Okay, I use that term prediction very loosely. I just read Deuteronomy about the stoning of prophets in the Old Testament for making false prophecies. So let's say that my predictions are more guesses and gut feel rather than an official "prophecy". In other words, nobody knows the future but God. But here's my guesses at what's going to unfold in the U.S.A. in the years to come.
1. The financial crisis will not end any time soon.
I'm guessing we are going to look back on this time as our own generations' Great Depression. I think that President Obama's commitment to more government programs and more government jobs may help bounce the economy in the short run but in the long run will create such a deficit that it may cause the economy to implode far worse than it is today. If China (who is a major lender to the United States) calls her chips in then we would be in some serious economic doo doo. 15 years ago or so Larry Burkett predicted "The Coming Economic Earthquake." His timing may have been off by a few years but I am feeling the earth move under my feet.
I'm no economist but you can't keep borrowing, printing more money and then bailing out industries with no hope of survival and keep solvent. It doesn't take a Phd in math to figure out that the multi trillion dollar bill will come due sooner rather than later for America. This borrowing frenzy began under President Bush but looks like it will continue to accelerate under President Obama. Expanding government under the guise of a stimulus package will do nothing more than add zeros to the number at the end of the bill. My kids, your kids and their kids and their kids' kids will be paying the invoice for decades to come.
2. Evangelism will be viewed as "hate speech."
Personally I think that we are a few Supreme Court Justices away from being a nation where saying that "Jesus is the only way" will be considered, not just intolerant, but illegal. We are already seeing this take place with the whole issue of homosexuality. Even some Christians are vehemently accusing those who dare to proclaim homosexuality as a sin as being hatemongers. Do I think homosexuality is a sin? YES! Do I think lying is a sin? YES! Do I think heterosexual immorality is a sin? YES! Am I a sinner? YES! But homosexuality (along with environmentalism) has become the lightning rod discussion for this police state generation concerning all things green and gay. I believe that this "don't you dare say that" philosophy will bleed over into the subject of evangelism sooner rather than later.
Why? Because to claim Christ as the exclusive way is to leave every other religion out of heaven. This literal approach to salvation inevitably leads to literal interpretations of other passages like Romans 1 :24-27 that clearly list homosexual acts as sin. So evangelism becomes a target of the secular culture not just because of the bold proclamation of Jesus as the only way of salvation, but because it erupts from and leads to a literal interpretation of the Scripture. A literal hermeneutic does not lend itself to a tolerant view of homosexual sin.
Please don't get this rant wrong. I don't hate homosexuals. I love them. I love everyone. The only group of persons that I hate is Satan and his compadres. Look at the mess they have made of everything. He wants to drag this nation and everyone in it down to hell with him.
All I'm saying by this particular prediction is that I believe that the next big target by the secular community toward the church will be evangelism. I think it will all be cloaked in nice little explanations and legalees that sound harmless but underneath will be the bottom line premise that evangelism is hate speech. And that will inevitably lead to social and political action toward those who "dare to share."
Am I freaked out? No! Personally I think that more persecution would be good for the body of Christ. We have gotten soft as a church in America and we could use a little toughening up. My wife and I just started the P90X workout program (and yes, it is as intense as the infomercials indicate.) We're up at 5am and are getting our behinds kicked for a full hour six days a week. Persecution is the P90X of the church. It will help us lose the fat of carnality, build our heart rate as we love Jesus and others (especially our enemies) and rip our spiritual muscles out. Why do you think the early church was so spiritually chiseled? They were chased, beaten, crucified and flogged. If the early church had a spiritual workout program maybe they would call it "Persecution 90X."
3. The church will strengthen and weaken.
I think there will be two possible reactions to the coming economic meltdown (we ain't seen nothin' yet) and eschewing of evangelism. The first possible reaction will be to get back to our roots. Those who respond this way will love everyone more, embrace the historic Christian faith tightly, engage in community with more passion, do evangelism with more intentionality and make disciples more fully.
The other reaction will be to succomb. I believe there will be many churches who give into the coming cultural and political pressure to take their foot off of the evangelistic gas peddle and stamp hard on the doctrinal brakes. These churches will buy the lie that they are making more of a difference by being culturally relevant. They will hide behind the fact that they are doing acts of social justice and preaching an evangelism without words. But evangelism without words is the oxyest moron of all. These churches will preach a nice Jesus in the nicest part of the gospels. They will stay away from the angry parts of the Old Testament and the "not so nice" parts of the gospels. And Saint Paul will be relegated to Saint Nic…a mythical, irrelevant figure for childish thinking.
The divide between these two kinds of churches in a P90X future will be much wider and deeper than they are today. I am convinced pastors and church leaders will have to pick a side. Because in this kind of future there is no middle ground.
What should be our reactions to all this? Here are a few suggestions:
We pray for our President, the Senate and the Supreme Court no matter what.
Whether or not you voted for President Obama we have a Biblical mandate (Romans 13:1-3) to follow his lead unless, of course, he tells us to do something contrary to Scripture. And we have a Biblical mandate (1 Timothy 2:1-4) to pray for our political leaders, not just the President but the Senate and the Supreme Court and our local leaders as well.
Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike who claim the name of Christ have a citizenship that supercedes that of the United States. We are children of the King and must act like it (Philippians 3:20.) This means that we pray for those in charge and we love them no matter what. Remember that when Paul gave these mandates Nero (the original Hitler…but a tad crazier) was in charge of Rome. No matter how great or oppressive you perceive the government becoming you continue to love and pray for those in charge.
Root your hopes in spiritual change not political change.
Sure we have a responsibility to be good citizens but we have an even higher calling to be good Christians. I am convinced that America will never be transformed from the outside in (i.e. politics or moral reformation) but from the inside out (spiritual transformation.) Thoreau once said, "For every hundred hacking at the leaves of evil, one hacks at the root." Only the gospel of Christ hacks at the root of evil that lurks in all of our hearts.
We must love, serve and share the good news with everyone. We must dare to share while we can. And if or when it becomes illegal we must share all the more!
Get control of your finances.
My wife and I are starting Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University (kind of a P90X for your finances). This is an area that we have let spin out of control and are determined to tighten up. As the external economy tumbles let's not allow our personal finances tumble with it. Time to tighten the belt!
I believe that those without debt in the future will be way better off than those who have it. My wife and I are going to do our best to get totally out of debt in the years to come. Join us! Not only will it give you strength financially but, more importantly, you'll have more to share with those in need (Ephesians 5:25).
Okay so these are my "predictions" for the future. If they come true please don't consider me a prophet. I'm just trying to put 2 and 2 together (five?) If they don't come true please refrain from stoning me, just remember they were guesses from a former roofer. Either way, let us be faithful as citizens of heaven to do what Jesus has called us to do!