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We are at the threshold of a new year. What does it hold? How do you view it—with fear or with confidence? At the end of each year I like to peak ahead based on accelerating trends in our world, and based on planned events or anniversaries coming our way. This is by no means comprehensive, but it is suggestive and may help you think wisely about the coming year.

World population approaches 7 billion Toward the end of the year we officially hit the 7b mark and there will be growing worry about an increasingly crowded planet with more demands on resources.

Globalization The pace of globalization continues as evidenced by an ever more complex interconnectedness among the nations. Some say we are in a transition from the economic phase of globalization to the political phase where blocks and regions are working together more. For Christians, we have entered what I call “the partnership century” of missions where a new world missionary force and global ministry teams will increasingly work together.

Urbanization In 2010 our world became officially more urban than rural. Just over half of the world now lives in cities. This trend will continue with the growth of mega cities and an expected 70% of the world being urban in 2050. Urban ministry is more important than ever.

A wave of belt tightening and rethinking government A host of economies are adopting “austerity” as their watchword in the wake of “the Great Recession.” Nations and states face deep economic woes forcing new cutbacks. 2011 will be the year when spending cuts begin to hurt. Governments must get smaller and work better. The scope of the bloated welfare state in the West will begin to shrink. States cannot borrow as they have. These changes will not come without battles, changes and challenges to economic recovery.

Economic recovery in the US falls short of expectations Unemployment, home foreclosures, long term uncertainty, lead many to predict a less than robust economy in 2011 with growth falling short of 2010 levels. Churches and ministries will feel the effect of this.

Economic development spreads Beyond the emerging markets of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), economists are now talking about emerging markets in….. Africa!

China’s influence continues to grow In 2011 it overtakes the US as the biggest manufacturing nation, and the second largest national source of scientific papers in the world. This year China will launch the first part of their own space station. They are planning moon missions by the end of the decade. Also, for the first time a Chinese city (Shanghai) ranked number 1 in the world’s most recognized standardized test for 15 year old students (the 65 country Pisa Test run by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). (In reading comprehension the US ranked 17th, and in math 31st)

The electrification of transport Trying to become free from petroleum and to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, China and Israel have taken the lead as nations to accelerate the move to powering cars without oil.

Facebook and social media go global In less than seven years, one tenth of humanity is now wired into a single network called Facebook. It is a new connective tissue for a massive number of people and will reach the billion mark sometime in 2012.

So much for traditional authority What do Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Apple founder Steve Jobs and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have in common? Recent articles on all three all highlight that they are incredible innovators, but none of them have a whole lot of veneration for traditional authority, of any kind. Evidence that the West is still in a heightened phase of anti-authoritarianism?

Christianophobia in Europe This is how the growing hostility and prejudice against Christianity in Western Europe is being described. This trend is starting to be seen in the US. More evidence?

Persecution of Christians around the world The top ten persecuting nations (in no particular order) are Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, India, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam, Eritrea.

US Election 2012 is underway While political gridlock will most likely characterize the relationship between the White House and Congress, the campaign season has unofficially begun.

Electronic reading grows in popularity Some say there will be a growing move away from the written word in companies (fewer emails, more youtube messages). If 2010 was the year of the e-reader and tablet computer, 2011 will see the transformation of the content of books.

The withering of discipleship in the American church Many note that whole life discipleship appears to be in decline. Barna reported in his year-end report that the Christian church in America is becoming less theologically literate, more ingrown, less outreach-oriented, and more pragmatic. While he noted that Christians are more interested in participating in community social action, he also said that the “postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian church.”

Wildcards and questions of 2011 The world is still filled with trouble spots. North Korea remains unpredictable. The move to further spread nuclear weapons is growing in the Middle East. Venezuela appears bent on regional domination. Sudan may be split in two. A covert war is being waged between Iran and the United States and Israel. Islamofascist terror remains a constant threat. Cyber terrorism, micro terrorism, biological or electronic pandemics are worries the experts talk about. Meanwhile….all creation groans and the gospel remains the best news ever.

Many other questions remain What will unemployment be? What will the economy do? Will Obama keep moving to the middle or veer back? Who will be the Republican front runner? Who will win the World Series (okay….I am a baseball fan, so this matters)? Will we be alive next December 31st? Will Christ return in 2011?

Anniversaries and special events this year Wikipedia celebrates its 10th anniversary in January, Twitter is five years old in March, and there is a royal wedding in April. May 2 marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. June marks the 100th birthday of IBM and people will be talking about resilient, agile companies that reinvent themselves. July is when Obama said America would start bringing home troops from Afghanistan. September 9 marks the last Oprah show, while two days later mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11. In November the world’s population is supposed to officially hit the seven billion mark, and that is also when the largest statue of Jesus in the world is supposed to be completed in Poland—a statue of the crowned Christ.

Don Sweeting

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