Leaderhelps Five: 2015 Predictions Scorecard

A year ago, I posted an edition of the Leaderhelps weekly Top Five entitled: Friday Fives: Five Predictions That Matter to Christian Leaders in 2015. As the title suggests, it was a listing of five key predictions being made about this past year.

And since those 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.


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 2015. 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 2015. You can trust Him. (Hebrews 13:8)

Still, it reflects our thought and our culture to understand what people think will happen in 2015. Thus the reason for this week’s Friday Fives.


#5 Forbes Editors: A Robot that Feels

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Who Are They: Forbes is one of the leading national business magazines. Each year, writers assemble their predictions for an annual forecasting article. Specifically, they are Scott Cendrowski, Erika Fry, Leigh Gallagher, Stephen Gandel, Erin Griffith, Robert Hackett, Beth Kowitt, Adam Lashinsky, JP Mangalindan, Chris Matthews, Tory Newmyer, Scott Olster, Daniel Roberts, Anne VanderMey, Phil Wahba, and Claire Zillman

Prediction: Electronics will become still more human.

What Do They Predict, Specifically?
“Next year artificial IQ will get a little EQ. Already this fall, Amazon’s new “Echo,” an in-home device that looks like a speaker but acts like Siri, was a start. Jibo, the Pixar-like “family robot” went a step further, recognizing people, holding conversations, telling jokes and issuing reminders. In 2015, computers that learn (think IBM’s Watson or Samantha from the movie Her) will only become more human.”

Scorecard: This prediction may not actually have been a prediction, per se, since, as the authors acknowledge, some of what they were “predicting” was already evident. Still, there doesn’t appear to be much argument that robot technology did advance in 2015. Scientific American described some of the changes:

Advances in robotics technology are making human–machine collaboration an everyday reality. Better and cheaper sensors make a robot more able to “understand” and respond to its environment. Robot bodies are becoming more adaptive and flexible, with designers taking inspiration from the extraordinary flexibility and dexterity of complex biological structures, such as the human hand. And robots are becoming more connected, benefiting from the cloud-computing revolution by being able to access instructions and information remotely, rather than having to be programmed as a fully autonomous unit.

Live Science added:

In 2015, researchers in Korea unveiled a robotic exoskeleton that users can control with their minds, a four-legged bot in China set a new world record by walking 83.28 miles (134.03 km) without stopping and 3D-printing robots in Amsterdam started work on a new steel footbridge.

Prediction Result: Accurate – although it’s important to note that it really wasn’t much of a stretch, as far as predictions go.


#4: Karl Rove: The Political Landscape Churns

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Who is He: Rove is a political analyst for The Wall Street Journal and Fox News. He served as Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff during the Bush (43) administration.

Prediction: The US presidential race will become clearer with key candidates in… and out.

What Does He Predict, Specifically?

“Populist anger will grow more on the left than on the right. Hillary Clinton will run for the presidency; Sen. Elizabeth Warren , after flirting with the notion, will not. Neither will Vice President Joe Biden, but he will make more gaffes. A surprising number of prospective Republican candidates will not run or get off the launchpad because of money-raising challenges. It will not take $88 million to win the nomination like it took Mitt Romney in 2012, but it will take close to that sum.”

Scorecard: Rove clearly knows what he’s talking about in terms of Democratic candidates. Clinton is running, of course. Warren and Biden are not. (And predicting that Biden would make more gaffes is a little like shooting fish in a barrel.) Some would question whether Rove was right in predicting that “a surprising number of prospective Republican candidates will not run or get off the launchpad,” since at this late date, there are still 12 candidates, everyone from the polarizing Donald Trump to the anonymous Jim Gilmore. There were other candidates – Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, etc. – whom I suppose you could say didn’t “get off the launchpad.”

Prediction Result: Accurate – Although you can make the case that Trump’s early success reflects more anger on the right than on the left.


#3. Thom Rainer: Pastors Get Even Harder to Find

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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: Pastors will become harder to find, causing a change in how they are recruited.

What Does He Predict, Specifically?
“Increased difficulty in matching prospective pastors with churches with pastoral vacancies. This trend is growing and frustrating to both pastors and those in churches seeking pastors. It is particularly frustrating for those churches that use the pastoral search committee model. I will not be surprised to see that model begin to change in 2015.”

