Recently, I received a phone call from an old client I had not heard from for several years. He called to ask if I had given any thought to making a new list of predictions about the future. He had just re-read my 1993 book entitled Dancing with Dinosaurs and was impressed that the list of sixteen shift predictions made in the book had all come true. He said, “Those of us in the trenches could use some new commentary on the future and what it might mean for Christianity. Have you given any thought to a new list?”
I had to admit I hadn’t specifically thought about it, but over the remainder of the day his question haunted me until I finally decided to make a few notes. Soon the notes became blog posts and in time they may turn into a book entitled Dare Peeking into the Future: The Future Condition of the World and What It Means for Christianity.
That same day, I was doing a coaching call with a church planter and the condition of his denomination came up. Like all mainline denominations, it was frustrating him because of its decline and failure to adapt to the times. He asked me what I thought about the future of his denomination. I replied, “There will be only one or two denominations left in the next 50 years.” “If that is true,” he replied, “why am I planting a church in a dying denomination? I may be the last generation of my tribe.”
Those two conversations pushed me to begin researching for clues to what our world will be like fifty years from now and what it might mean for Christianity. No one can predict the future every time, but we can make some educated guesses.
Let’s Be Clear
No one can predict the future every time. That holds true for this author as well. But one can look at the world as it is and extrapolate clues about what it might look like in the future. I encourage you to get my book Dancing With Dinosaurs and look at the sixteen shift predictions I made in 1993 about the world of 2014 and judge for yourself if these new predictions might be just as accurate as those made in Dancing With Dinosuars. For now, let’s briefly examine those sixteen shift predictions to see how they turned out and whether you should follow this series on the future.
Sixteen Shift Predictions in 1993
As we examine these predictions, keep in mind that the target date for them to be in effect was 2014. Here’s what I wrote in 1993.
“North America is caught in the crack in history between what was and what is emerging. The crack began opening in 1960 and will close sometime around 2014. This crack is so enormous that it is causing a metamorphosis in every area of life. I call the 1990’s a crack in history.”
In order to prepare ourselves for a new set of predictions, let’s take a brief look at the original sixteen shift predictions and see how they have fared.
- Prediction One – “North America is moving from a world dominated by clerics to a society dominated by the laity.” Although it is impossible to quantify and prove this prediction, we can make a few observations. One, fewer and fewer clergy attend seminary. Two, the role of small group leaders is increasingly taking full responsibility for the spiritual care and feeding of individuals. Three more and more growing churches are turning over most of the ministry to laity.
- Prediction Two – “North America is moving from a churched to an unchurched society.” I doubt now if anyone can debate this prediction. According the Barna poll “Since 1991, the adult population in the United States has grown by 15 percent. During that same period the number of adults who do not attend church has nearly doubled, rising from 39 million to 75 million—a 92 percent increase.” Barna goes on to say, “The Barna group reveals that one-third of the adult population (34 percent) has not attended any type of church service or activity, other than a special event such as a funeral or wedding, during the past six months.” As if that isn’t enough, consider that the same report said that twenty-four percent of the unchurched say that they are atheists. Less than 40 percent of all Americans attend worship at any time of year other than Easter or Christmas.
- Prediction Three – “The age of discovery is over; the age of discernment is beginning.” The twentieth century saw so many discoveries that it will take years to unravel their meaning and impact on our daily lives. Consider the following: the automobile, airplanes, radio, nuclear power, cell-phones antibiotics. Human genome project, television, computers, robots, the first human in space, and robots, just to mention a few of the many 20th century discoveries.
- Prediction Four – “Few people will believe in any form of ultimate truth in the emerging world because the definition of truth is changing. Truth is now defined by “whatever works.” We owe most of this change to technology and the decline of religion, the rise of atheism, and the rising dominant position played by a pragmatic view of life. Truth is now believed to be based more on personal opinion than fact.
- Prediction Five – “Moral standards are like chameleons in the crack, constantly in a state change … Whatever is done behind closed doors is considered acceptable conduct.” Over the past few decades, society has changed its opinion on such major issues as abortion and gay marriage. In the crack we have entered a world of gray where sin doesn’t really exist.
- Prediction Six – “Belonging is more important than joining while in the crack.” Today membership is down in just about every major organization in the U.S. My experience working with churches is that 25-30 percent of those who attend regularly are not members of the church.
- Prediction Seven – “More knowledge, appropriated faster than ever before, will make for more unpredictability in the crack … Speed will rival quality.” We have seen the rise of the adaptable and flexible organization that is able to quickly make the changes necessary to stay ahead of the culture.
- Prediction Eight – “The evolution of wealth is disappearing during the crack. The average family’s income is steadily declining, the ranks of the poor are steadily increasing, and the middle class continues to shrink in size.” After what happened in 2008-09 I doubt I need to say any more about this prediction.
