Ask.com recently presented their top 10 predictions for 2012, based on the top trending questions posed by their 60 million users from January 1 – November 15, 2011.
If you keep up with “top searches” on the internet, you won’t be surprised by its pop culture bent:
*George Clooney wins his second and third Academy Award.
*Dr. Oz surpasses Dr. Phil in ratings in a post-Oprah world.
*Green Bay Packers win Super Bowl for second time in a row.
*McDonald’s adds the McRib to its permanent menu.
*New York reclaims its spot as top US travel destination from 2011 leader Orlando.
*Breakout star of 2011, Nicki Minaj, leapfrogs pop icon Katy Perry in album sales.
*Pippa jumps onto the list of Top 10 baby names of the year.
*Facebook goes public with world’s largest IPO.
*Tiger Woods retires from golf.
*And, finally…will the world end in 2012? Nope.
It made me wonder what might fill a prognosticator’s list for predictions related to religion, based on trends of the past year.
Here are twelve ideas for ‘12:
1. Another famed pastor (or two) will be revealed for moral failure, and tens of thousands of faithful men and women in vocational ministry will pay the price of suspicion and derision.
2. We’ll champion Tiger Wood’s return to golf prominence after despicable moral failure, and continue to hear the media denigrate Tim Tebow’s success despite his good character.
3. The presidential election will polarize the country into “left” and “right” even more than it already has, with religion and social morality making a surprising comeback in terms of relevance. Yet when it does, the separation of church and state will be trotted out to somehow support the separation of religion and politics.
4. Rumors of Billy Graham’s death will continue to be exaggerated. But whenever it happens, it will have to be uniformly said, “This man finished well.”
5. More books will be released by Christian “names” that will question aspects of Christian orthodoxy, all trumpeting big sales and even bigger debates, ironically helping the church to renew its orthodoxy in significant ways. Or at least make talk about doctrine relevant again.
6. Christianity will continue to be increasingly demonized and discriminated against in the U.S., while other religions stay sacrosanct. The double-standard will be maddeningly egregious.
7. Large churches will continue to get bigger, but smaller at the same time through the multi-site approach to growth. They will increasingly take over the past role of denominations. Yet these same churches will come increasingly under fire from bitter bloggers, those who are anti-big-everything, and the federal government.
8. The largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., the Southern Baptist Convention, will rename itself (whatever its new name will be, you can rest assured that “Southern” will not be in it) - but then have to engage the harder work of remaking itself.
9. Due to changing technology, changing economic models, and changing cultural dynamics, many established parachurch organizations will go out of “business.” For example, small seminaries that are tuition-based residential models with small endowments; small Christian publishers poorly positioned for the juggernaut of Amazon and Kindle; and second-generation ministries named after their now-deceased founder.
10. Mormonism will continue its aggressive push into the religious mainstream, trying to position itself as just another Christian denomination.
11. Social media will become as integral and indispensable to the mission of the church as radio, television and printing were in the past. Probably more, as it has become our preferred model of both communication and community.
12. God will remain on His throne, sovereign over all creation, and all will be well with our soul no matter what happens. Perhaps not well with our world, but well with our soul. (And that one is not a prediction.)
James Emery White
“Top 10 Predictions for 2012,” Ask.com. Read online.
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About Dr. James Emery White
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.
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