Friday Fives: 2014 Prediction Scorecard

A year ago, I published an edition of the Leaderhelps weekly Top Five entitled: Friday Fives: Five Predictions That Matter to Christian Leaders in 2014. As the title suggests, it was a listing of five key predictions Christian leaders were making about this past year.

And since Christians who make public predictions should be accountable for what they say and write, I’m bringing that post back in order to try to gauge the accuracy of each prediction – although as you’ll see some are subjective enough to be beyond empirical measure.

So, here’s the post, and the scorecard.

crystal-ball_1212743c

When Jesus said in Matthew 24:36 “No one knows when that day or hour will come. Even the angels in heaven and the Son don’t know. Only the Father knows,” He called into question the entire prediction business from the moment He left the earth until the time He comes again.

Just go back and search some of the predictions for 2013. The vast majority of them didn’t come close to being realized. Most people, even those who are considered experts, struggle to get above 60% predicting the outcome of a simple NFL football game, let alone predicting important matters.

One prediction I will make that I can guarantee is that you matter to God and will matter to Him in 2014. You can trust Him. (Hebrews 13:8)

Still, it reflects our thought and our culture to understand what people think will happen in 2014. Thus the reason for this week’s Friday Fives.


#5: Steve Laube: More and more Christian films will be produced in 2014.

Who is He: Laube is a well known literary agent specializing in the Christian marketplace.

Prediction: More Christian films based on Christian books will be produced.

What Does He Predict, Specifically?
“There will be a glut of Christian based films that will compete with each other for the market’s attention. Only the best ones will succeed….the script is critical – content remains king.”

The Score: Using a very loose definition for “Christian” films, there are  7 such films on the final 2014 top 100 box office list: 

#19: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
#27: Noah (See above under “Definition, Loose.”)
#31: Heaven is For Real
#45: God’s Not Dead
#46: Son of God
#61: Exodus: Gods and Kings
#84: When the Game Stands Tall

In 2013, there were 3 “Christian” films in the Top 100

#8: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
#67: Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas
#68: Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor

Result: ACCURATE PREDICTION

Whether 7 Christian films in 2014 would constitute a “glut,” it appears that Laube’s prediction was accurate at any level of measurement. There were more many more Christian films produced in 2014 and they clearly competed with each other for the market’s attention. Of course whether those 7 are actually “the best,” is up to you.


#4: Lynn Reaser: The government will take the “training wheels” off the economy.

Who is she? Reaser is Chief Economist at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California.

What Does She Predict Specifically?
From the San Diego Union Tribune
“Economist Lynn Reaser stood in front of an audience of 300 on Friday and held up a pair of training wheels.

There was no bicycle in sight.

That metaphor sums up Point Loma Nazarene University’s forecast for the U.S. economy in 2014. Reaser, the school’s chief economist, told the crowd at the university’s conference center that by March, she expects the Federal Reserve to start taking the training wheels off the U.S. economy. In the real world, that means the central bank will scale back its $85 billion of monthly purchases of treasury securities. Taking away that economic stimulus would cause longer- term interest rates to rise.

But, Reaser said, the economy has recovered enough to continue growing on its own.

‘We’ve had five years of this enormous stimulus,’ Reaser said in an interview after the presentation. ‘First, we saw the tax cuts, spending increases, and then the Federal Reserve has pushed interest rates down. They’ve been buying all kinds of treasury securities and mortgage securities. So we’ve had all this stimulus, and now the question is, ‘is it time to let the economy run on its own?’ and I think the answer is yes.’”

The Score: The question, of course, involves the best measure for this prediction. While some politicians and economists have proclaimed the economy to be in full fledged recovery, many regular folks have yet to see it. For some, things have gotten worse. So, let’s just make it a simple question of whether “longer-term interest rates” rose in 2014, which was Reaser’s self-proclaimed result.

According to the treasury, here are the stats for long-term interest rates at the first daily report for each quarter in 2014.

01/02/14   3.66
04/01/14   3.34
07/01/14   3.13
10/01/14   2.88

And the most recent report on December 26, 2014 was 2.62%.

Result: INACCURATE PREDICTION

Whether the “training wheels” were taken off the economy in 2014 is an argument for economists. But it’s clear that Dr. Reaser’s prediction of the 2014 rise in long-term interest rates was, at least, very wrong.


