Here are some predictions about what the New Year might have in store for us. I’m not saying these will all definitely happen but it might be interesting to look back at the end of the year and see how many I did get right.
I expect this year to be when the pandemic finally comes to an end. The virus is probably with us to stay but expect it to move from epidemic to endemic this year. Don’t be surprised if we see a few more variants of concern including some quite scary looking ones with multiple mutations and vaccine escape like Omicron. However, the overall impact of prior infection and vaccination will mean that our experience of the disease will become less and less severe. This will mean that we’ll see far higher daily case numbers than we experienced in 2021 by the end of the year but much fewer hospital admissions and deaths.
I would not be surprised to see a vote of confidence in Boris Johnson and a Tory leadership election this year as MPs looking to protect marginal constituencies increasingly see the PM as a liability. With Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak as the front runners this means we are likely to see either Britain’s third woman Prime Minister of first from an Asian background. Indeed, both possibilities could become a reality together if Priti Patel also makes a pitch for the leadership.
The new prime minister is likely to seek their own mandate either towards the back end of 2022 or in early 2023. Popularity with Conservative Party members may not translate into success with the electorate and so my current expectation is that the election will be close with a hung parliament and potentially a minority Labour Government.
The Green Party will do well but the Liberal Democrats will continue to struggle. All by-election seats will revert to their traditional incumbent parties. The Conservatives will continue to lose ground in their heartlands whilst also losing a significant number of their former red-wall seats in the north.
Aware that they will need to win votes in Scotland and potentially depend on SNP support to form a government at Westminster, Labour may well make a manifesto commitment to hold a new independence referendum for Scotland. Such a vote when it comes will be too close to call though the nationalists will not be able to use anti Tory sentiment in their favour during the campaign.
After a few scares along the way President Macron will come through comfortably for a second term in France. The US midterms will result in heavy losses for the Democrats but don’t expect this to lead to a return for Donald Trump in 2024.
North Korea will unsettle the West with new ballistic missile testing. However it will be Iran that will cause greatest concern and the US may choose to launch pre-emptive military strikes in respond to international terrorism and in order to prevent Israel being drawn into a wider conflict.
Several EU countries including Poland and Hungary will seek to follow the UK in holding their own exit referendums.
Expect further disruption to the supply chain in early 2022 whilst tax rises and measures to stall rising inflation will also begin to bite. However, overall the economy should recover to pre-COVID levels.
As always, there will be some who benefit extremely well from whatever happens to the economy. Some will make and grow their fortunes but many vulnerable people will be left behind and continue to struggle with extreme poverty and deprivation.
The England Cricket team will continue to do badly. Emma Radicanu will win her first Wimbledon title. Piers Morgan will announce that he always believed in her. Who knows what will happen with Bradford City, there will be rumours of further take overs though. It is possible that they will make a late run into the playoffs but whatever happens, Derek Adams will move on at the end of the season either sacked for failure or looking for his next opportunity after play off success. Stuart McCall will once again be linked with a return to the club, this time as Director of Football as part of a take over consortium.
England will go into the world cup with high expectations but performances will be disappointing. They will once again go out on penalties in either the quarter finals or semi-finals.
I don’t really know what will happen in terms of International Rugby but as with cricket and tennis, most people won’t really be bothered unless one of the home nation teams does particularly well in which case we’ll turn out to be a rugby-mad nation and everyone will go out and buy the kit.
I will be writing in a little more detail about this in the coming days but I think that the significant issue for many of us over the next few years will be the implications of the post-pandemic environment.
First of all, I expect there to be a real challenge in terms of international/cross cultural mission with western missionaries being wary of travelling to places where vaccination rates remain low and outbreaks of coronavirus continue to give concern. This will encourage a shift to non-Western mission.
Sadly, I would not be surprised to see further, significant scandals hitting the church.
In person attendance will remain below pre-COVID levels. Some churches will have experienced growth as members have transferred from those that struggled to respond to the pandemic but others will experience significant decline and even be at risk of closure. We will begin to see further engagement with the Gospel from people who started to engage during the pandemic but it will take time for this to filter into regular attendance.
A lot of professing Christians will remain in effect “de-churched” relying on informal fellowship and online content for spiritual sustenance. Even when attending in person, don’t be surprised to see this become less frequent with “regular attendance” meaning every 4-6 weeks for many. At the same time engagement with small groups for community, pray and Bible study may well grow.
I expect those churches that are most likely to thrive post pandemic to be those which were either small but had a strong community/body fellowship or were larger with health small group ministry. Churches will need to look hard at how to serve and witness in a world where people are still wary of large gatherings in packed venues.
I think that this will be a challenging time for many traditionally evangelical churches. At the same time I would not be surprised to see a greater appetite for God’s Word from Christians and seekers more generally.
How sure can we be?
Of course, we can all make our predictions and if we predict enough things/keep our projections generic enough/set enough caveats then there’s a good chance that some of them will come true. However, these are not prophecies and so I may be completely wrong about what will come up.
What we can be certain of is that there will be no surprises for God, that he will remain sovereign and that he will continue to build his kingdom. We don’t know when Christ will return. It could even be this year -and wouldn’t that be wonderful. But we do know that each day this year will mean we are another day closer to when we see Jesus face to face.
What are your predictions and do you agree/disagree with mine? Join in via the comments section below.