cycle can start of perceiving a reality, then only seeing things that support it and overlooking things that challenge it.

If we believe the world is getting worse, we will see it that way, even when the data points otherwise.

On this subject, Duffy says, “most things are improving over time, is more likely to be accurate than the opposite.”[1] Steven Pinker, another author and researcher who is mentioned in this book, illustrates this idea in a TED talk where he shows global trends over history moving in very hopeful and positive directions in categories like extreme poverty, famine, child mortality, battle deaths, homicide deaths, literacy, income, democracy, and technology. However, the tone of the news keeps trending more negative in its coverage giving the illusion that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. [2] We’re not living in utopia, but it’s not as bad as the news or end time preachers make it seem.

Bobby Duffy’s book feeds into my NPO on several levels. Biblical interpretation plays a large role in how we as Christians perceive the world, events, and change. Like my church connecting current events with end time predictions. Applying historical critical methods (that I learned in seminary) to a book that is full of apocalyptic imagery, future predictions, and end time content can help slow our thinking from System 1 to System 2 processing when catastrophes happen, or society evolves.[3] It may not be the end! This can ultimately help make better sense of our world and help us discern what God is up to, so we can remain non-anxious when emotions are high.[4] This is still an issue in my part of the world.

Our biblical beliefs and theologies play such a role in how we perceive the world and its inevitable changes. I can view certain changes as threatening and destructive or as developmental and necessary. Discerning between the two sides is the trick.

As I’ve mentioned before, my NPO is attempting to bridge some gaps regarding understanding the Bible between higher education and the local church. Higher criticism has received a bad reputation at times in many local churches, sometimes for good reason. There can be an unnecessary and unhealthy degree of cynicism toward religion in some, but certainly not all, of these academic circles. The value higher education brings to biblical interpretation are its critical methods and honest inquiries that acknowledge the Bible’s limitations, developments, and ancient worldviews regardless of how it makes us, as Christians, feel, which can actually help us land closer to reality. [5] It causes us to pause before we claim something as irrefutable truth when it could be human perceptions or religious tradition.

Things to keep in mind for my NPO:

  1. Raw data and statistics are helpful, but not as powerful as stories and narratives to bring change.
  2. How surveys are administered will influence the results. Keep it anonymous if honesty is the goal. People want to be perceived certain ways to ensure belonging and acceptance which can influence how participants answer questions.
  3. Cultivate and encourage healthy skepticism on all fronts while guarding against cynicism on all fronts. Cynicism distorts reality as much as our inherited biases. Keep a healthy skepticism of my own perceptions of reality as well as my perceptions of other people’s perceptions of reality.
  4. Slow down and know when to move into system 2. Like Bobby says, “We can accept the emotions, but challenge the thought.” [6] Really analyze the data and situation.
  5. Take a page from Charles Darwin’s approach, look for evidence and voices to challenge my theories for the sake of research integrity, since after all, I’m probably “wrong about nearly everything”.


[1] Duffy, Bobby, Why We’re Wrong about Nearly Everything: A Theory of Human Misunderstanding, (New York: Basic Books, 2019), 141.

[2] “Is the World Getting Better or Worse? A Look at the Numbers | Steven Pinker.” YouTube. YouTube, May 21, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCm9Ng0bbEQ.

[3] Kahneman, Daniel, Thinking, Fast and Slow, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013) 36.

[4] Friedman, Edwin H., Margaret M. Treadwell, and Edward W. Beal, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, (New York: Church Publishing 2017), 23.

[5] Land, Ray, Jan H. F. Meyer, and Michael T. Flanagan, eds., Threshold Concepts in Practice, Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers, 2016.

[6]  Duffy, Why We’re Wrong About,  142.

About the Author

Adam Harris

I am currently the Associate Pastor at a church called Godwhy in Hendersonville, TN near Nashville. We love questions and love people even more. Our faith community embraces God and education wholeheartedly. I graduated from Oral Roberts University for undergrad and Vanderbilt for my masters. I teach historical critical Biblical studies at my church to help our community through their questions and ultimately deepen their faith. I love research, writing, learning, and teaching. I oversee our staff and leadership development. Before being at Godwhy I worked as a regional sales coach and director for Anytime Fitness. I've been married for over 13 years to my best friend and we have two amazing boys that keep us busy.