- Prediction Nine – “The end of the Cold War, the rise of the Pacific Rim, and the continued movement to a European currency is redefining the traditional roles played by nations and superpowers in the crack of history.” As I write this, European currency is firmly in place and the U.S. struggles to keep its dominance in the world.
- Prediction Ten – “In the crack of history, North America’s fascination with the automobile and travel has diminished the emphasis on neighborhoods and will lead to the development of a regional mentality.” Consider the death of the family grocery store and the rise of the big boxes like Walmart.
- Prediction Eleven – “Sights and sounds dominate the crack of history … If something cannot be seen and experienced, it will not be heard or accepted.” Consider that many newspapers have shut down, the medium has become the message, and more people get their news from TV than any other source.
- Prediction Twelve – “Decentralization is required in the crack of history.” We see this lived out today in skunk work groups and an emphasis on teams.
- Prediction Thirteen – “The transmission and reception of knowledge and information are experiencing a series of quantum leaps. Computers are totally changing the way we treat knowledge and process information.” In the emerging world knowing how to process knowledge rather than collecting and retrieving knowledge, will be the primary skill. Consider search engines, spell checkers, the Internet, and artificial intelligence.
- Prediction Fourteen –“By the year 2001, one in four people in America will be non-white, making the emerging society the most diverse ever.” As of 2014, white Americans represent 77.7 percent of the population. The current U.S. Census projections show that white people will no longer make up a majority of Americans by 2043. This historic shift is already reshaping the nation’s schools, workforce, and electorate, and is redefining long-held notions of race. The official projection, released Wednesday by the Census Bureau, now places the tipping point for the white majority a year later than previous estimates, which were made before the impact of the recent economic downturn was fully known.
- Prediction Fifteen – “The male-dominated world is disappearing in the crack of history … the glass ceiling that has kept women out of top-level jobs will disappear.” Although the total number of female CEOS in Fortune 1000 companies is twenty-four, the percent of women in management, professional, and related occupations is 50.6. The definitive ranking of America’s biggest companies boasts some 24 female CEOs … more than at any point since Fortune started compiling executive gender in 1998. Hartford Seminary also confirms the rise of female pastors. 
- Prediction Sixteen – “…characteristics such as obligation and duty are being replaced with compassion and empathy.” Anyone who has been around young adults under the age of thirty don’t need this explained, especially if they run a business that requires employees or if they are a worship leader.
Well there you have it, all sixteen predictions. You can judge for yourself their accuracy. I still stand by each of them and feel that they have come or are in the process of coming to fruition. The 21st century will be nothing like the 20th Century.
Dare We Peek Into The Future
The story of Joshua and Caleb’s reconnaissance of the Promised Land provides us a picture of what we must do if we are to be prepared for what is to come. In the story God says to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan which I am giving to the Israelites.” So Moses chose twelve men and sent them into Canaan to be a scouting party. Their instructions were to: “See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many … What kind of towns do they live in? Are they walled or fortified …?”
If we are to design a strategy to meet a new day, we must do our research so we understand the shifts occurring in the world and how they might impact the future not only of the church, but also the world. Metaphorically, we need to send spies into the future and bring back what we see so we might prepare today for what is to come tomorrow.
Like the tribe of Issachar, we need a group of leaders who “understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.” There are enough signs of the times to begin talking about them and “nothing is more limiting to a group than the inability to talk about the truth.” It is in interpreting “the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3 NRSV) that leaders help people face their most pressing challenges.
We must now turn our attention to a new set of predictions for 2050 and their implications on our daily lives. What follows may or may not become a book titled Dare We Speak. The verdict is still out. There will be several blogs to come on predictions for 2050. The first prediction is “Everything we know about war will change between now and 2050.” My only regret is that I will not be around to judge my predictions. The predictions are listed in their order of importance for the future.
Whether or not this series becomes a book depends on your comments and questions so feel free to fire away. Leave your thoughts and responses in the Comments section below.
You Might Also Like:
- Predictions About the Future, with Paul Brady
- Spirituality and the Language of the Future, by Ray Kurzwell
- Ancient Future Faith, by Rober Weber
 Dancing With Dinosaurs, 1993, page 23.
 All of the predictions come from Dancing With Dinosaurs by Bill Easum
 Quoted from http://www.missionaloutreachnetwork.com/profiles/blogs/some-statistics-on-the-number which took its statistics from Hugh Halter’s book The Tangible Kingdom.
 I’m not denouncing either of these issues. I’m just showing how society has changed its mind on major issues.
 Frontline – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/newswar/part3/stats.html
 Fortune Online http://fortune.com/2014/06/03/number-of-fortune-500-women-ceos-reaches-historic-high/
 Numbers 13:12
 Numbers 28:18-20
 I Chronicles 12:32
 Peter Senge, Exploring Off the Map Conference sponsored by Leadership Network, May 23‐26, 2000, Broomfield, Colorado.