Scorecard: This prediction is, of course, more difficult to measure, since the various denominations track and publish their hiring policies and processes quite differently. In fact, most are very careful not to publish such data. Rainer himself hasn’t yet followed up with results of his own prediction. However, this post seems to indicate that, actually, the opposite may be true, as Rainer’s post and the comments seem to indicate that, in some cases, hundreds of pastoral candidates are applying for a single position. If you have better data on this, I know you’ll email me with it and it will be appreciated. As of this writing there doesn’t seem to be good data to support that Rainer’s prediction was accurate for 2015.

Result: Inaccurate or Undetermined


#2: Lynn Reaser: The Economy Finally Rebounds

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

Prediction: Positive jobs data and low oil prices will help the economy kick in in 2015.

What Does She Predict, Specifically?

From the San Diego Union-Tribune: Reaser pointed to a positive national jobs report released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, showing 321,000 people added to payrolls in November and the unemployment rate at 5.8 percent. She also noted that wages grew 2.1 percent annually, which is a reflection of a positive job market. Overall, she expects consumers to continue spend more and save less. She said a recovery in the global economy could cause oil prices to tick up to $80 a barrel, but that low gas prices still represent a tax cut for consumers. She noted that every penny saved on gas is an extra $1 billion to spend. As a whole, she said inflation will stay around 2 percent, not too hot and not too cold. Reaser said she expects businesses across the country to invest more in equipment and technology, and that will help push the national gross domestic product up to 3 percent. “We’ve seen growth just at about an average of 2.3 percent,” Reaser said. “That is really sad and really anemic, and we think we’ll finally break out of that zone in 2015.”

Scorecard: This is the third year in a row that Reaser has predicted a major economic breakthrough and so far, she’s been wrong each year. Some would say that, based on the most recent employment numbers, there has been some positive news for the economy, with a .8 percentage point decrease in the unemployment rate according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, if we just stick to Reaser’s own reference to growth in gross domestic product, the prediction seems to have been inaccurate. In her prediction she refers to an average of 2.3% growth in GDP (from 2014) as “sad and really anemic.” A report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis indicates that the nation is right in that range again for 2015. Hardly a rebound.

Real gross domestic product — the value of the goods and services produced by the nation’s economy less the value of the goods and services used up in production, adjusted for price changes — increased at an annual rate of 2.0 percent in the third quarter of 2015, according to the “third” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the second quarter, real GDP increased 3.9 percent. The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the “second” estimate issued last month. In the second estimate, the increase in real GDP was 2.1 percent. With the third estimate for the third quarter, the general picture of economic growth remains the same; private inventory investment decreased more than previously estimated.

Result: Inaccurate. The statement that the economy “finally rebounded” in 2015 does not appear to be correct.


#1. Thom Rainer: The Beginning of the End of the Arena Church

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Who is He: (See above)

Prediction: The era of the “arena church” will wane.

What Does He Predict, Specifically?
“Smaller worship gatherings. The era of the large worship gathering is waning. Churches that are growing will likely do so through multiple services, multiple venues, and multiple sites. This trend will accelerate through the growing influence of Gen X and the Millennials.”

Scorecard: The seminal research work on religion and Millennials is the 2010 Pew Report, which provides the broadest, most helpful baseline on the faith and religious practices of Millennials. While the report does reflect key differences between Millennials and those who are older – Millennials attend church less often, are less likely to believe in God, more likely to be accepting of homosexuality, etc. – there isn’t strong evidence that Millennials that do attend church are any more or less likely to attend an “arena church” than anyone else. Rainer seems to be indicating that, because of Millennials, venues will become smaller, but I don’t see data supporting that assumption. In addition, there appears to be strong support behind the notion that megachurches are continuing to grow, not wane.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/february/explosive-growth-of-us-megachurches-even-while-many-say.html

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/the-super-sized-growth-behind-megachurches

http://www.religioninsights.org/articles/megachurch-trends

Result: Undetermined. To be fair to Rainer, he specifically refers to “arena churches” rather than “megachurches.” So let’s give him the benefit of the doubt with an “Undetermined.” As always, if you have comments or better data, please email me.


BONUS: What did Back to the Future get right about 2015?

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