At the end of every year, I make it a habit of reading a special edition of THE ECONOMIST which attempts to forecast what the world will be like in the coming year. This year’s edition is called THE WORLD IN 2010. I also peruse National Geographic’s STATE OF THE EARTH 2010, NEWSWEEK’S trend lists, and a few other studies. I admit, it’s a hodge-podge approach, but it helps me get a feel for what is coming. I am curious as a ministry leader about what is ahead. Aren’t you?
What will the year bring? Are there things we can anticipate? Often there are. Are there surprises? Always. Still, I want to be wise as I approach the year, and I want to think about some of the things that will happen BEFORE they happen. For example, we know that certain things are coming–and not just Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall.
For instance, the president gives his state of the union address in January, the 44th Super Bowl will take place in February, Chopin’s 200th Birthday is in March, the US Census is coming in April, China hosts the World Expo (‘the economic Olympics”) in May, Britain has a momentous general election in May or June, a conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Iran could erupt sometime in 2010, in August the deadline arrives for American combat troops to leave Iraq, midterm elections will intensify debate in the US from September to November, Google announces the most searched items of the year in December, and the space shuttle retires late in 2010 or early in 2011.
A new decade
But let’s start with what we call this new decade. When we look back on it we will say we lived in the….what? The tens? The teens? The twenty-tens? The two thousand tens? The decas? No one is sure yet.
The world’s population continues to grow rapidly
There are now 6.8 billion people on the planet. The earth’s population has quadrupled since the 1930s. It has doubled since the 1960s. India and China now have populations over 1 billion each. By all projections, the birth boom will continue. The UN projects earth’s human population to reach 9.2 billion by mid of this century. This has lots of ministry implications. It means that there are more people to reach with the gospel. Evangelization and missions remains as relevant as ever.
As populations grow, we will see a corresponding hunger for everything. Demand for food, energy, fresh water will increase. Competition for resources will intensify. More people want more and better food, basic goods and luxuries.
World hunger has increased
Speaking of hunger…… 2009 was a devastating year for the world’s hungry. Hunger is the most extreme form of poverty, manifesting itself in malnutrition, starvation and famine. According to the UN—1.02 billion people across the world are hungry, a sizeable increase from its 2006 estimate. This is due to neglect of local agriculture, the impact of the worldwide economic crisis, and the related increase in food prices. When it comes to our national debt, our newspapers rightly ask the question—“how much is enough?” For Christians, the same question should be asked about world hunger.
The pace toward urbanization quickens
Recently the world has shifted to an urban majority. We now have not just great cities, but megacities. The world’s three fastest growing megacities are Delhi, Dhaka, and Karachi. By 2040, about two thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas. If nothing else this means that we have to learn more about urban ministry and intensify church planting in cities.
We continue to grow more connected than ever before
The next time you call to talk to someone about your Visa bill, ask where the service representative is from. Chances are they will be talking to you from outside of the US. The outsourcing of such services reminds us how interconnected we are. Supply chains for computers, clothing, MP3 players and cars are global. More than ever, we are connected through trade, travel, telecommunications, internet, and global finance. We are truly a world of connected consumers. The US is no longer the sole key player either. We are watching emerging economies flatten the marketplace. This year India will mark an historic transition where manufacturing will outweigh farming. This year China will overtake Japan as the world’s second largest economy. As we grow more connected economically, churches and para-church groups will become more inter-connected. We will see more cross cultural ministry partnerships that will bring both greater appreciation for the worldwide body of Christ and new challenges about how to work together for our common Lord.
Humanity’s footprint on the earth is heavier than ever
As earth’s human population grows, so does the impact we have on the environment. With a global economy growing at an unprecedented rate, and with hundreds of millions joining the middle class, a culture of consumption is growing. It calls for more cars, more industry, more raw materials, and this means more factories and more environmental impact. However you come down on the global warming debate, no one can dispute that we are putting new stress on the ocean and the atmosphere. Christians cannot deny the Biblical call to be good stewards of the earth, even as we ultimately hope for a new heaven and earth.