16 responses to “The End is Near…or is it?”

  1. Esther Edwards says:

    I look forward to seeing all you will discover through your NPO research. What a great topic to unpack and add conversation to.

    I remember those years well. The fear of being left behind was truly capitalized on. Your post reminds me that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Yet we are to also have a holy fear as well. I believe this type of fear is mentioned over 100 times in Scripture and is usually associated with the healthy fear of the consequences of not following God’s ways. This would be interesting to unpack if there was more time. It causes me to question “How can we, as ministers, communicate the need to fear the Lord because he does require holiness for eternal living and dying, and also appropriately reflect his abundant grace and kindness?”

    Your article reminds me of C. S. Lewis’ quote below on another credible fear of that era…a possible atomic bomb attack. (We continually practiced drills in school in fear of an atomic bomb back in the 60’and 70’s.)

    “This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”{1}

    Catholic Insight, “C.S. Lewis and the World’s Last Night « Catholic Insight,” Catholic Insight, October 13, 2022, https://catholicinsight.com/c-s-lewis-and-the-worlds-last-night/.

    • Adam Harris says:

      Thank you for your response Esther! My NPO is near and dear to my heart, which, I’m sure, is the case with all our topics of research. In my neck of the woods there is large gap between these two worlds.

      Keeping a healthy balance of God’s unconditional love and responding to the invitation to receive and walk in Christs Spirit is a crucial question. Speaking of “eternal living and dying”, this topic is what led me to interview near death experiencers and researchers investigating this topic. I’ve done this for about 8 years now. Hearing their incredible stories, along with the sheer amount of them accumulated over the last 30 years, adds such weight and reverence to what ultimately matters in our life and faith. Anyone whose reported experiencing the presence and love of God on the other side, to that degree, was immediately transformed and had a shift in priorities. Great topic to discuss in Oxford! Thanks again for the response!

  2. mm Jana Dluehosh says:

    I just love your NPO. This gap between higher education and Christian education and the “church” can feel insurmountable! I think this also yields in the opposite end to the experience of having gone through threshold learning that Seminary often brings, especially as we slough off some of the “teachings, or mis-teachings” we experienced in our childhood faith. We are then thrown back out there to “lead” the church who has not had threshold experiences. I agree 100% with the list you put at the end, the power of story and narrative and eek! that you even bring in Charles Darwin approach of finding the opposing views to prove or disprove we are Wrong!

    What have you been wrong about lately?

    • Adam Harris says:

      Where to begin, lol. The latest thing I’ve been wrong about is assuming everyone finds what I find interesting! People have different priorities, experiences, and backgrounds. What I see as important or fascinating is meeehh… to some people.

      Also, even when we are all presented with the same information or evidence, we can arrive at very different conclusions. We all have different paths of logic. Thank you for the response Jana!

  3. mm Tim Clark says:

    Adam, thank you for that post. I really resonated with your final 5 thoughts (and copied them into my notes to reference later). Especially 1 and 3.

    1. Stories and narratives bring change more than data. So important for us in our doctorate as we tend to drive towards data which is good, but good data alone won’t activate the change many of us are seeking to affect. The way I’m engaging that is that good data needs to lead to good stories, not the other way around.

    3. Skepticism but not cynicism. So hard to do but really really vital. For me the difference is curiosity. I can be skeptically curious which leads to wonder and discovery instead of skeptically closed which leads to a hard and cynical heart.


    • Adam Harris says:

      I’m with you man, its easy to get the two mixed up. I think critical thinking is our God given responsibility, but cynicism can be toxic and lead to that closed heart you mentioned. Speaking of curiosity, I’m curious, since your NPO is on this topic and we deal with this at our church as well. What part does cynicism play in upcoming generations being open to faith and discipleship? Is this a major or minor factor that causes resistance to Christianity?

  4. Noel Liemam says:

    Mr. Harris, thank you for your posting. I was growing up in the Islands so scary about the second coming of Our Lord. Even when I accepted Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, I remembered being afraid when I heard thunder rolling from one end of the Island to the other side. And I remembered that I was so scared because I imagined the sermons preached in our church. These days, I looked back and thought to myself that those sermons were meant to scared people and to run to Jesus.

    And thanks for the pointers at the end as well.

