Five Trends To Watch
In part one of this “Courageous Resilience” series, we laid a foundation for the challenges before us in 2024. Now, let’s get practical about the snowfall predictions. What should we be watching out for in 2024? I’ll do my best to make some predictions. At the end of the year, we can assess how well I did. Each of these points has significant worldview implications. I will then offer a rubric for responding well.
1. 2024 Will Reveal An Acute Political Moment: 2024 is a presidential election year in the United States. It seems every presidential election, in recent years, has become more contentious than the last. Part of this has to do with a growing worldview divide in the west. Secularism is on the rise and because Millennials and Gen Z are affiliating less with organized religion, they are replacing it with political engagement (at least on certain causes they care about). The result: politics is now a religion. Trump v. Biden, then, is a battle between two saviors, not a debate over ideas and policies. So, this year, expect to hear a lot about Christian Nationalism, abortion, free speech, identity politics, open borders and more. We must learn how to apply Biblical principles to these issues. The problem, recently, has been that people are reading the same Bible yet coming to different conclusions. Expect, again, to see Christians attacking other Christians. People will leave churches because they don’t agree politically with other people in the pews. My hope, however, is that this time around, we can learn to disagree without demonizing. Don’t get me wrong, there are important issues. Debate the issues! However, when the debate is done, love your brother and sister.
2. 2024 Will See A Continued Normalization Of The Gender And Sexuality Narrative: This issue has steadily grown in influence and acceptance over the last 10-15 years. June has become a holy month on the secular calendar. Last year was the first time I said, “We are not going to Target in June.” A few years ago, a San Francisco choir “jokingly” sang that they were “coming for our children.” The goal? Normalize the gender and sexuality narrative at the youngest ages. Except they were serious! Now, nearly every cultural institution is mirroring the same message: entertainment (even Disney!), the military, medicine, education, and yes, a growing number of churches. The recent conference from Andy Stanley and announcement from the Vatican are evidence of this reality. As a result, if you disagree, it will require courageous reliance to stay true to the Gospel.
3. 2024 Will Bring Continued De-Legitimization of Institutions. Yuval Levin wrote a wonderful book a few years ago entitled, “A Time To Build.” In the volume, he argued that, for a society to flourish, it must build strong institutions promoting civic and relational connectedness. The problem is people have no allegiance to institutions anymore. Case in point: many people in Congress do not appear interested primarily in serving the country. Rather, they want to get famous by building their social media platforms (Obvious examples are Alexandria Ocasio Cortez on the left, and Lauren Boebert on the right). No wonder Congress has an abysmal approval rating. However, it does not stop with government. Media, medicine, and even churches have all taken a hit in recent years. The COVID pandemic put the CDC, NIH, and WHO on the hot seat—and they are still are to this day. The average person feels that no one is telling the truth. Election integrity will be a big issue this year and it will be interesting to see how people respond to the outcome.
4. 2024 Will Cause A Re-Focus on the Nuclear Family: As a result of my first three predictions, I am hopeful these last two will bear positive fruit. Parental rights became a lightning rod issue in the Virginia Gubernatorial election. Beware infringing upon parent’s rights to raise their own children! This has facilitated an exponential rise in homeschooling. Expect this trend to continue as more and more people don’t trust outside influences with the youngest among us. I also expect to see the rise of alternative media choices driven by this re-focus on the nuclear family.
5. 2024 Will Cause A Resurgence of Spiritual Formation: Finally, I believe the church will recognize that the spiritual formation of the next generation is crucial to our mission. In 2017, Rod Dreher famously wrote a book called, The Benedict Option. His essential argument was that Christians have lost the culture war. Therefore, we should retreat and invest in our own institutions—classical schools, churches, businesses, etc.—for the purpose of discipling the next generation in the Christian worldview. At my own church, programs like AWANA, homeschool co-ops, and mentoring programs are popular and on the rise. This is a good thing—and I pray it continues. Some will argue that, if you retreat from the rest of culture, you are sacrificing mission. I understand that argument. However, I’m not sure how effective the mission is if you lose soldiers in the process. The truth is, some people can handle it and have a natural gift of evangelism. Others (and I am particularly thinking of young kids here) cannot. The bottom line: we need to know what we believe, be able to articulate and defend what we believe, and be confident in our identity in Christ. We need to be resilient. Then you go into battle.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part two of a three part series on courageous resilience.