Economic recovery will come slow
THE ECONOMIST predicts the world will emerge from recession this year. But it adds that the West, burdened by heavy public debt and high unemployment, faces a long hard road ahead. Its economy is artificially propped up by governmental supports as deficits rocket skywards on unsustainable trajectories. Many businesses had to make cuts last year. The lag time on the recent crisis will hit non-profits this year. Many will respond accordingly.
Will interest rates rise or fall in 2010? Opinions differ. Will the DJIA go up or fall into another slump? Opinions differ. Is inflation coming? Most think it is. Will taxes be going up after 2010, again, most think they will. Will unemployment stay high? Most think it will. And because of this, some predict 2010 will be a year of social unrest with many more unemployed world-wide. THE ECONOMIST predicts that around the world, 2010 will be a year for anger management!
The trend toward bigger government and more regulation continues in America
The expansion of government in the last year has been dramatic. Much of it has come in the form of emergency measures to prevent economic collapse. With the economic crisis has come expansion. With the expansion more regulation. And with more regulation, ultimately more intrusion into our lives and into the affairs of the church.
Politics will become more heated than in 2009
People are angry that a culture of irresponsibility reigns in the US. Some corporate leaders and politicians have adopted a IBGYBE attitude (“I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone”). This must be replaced with a stewardship outlook that encourages long term, not just short term, thinking.
In Britain, Conservatives are predicted to win in order to clean up the Labor Party’s financial mess. In America, many expect a backlash against the Democratic stronghold in Congress. Amidst the stridency, Christians have a great opportunity to not only proclaim the gospel and truth, but also to exemplify civic mindedness and grace.
The tech revolution continues apace
This year you will see more downloading movies. Some 20 films will be released in 3D format. The phone will start replacing the wallet. Private space travel is supposed to take off. Nano technology and genome research will yield fresh marvels. Social media will continue to attract millions. At the same time, the need for real community, friendship and mentoring by the new student generation will only intensify.
E-books are going mainstream. Some are saying that the year 2009 was to electronic books what 2001 was to music when Apple launched iPod. It was the tipping point year. Time will tell, but the trend is picking up, much to my chagrin. Still a niagara of information fills our daily life and shows no sign of stopping. In fact, the information deluge is only picking up. As we are flooded with more words and texts, Christians dare not ignore God’s ultimate text message and its centrality in their lives, or they will quickly lose their identity and drift.
Christian faith is as relevant as ever, even if opposed
Many have spent the year talking about the demise of religion in America, or the coming collapse of evangelicalism. While there are real challenges from an increasingly secular culture, Christianity’s demise is greatly exaggerated. Nevertheless, it is true that European and American popular culture is becoming not just post Christian, but anti-Christian. While the West’s movement away from its Christian heritage is akin to the Biblical “selling your birthright for a mess of pottage,” it is largely blind to its self destructive path. Popular culture’s challenges to the Christian faith and world view (as seen in everything from Dan Brown’s novels to Avatar) will not let up. Along with this comes an astonishing blindness to the dangers of Islam and Islamic radicalism, all in the name of pluralistic multiculturalism.
Don’t be surprised by wild cards
Of course there are wild cards that could be revealed in 2010. We don’t know what they will be. What will come of the looming showdown in the Middle East? Will a coup take place in Pakistan and put nuclear weapons in the hands of radical Islamists? Might some flu virus morph and become even more deadly? Will there be some new society changing technological breakthrough that we can hardly imagine now?
Don’t ignore the precious certainties
We just do not know what 2010 holds. But the good news is that we do know who holds 2010. Change will be certain. But there is one who is changeless, who can be trusted, who can be leaned upon, and who is faithful. He is the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth. In the Old Testament book of Lamentations, 3.21-26, we read these powerful words which provide a fitting reminder for believers in the new year.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.