    • Adam Harris says:

      Thanks for the response Noel. So I am not the only one who experienced that type of thing! I’m sure there were many of us back in the day. It really was a tremendously insecure time in my life. Was God mad? Am I going to make it? Did I miss it? Not fun. This reality shaped how I saw a lot happening in the world. Thanks for sharing your experiences as well.

      • Noel Liemam says:

        Yes, I am sure that it was not us. There might be more out there. Even my younger brother would get up in the middle of the night and woke us up to pray. Especially if it was during thunderstorms.

  5. Kally Elliott says:

    Ohhhh, the Left Behind series. Rapture theology was never part of my church experience while I was growing up. I read the series in college – not for a class, just because in college I rebelled against the liberal theology of the church that nurtured me throughout my youth and joined a more fundamental para-church group. (Eye roll).

    I’m back in my “liberal” church these days and now give the Left Behind VHS as a gag gift or White Elephant gift at our church staff Christmas parties. We all cringe.

    Hearing your story of being traumatized by the book as a child is heartbreaking. I am sure you are not the only child who has been traumatized by the idea of rapture and being left behind. What a horrible thing to encounter as a child.

    Our theology and our language about God and ourselves really does matter. It shapes our world and how we perceive others and what we feel compelled to do in the world. Your NPO matters for many reasons but one that stands out to me right now is because you can help churches and academic institutions to use language that can shape our world to look more like the Kin-dom of God. Thanks for doing the work you are doing.

    • Adam Harris says:

      So you know what I’m talking about! As a kid it was not fun. We watched all the movies including the pre “Left Behind” movies made in the 70’s and 80’s. It did a great job of keeping me on the straight and narrow. I was both relieved and little upset after I took a few classes on Revelation and apocalyptic literature that introduced me to the historical critical method.

      My NPO is birthed out of some of the trauma in that area and many others regarding lack of education around the Bible. Thanks for the encouragement. How we see God and perceive what God is doing in the world is huge for the type of impact we make in the world. People are “theologians” whether they claim it or not. Participating in the Kingdom here in now is way more effective than waiting for horses and chariots to fly out of the sky at any moment.

      Thanks for your response Kally!

  6. mm Russell Chun says:

    Hi Adam,

    A great read. You wrote, “Our biblical beliefs and theologies play such a role in how we perceive the world and its inevitable changes. I can view certain changes as threatening and destructive or as developmental and necessary. Discerning between the two sides is the trick.”

    For a long time I studied international relations, then I lived it (30 years overseas), then started teaching it (International Peace and Conflict). I learned quickly on that my “opinion” really didn’t matter at the nation state level. I sort of felt I wasted my time with all that study. Later in Christ, I started to get some traction. My career direction changed and in those international relationships where I shared and lived out my faith in Christ, my spiritual purpose emerged (Acts 1:8).

    I just taught two Sundays ago at my old Texas Church. I started with pictures of the Turkiye Earthquake and pictures of the Ukrainian War. In these time of tragedy, I asked them to move into a place where they could be “still.” Then while still, to Seek His Kingdom.” With our spiritual antenna up and running, I suggested that in these time of crisis that perhaps God would show us a way that would give us purpose and truth.

    I am not like a lot of other teachers at Dallas Baptist University. I don’t believe the bible promises us peace. As a matter, of fact it promises us a terrible time of turmoil. Still in the midst of all that tragedy, we have this amazing “Dignity of Causality (C.S.Lewis)” where God has invited us to participate in both the spiritual and physical realm through prayer. I love that.


    • Adam Harris says:

      Thanks for the response Russell, your posts reminds me of what Jesus said after finishing his teaching on the sermon on the Mount. “When” the storms come you can be on a rock. He never promises that they will not come, but he does says they don’t have to shake us as bad as they could when we build our lives on Jesus’ words. Good reminder, thanks for the posts. I’m definitely not inviting any storms and don’t seek them out, but its good to know we can have peace in them.

  7. Hey Adam, I have an easy question for you man. How do you feel your early childhood faith tradition may still be shaping you in a way that you don’t want it to shape you?

    • Adam Harris says:

      I think my raising has shaped my judgements about myself, others, and God. I have to catch my automatic System 1 thinking when it comes to categorizing people or things a certain way and slow down into System 2. I’m very grateful for my faith growing up, but there was some unnecessary fear, legalism, and short sighted judgements that I am still trying to shed. Thanks for the question man!

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