TEN TRENDS FOR THE COMING YEARS
6. Rise of Radicalism and Grassroots Religious Persecution
A continuing rise in radicalism, especially in failed states, will be a consequence of disillusionment and anger over lack of economic opportunities and of ideologies that emphasize ethnic, tribal and religious differences.
Religious persecution in predominantly Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim areas will be more grassroots, localized, and at times, government-tolerated. Radical Islam will intensify, become more lethal, be challenging to control, and remain a security threat that spans a generation.
Meanwhile, some parts of the Muslim world will liberalize, modernize, and secularize, creating tensions within Muslim circles. Over time, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups may face declining support due to a lack of compelling vision.
Implications for the Global Church: Christ’s call is higher than mere tolerance – it is to show love and respect in a logic and language that is understood.
Following Christ’s teaching to be peacemakers would call for appealing to common values and reducing antagonistic rhetoric. The Church has the opportunity to set an example in respect-based diplomacy.
It can advocate to governments to allow for a plurality of ideas and create legislation that expands the “center”. It can promote local protection and enforcement of religious freedom while fighting against the passage of laws that restrict it. Global South missionaries, especially those of a proximate culture, can be empowered to go where radicalism prevails, while conducting missions in a way that seeks to understand and respect the local cultures.
Private channels of giving to the developing world come in the form of philanthropy, investments, and remittances sent home by migrants working abroad.
In the coming years these sources of funds will outpace government aid even further than today. They will increasingly bypass the conventional institutional aid architecture, and will move more toward direct engagement with indigenous talent and institutions. Lines of communication with Global South partners will shorten, but the vetting and evaluating of these partnerships will prove challenging to the donor. Monetary aid will be accompanied by an increase in donated labor, creative energy and social capital.
Additional innovative uses of technology such as with social networking will be developed to mobilize and engage donors and volunteers. Western philanthropy will be results-oriented to a greater extent, often pragmatically focusing on evidence-based methods and outcomes.
Implications for the Global Church: Generosity is a basic Christian value, despite economic ebbs and flows or potential changes in tax laws in the West. Striking a balance between seeking results versus relationship and valuing the tangible and the intangible – i.e.,treating giving as more than a transaction – will lessen the divide between the Global South and North.
The language and categories of accountancy or the ambiguously spiritual are not adequate for philanthropy, nor are timeframes for evaluation that do not allow for long-term processes of change. Both openness and caution are merited when engaging in cooperative efforts with government and secular development agencies.
8.Technology Moves Power to the “Edges”
The Web is the great equalizer, allowing power to move from the center to the edges, which will lead to a melting down of centralized institutions and traditional bonds.
Communication and social networking tools that are progressively less costly, more mobile, and constantly enhanced will allow people movements to emerge that can threaten centralized authority. Lack of accessibility to technology remains an issue in some places.
Implications for the Global Church: God created us as relational beings and technology notwithstanding, fostering meaningful and supportive relationships in community has never been more important.
The Church has unprecedented opportunities to enhance social connectivity, influence right social action, and extend its evangelism and discipleship efforts by utilizing these rapidly emerging technologies.
New possibilities will exist to employ aggressive strategies to reach people broadly or in a pinpointed way through technology. This will allow continued and expanded communication into difficult to access countries or people groups.
It will be important that new models are researched, vetted for effectiveness, and best practices are shared broadly. More than ever, Global South partners can and should participate in these wide-reaching conversations as equals.
9.Cultural Hybridization, Trend toward Religious Nominalism
There will be multiple modernities. Each region will adapt through their own cultural expressions ideas of what it means to be modern. Globalization will be counterbalanced by a localization of identity and community. Modernity will be expressed differently across generational lines. One common face, however, will be materialism and a move towards religious nominalism.
Traditional religious institutions will be eroded. Developed nations will see a growing worldliness in their religious congregations. Some developing nations will follow the same trend, as modernization leads people to lose a living sense of the supernatural.
Implications for the Global Church: The Church’s greatest challenge in this area may well be to interpret culture in light of the Gospel rather than reading the Gospel in light of culture.
Diversity, not secularization, is to be celebrated. Our Christian distinctives should remain unambiguous. We are to be relevant but not relativistic, proclaim absolute truth, and provide a contrast for people who are hungry for a Kingdom reality.
The need for investments in leadership development has never been clearer.
10.Non-Readers on the Rise
Populations of predominantly illiterate, semi-literate and traditionally oral learning peoples will increase due to high birth rates in many communities.
Continued challenges in providing universal access to basic education for the poor, socially marginalized, and women, will dictate that oral-based methods be the primary means of disseminating information to many people.
Modern communication itself is contributing to a growing population of inattentive- and non-readers – undermining words, books and reading. The internet generation will approach learning in vastly different ways and will challenge conventional methods of education.
Implications for the Global Church: The Bible is replete with the most extraordinary collection of stories to help communicate its message. The Church should rediscover how to make better use of story-based communication – whether spoken, in images, or in text.
Reaching oral communities with the Gospel will require media-based approaches and grassroots training for repeatable storytelling. The use of broadcast media will grow more pervasive, making the task of evangelism easier, but the work of discipleship more challenging.
With less expertise behind an increasing flow of information, people will become increasingly inattentive to any single source.
The Church has the opportunity to provide a vital filter for the overload of information by offering relevant theological critique and communicating with substance, truth, and clarity.