Over the years, I’ve made a few predictions about the future and every one of them has come true (you can see the bulk of them here). Now it’s time for another set of predictions. The first seven predictions are strictly about Christianity and the remaining predictions are secular but will need to be addressed by Christianity in some way. Please note that I don’t like some of these predictions but they need recognizing and addressed. And keep in mind that only a mad man or someone who can read the tea leaves would dare make predictions today. Time will tell which one I am.
I predict the following by the year 2050:
Prediction Number 1: Only one or two of the present denominations will be left after mergers and continual decline. The average age of the people in mainline denominations is already over 60 with no sign of abating. The only way to change this prediction is for mainline denominations to return to their roots.
Prediction Number 2: New church Plants in the U.S. will be four times as many as church closures reminding us that Christianity isn’t dead. We are already seeing church plants outnumber closures and more churches being planted by individual churches than denominations which are running out of money. The group Exponential is leading the way in promoting a movement of churches that plant multiple churches. We should all pray that the Exponential group continues its quest for multiplication. This success of this movement could change the course of my recommendations.
Prediction Number 3: A quasi, loosely associated group of “multiplication churches” will become the largest religious group in the U.S. I’m watching this group of leaders work together to refine the principles of what will become a multiplication movement among church planters. Bill Tenny-Brittian and I wrote about it in our book From Scarcity to Abundance: Creating a Culture of Multiplication.
Prediction Number 4: My tribe, the United Methodist Church, will no longer exist. In 1967, the UMC had 11,026,976 members. In 2012, the membership was 7,391,911, a decline of 33 percent. Because of the average age of the congregants the UMC will hit a mesa prior to 2050 and will fall off the cliff. We are already seeing the fractures pointing toward a schism in the Way Forward movement. Either way this movement goes will result in sub denominations or a totally new denomination that will join with the group in prediction seven or four. The only way to stop this prediction is to return to the theology and fervor of John Wesley.
Prediction Number 5: A new evangelical mainline denomination will emerge consisting of a conglomerate of evangelical churches from all the previous mainline denominations. This prediction depends on whether this group joins the group of churches in prediction number four.
Prediction Number 6: The role of Sunday School, except for children, will totally disappear from congregations and will be replaced by small groups that meet in homes. This will be driven by the continued decline of mainline denominations and the high cost of construction. I talked about this in my book Dancing with Dinosaurs.
Prediction Number 7: The gap between politics and religion will continue to escalate to the point that Christians will be considered a nuisance to society. The more secular the country becomes the less use it will have for any form of religion. We are already seeing the “Rule of Law” take precedence over a person’s religious beliefs in several legal cases. In time, churches will be taxed and the Ten Commandments a thing of the past in our courtrooms, “In God we trust” will be struck from our currency. Crosses are already banned in some cities and Great Britain the Government is to argue in a landmark court case against a person wearing a cross at work.
Prediction Number 8: The U.S. will become a socialist country and a new socialist political party will emerge. Forty-four percent of Millennials already prefer socialism to capitalism and only 42 percent prefer capitalism. This problem will escalate short term because many mainline Christians will mistakenly equate socialism with Christianity and join the movement. The 2020 and 2024 elections will set the stage for this shift in U.S. politics.
Prediction Number 9: Competition for AI (artificial intelligence) superiority at a national level will replace nuclear war as the biggest threat to the planet and will be the cause of World War III if there is one. Whichever country masters AI will eventually rule the world.
Prediction Number 10: Everything we know about war will change. This has already begun, but our justice system refuses to recognize it. In time terrorists will be treated as combatants guilty of war crimes instead of trying them in civil court. If this change isn’t made, the effort against terrorism will continue as we continue to put them back on the street after a few years of incarceration.
Prediction Number 11: Many socialist countries like Venezuela and Iran will turn to capitalism because of riots, starvation, and revolution. Socialism usually ends in failure. Just notice what is happening in China as it is turning to capitalism.
Prediction Number 12: China will become the number one superpower in the world and its currency will become the primary global or reserve currency. In March 2009, China and Russia called for a new global currency. In the fourth quarter 2016, the Chinese renminbi became another one of the world’s reserve currencies. As we continue to cheapen the dollar via Quantitative Easing the quicker the dollar will no longer be the major reserve currency.
Prediction Number 13: North Korea will become a nuclear power because the U.S. will decide the consequences of stopping it are not worth the casualties. What else can I say?
Prediction Number 14: Robots will replace 50 percent of American manufacturing, which means dozens of new jobs will be invented. If these two go hand in hand, people will prosper. If not, millions of people will be thrown into poverty. By 2030, the researchers estimate, the demand for office support workers in the U.S. will drop by 20 percent. That includes secretaries, paralegals, and anyone in charge of administrative tasks. See the entire article. Robots are already manipulating our lives in the stock market. Eli Musk says that its most likely that to survive humans will have to become part robot.
Prediction Number 15: Authoritarianism will make a comeback. We are already seeing freedom of speech discouraged on many college campuses and hate divisions growing to the point if someone says something someone doesn’t like they are a racist or something worse. And because of terrorism, privacy will continue to become an issue. Companies like Facebook and Google are already manipulating what content we can and can’t see. We are rapidly approaching the era of ubiquitous surveillance, a time when virtually every aspect of our lives will be monitored. Orwell may have been correct.
Prediction Number 16: Almost all forms of transportation will be electric. Owning a car without self-driving capabilities will be a lot like depending on a horse for transportation
Conclusion: I worry about the future of America. In a way, I’m sort of glad I won’t be around to see if my predictions about the U.S. come true. But I don’t worry at all about the future of Christianity in America. It won’t be “church as usual,” at least not as we define “usual” today, but I believe it will be a more faithful and a more effective church.