#3. Thom Rainer: Christian churches will expect much more from members.

Who is he? Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  He formerly served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.

Prediction: In 2014, churches will expect more from members.  Consistent attendance and regular ministry activity will grow as expectations of members.

What Does He Predict Specifically? (From The Christian Post)
“For decades American congregations as a whole lowered their expectations of church membership. One could be on a church roll in many churches and not even attend worship services for years. We will see a gradual reversal of that trend in 2014 as more churches move to higher-expectation membership.”

The Score: From the very beginning, Mr. Rainer’s prediction was going to be difficult, if not impossible, to measure, although I’m guessing he is gathering data as he does his consulting work with churches.

Result: UNDETERMINED/INACCURATE PREDICTION

In a recent blog post – Eight Things I’m Praying Will Happen in Churches in 2015 – Rainer wrote: For membership to be more meaningful. For many churches, membership has become nearly meaningless. For others, membership is a perceived entitlement, much like country club membership. I pray that membership in our congregations will become truly biblical as Paul demonstrated in 1 Corinthians 12. So, whether it occurred at all in 2014, in asking the Lord for it to deepen further, it certainly didn’t happen (or begin to happen) to Rainer’s satisfaction as an expert on church leadership.


#2 William Lane Craig: Biblical churches and Christian philosophy will grow, not wane.

Who is He? Craig is a well-known Christian philosopher and Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in La Mirada, California.

Prediction: Christian scholarship will have a more significant influence on ideas than the New Atheism in 2014.

What Does He Predict, Specifically? (From The Blaze)
“Craig also drew a distinction between mainline denominations, which he said are in ‘free fall,’ and those that have ‘remained true to biblical orthodoxy.’ While the former are struggling to maintain membership and adherents, he said the latter are seeing figures grow.

‘I think again, over the long run, the picture for biblical Christianity is very positive. And as this revolution in Christian philosophy begins to make itself felt in popular culture over the next generation, I think the picture will get even brighter,’ he added.

Despite his optimism, Craig’s comments didn’t come without noting that there are other culturally significant sectors where he believes Christians need to get involved — particularly in Hollywood. Entertainment’s impact is profound on the culture and he said it’s an ‘open question’ where things will go on that front.”

The Score: Of course whether a church is “true to Biblical orthodoxy” is a subjective matter. If a church describes itself as “evangelical,” is that sufficient? If a church writes about Biblical inerrancy or infallibility (and lets not get into that semantic discussion) in its statement of faith, does that make it “biblical”? You get the idea. Add to that the question of whether “Christian philosophy” is growing and judging the prediction becomes a bit like trying to pick Jell-O up off the floor.

And, since church attendance/membership data is not yet published for 2014, perhaps the best we can do is take a look at reliable data for church attendance for the five years prior.

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 7.14.17 PM

Gallup, 2014.

Result: UNDETERMINED

Since the number of people attending church (or synagogue) at least once a week was at its lowest point in the most recent year and since the number of people never attending church (or synagogue) at least once a week was at its highest in the most recent year, we can conclude one thing: If Lane’s prediction of (‘biblical”) church growth increasing is true for 2014, it will mean the current trend is reversed significantly.


#1. Thom Rainer: There will be a decline in conversion growth.

Who is he? See prediction #3

Prediction: People accepting the Lord in churches will decline in 2014.

What Does He Predict Specifically?
“American churches that grow are more likely to get their growth at the expense of other churches. Evangelism is waning in many churches, and fewer non-believers are becoming Christians. The negative reaction to programmatic evangelistic methods has evolved into an overreaction. Too few churches emphasize personal and church-based evangelism.”

The Score: Measurement of the #1 prediction seems to be parallel, or at least similar to the evaluation of the prediction at #2. There is no measurement of “conversion growth,” so we may have to return to the same church attendance data from above.

Result: UNDETERMINED

To compare the top two predictions based on Gallup’s church attendance data, at least the prediction at #1, unfortunately, follows the historical trend reflected in the results above. That is, if there is any relationship between conversion growth and faithful church attendance, conversion growth may indeed be dropping just as Rainer predicted.

Trackbacks

  1. […] go back and search some of the predictions for 2014. (And see this post.) The vast majority of them didn’t come close to being realized. Most people, even those who are […]