The new year is upon us and it is time again to think ahead and anticipate. What will the year hold?
At the end of each year I like to look down the road and be somewhat ready for what we will be thinking about and dealing with. My lists are by no means comprehensive. They are not forecasts either. God alone knows what actually will happen. But by keeping an ear to the ground, watching culture, and doing a bit of homework, one can catch a glimpse of the year ahead. My hope always is that this might help you think wisely about the coming year, especially for those who have ministries of teaching, preaching and disciple making.
Some Faith Trends in Our Culture
• Faith makes a hit at the movies: This Spring movies like Noah, Heaven is for Real, Son of God and Mary of Nazareth are released, but, as always, amidst a mountain of cultural slush like Godzilla and Fifty Shades of Grey.
• Mega church pastor angst: Younger leaders worry about the role of mega church pastors, given all the recent transitions, scandals and crashes. They wonder what the “one great leader” model does to a person/church and how it can be improved.
• Low pastor esteem: Trust in clergy reaches record lows, according to a recent Gallup Poll. The overall trend for clergy has sloped downward since 2001, a contrast to 30 years ago when community and congregation held pastors in higher esteem. Trust, integrity and honesty are issues.
• Pope Francis is held up as religious model: As TIME’s man of the year, Francis’ influence and example are being promoted both within and outside the Roman Catholic Church.
• America “the hardest mission field”: That’s what some are saying. In our post-Christendom era of material abundance, outreach is a big challenge. There are numerous barriers to deal with before many people will set foot in a church.
• Growth of multiple venues in one church: More churches are experimenting with multiple venues and campuses.
• The issue of leadership: The Economist writes, “in 2014, the world will crave leadership!” Demands and expectations of pastors are higher than they were 25 years ago. Churches are looking for pastors that can preach and lead. More smaller churches are hiring executive pastors.
Some Global Trends
• A mobile phone world: In 2014 the number of mobile phone subscriptions will overtake the number of human beings according to the International Telecommunications Union. Much of the growth is in Africa and Asia. This will lead to more people getting online.
• Big data and big data protection: Our planet is awash in information known as big data. Data constitutes a vast new natural resource. More companies aim at capturing data and applying predictive analytics, rather than just relying on past performance. This raises privacy and worries about eavesdropping.
• American neo-isolationism: President Obama’s cautious retreat and unwillingness to be global sheriff are emboldening American rivals from the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea. These developments make a more risky global scene in 2014.
• Nuclear proliferation in the Middle East: If Iran gets a nuclear weapon we will see a destabilizing nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
• World poverty drops: A recent Oxford University study on poverty and human development says some of the world’s most impoverished people are becoming significantly less poor. It predicts that if development trends continue, countries with the most poor could see acute poverty erased within 20 years
• The Asian shift: According to The Economist, this year Asia overtakes North America to become the continent with the most millionaires. The growing world influence of Asian markets and China will continue.
• Robotic revolution speeds up: We will see the use of robots spreading beyond factories into daily life. Newer, smarter, more sophisticated models are being used for everything from unmanned military vehicles to walking dogs to TSAbots at airports..
Some National Trends
• More short term economic recovery: Americans are looking for a better year in 2014. While some still talk about a coming collapse, general 2014 predictions are for the US economy to grow by 3%, the jobless rate to fall, and inflation to be at 2%.
• Political blame game heats up: As we approach the mid-term elections, there will be lots of blaming going on. Expect some kind of Obama backlash. Congress, and especially the Senate is up for grabs.
• Fractured: Many signs in 2013 showed America becoming increasingly diverse and fractured (Sanford, FL, national politics, studies like Charles Murray’s Coming Apart). This will accelerate. Since society lacks the glue to fix this, there will be ample opportunities to demonstrate the power of the gospel and the peace of Christ.
• With retirement, 80 is the new 60: The workforce is graying as seniors put off retirement due to life span increases and not having saved enough. Retirement at 65 looks more like a pipe dream as older adults are now the fastest growing part of the US labor force.
• Narco-business comes out of the shadows: it used to be the preserve of criminals, but with the new legality, prohibition is giving way to regulation and profit. States approving medical marijuana will expand. Legalization of production and sales will grow. Products and accessories revolving around the industry like vaporizers and vaporizer pen brands will pop up and commence sales.
• Technology’s limits: Business journals report that talking to colleagues will make a comeback. Companies are worried that emailing and working virtually are creating a work force that does not know each other.
• Space tech wonders: This year we may see the dawn of a new space age for commercial aviation and an audacious space mission hoping to land a spacecraft on a comet!
• RNA breakthroughs: Project ENCODE, involving RNA research and interference, will bring new momentum to the field of genetics. RNA, which controls what cells do, is said to be the “Cinderella” of genetics and may deliver the promises made for DNA in the Human Genome Project leading to cures in genetic diseases and disorders.
Some Important Anniversaries and Dates
Jan 12 Affordable Care Act takes affect. America’s health market will change drastically.
Jan 28 1200th anniversary of the death of Charlemagne. The “father of Europe” brought stability and renaissance after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.
Feb 4 Facebook, with more than a billion members, celebrates its 10th birthday signaling the continued growth of social media, even as polls show teen enthusiasm for Facebook waning.
March/April Lent begins (March 5), Palm Sunday (April 13), Easter (April 20)
April 26 Shakespeare’s 450th birthday
April 8-10 Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, KY
June 20th 800th anniversary of Oxford University receiving its charter.
June 23-4 The Scots commemorate the700th anniversary of their victory over the English in battle of Bannockburn.
June General Assemblies, etc.: OPC GA (June 4-10 Grand Rapids), SBC Convention
(June 10-11 Baltimore ), PCA GA (17-20 Houston), EPC (June 18-21 Knoxville), Gospel Coalition Women’s National Conference (27-29 Orlando).
July 2 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act
Aug 8 500th Anniversary of John Knox’ birth
Aug 19 2000th Anniversary of death of Augustus Caesar, 1st Roman emperor.
Aug The 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. The “war to end all wars” became the horror of the early 20th century.
Nov 4 Mid-term elections in the US
Nov 9 25th anniversary of fall of Berlin wall
Nov 30 First Sunday of Advent
Dec 3 25th anniversary of end of Cold war
Dec 27 300th anniversary of birth of George Whitefield.