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Predictions & possibilities

EDITOR’S NOTE: An audio version of this column is available here. Visit “WorldView Conversation,” the blog related to this column, here.

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The new year brings a fresh batch of forecasts for the future.

Well, semi-fresh.

Some of the predictions from the World Future Society’s recent “Outlook 2009” report already are coming to pass. Others already have proven wrong. Continued growth of the developed world’s economies for another five years? Scratch that one.

The forecasting business is about as reliable as the current stock market. But here are some intriguing predictions to watch for:

— Total connectivity — By the end of the next decade, nanodevices and implants will create an omnipresent, seamless communication network “among all people everywhere” — or at least among those who choose to participate and have access to the technology. Think you’re connected now? Just wait.

— Yotta, yotta, yotta — The yottabyte (that’s 1 septillion bytes of data) is the digital measurement you’ll be using by 2050. That, according to “Outlook 2009,” raises the possibility that you’ll be able to record and store “every second of [your] life on a computer and no doubt post it on Facebook.”

— 3-D TV — Mathematicians have developed blueprints for instruments that could project 3-D images, like the holograms in “Star Wars.” Just think: You’ll be able to experience bad reality TV like you’re part of the show.

— Git along, little microchips — Ranchers soon will round up cattle remotely with GPS tracking devices and related technology. So much for cowboys.

Enough about technology. On a more human scale:

— Mobility — More migrants moving from poor to rich countries will provide needed labor but increase social tensions and backlashes against immigrants, particularly in difficult economic times. How will Christians respond to the strangers in their midst — with hostility or love?

— China’s faith to grow — China’s powerhouse (and now rollercoaster) economy could spur a “rapid growth in religions” as tumultuous shifts create a “yearning for stabilizing influences.” Christianity already is the fastest-growing faith in the world’s largest nation. Whether or not it embraces democratic freedoms, China might count more practicing evangelical Christians than the United States within a generation.

— U.S. “organized religion” to shrink — Despite a 40-percent increase in the national population over the last 35 years, religious congregations are experiencing declines in overall attendance. Thus, “traditional Western religion’s influence over the mainstream will likely continue to wane.” Whether this prediction comes to pass is up to followers of Christ. What if God Himself were to replace “traditional Western religion” with a new movement of the Holy Spirit across the land — through our consecrated lives?

— New activism will increase — “Self-reliance and cooperation will become prevalent societal values” as younger generations replace the baby boomers as social leaders. Gen X and Y are “highly entrepreneurial and … very socially aware. Societies can expect more small-business activity, more social activism and greater outreach across cultures and political parties.” All of those characteristics will serve the cause of God’s mission — if young Christians use them in His service.

— Hangin’ loose — “Forty-one percent of U.S. adults say they are delaying major life decisions, such as buying a home [or] marrying…. The main reason cited is a lack of personal savings, along with concerns about the U.S. economy’s overall future.” That doesn’t sound so good from an economic and social point of view. But from God’s perspective, how many people who delay major financial and personal commitments that tie them down might become available for His global purposes?

We’ll see what happens. Anyone can make predictions. God holds the future.
Erich Bridges is global correspondent for the International Mission Board.

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