by Gary Corwin
Like it or not, the new millennium marks a watershed moment that Is fast approaching.
Like it or not, the new millennium marks a watershed moment that Is fast approaching. Media momentum on the subject is rising faster than a desert thermometer at high noon. It is a sure and certain event that can’t help but generate some intriguing questions.
For those of us involved in ministry, one of the most intriguing is whether the dawn of the new millennium will be remembered primarily as a triumphant culmination of massive worldwide missions mobilization, or as the day that civilization as we have known it died.
Those most removed from Western media may not be aware of the havoc that is predicted when the "millennium bug" strikes (millions of lines of antiquated computer code reading 1900 when the calendar flips over to the year 2000). Given all the computer dependencies built into our global society, and the prospect of hundreds of interdependent computer systems crashing, the potential implications are daunting to contemplate.
At a minimum, mission leaders ought to ponder some very basic questions. For example, where should their missionaries be physically when that fateful time comes? (Probably not on an international flight if traffic control is going to be as disrupted as some predict.) And what preparations should be made to assure that missionaries are not left without sustenance and guidance when normal banking, commerce, and communication are disrupted? Additionally, of course, we urgently need to plan ministry strategies that will enable God’s servants to be agents of mercy and grace to the suffering among whom they dwell.
But beyond these important practical questions lies a more fundamental and profound one-Who is right about the year 2000, the pessimists or the optimists? This question certainly has bearing in the AD2000 vs. Y2K sense, but it has enormous meaning within each sphere as well. Some within the AD2000 movement broadly defined are quite certain that evangelization goals will be met, while others are just as sure that they will not. There is, likewise, quite a spectrum of Y2K analysis, with the doomsayers and the Pollyanna crowd about evenly matched.
There is a joke I’ve long enjoyed which asks the question, "What is the difference between an optimist and a pessimist?" The answer, appropriately offered after a pregnant pause, is that the pessimist usually has a better grasp of the facts. This joke conveys a lot of truth in a human and short-term sense, but it demonstrably misses the mark when a long-term and God-centered perspective is taken. Why so? Because God has already declared the victory and revealed its nature in his Word. The peoples of the world will be evangelized and God’s reign will one day be acknowledged by all.
By the year 2000? I don’t know, but I do know what our posture ought to be. Like Jonathan in 1 Samuel 14 we need to be focused on the possibilities rather than paralyzed by the problems. Oh, Jonathan was well aware of the problems, which were enormous by any reckoning. Chapter 13 makes clear that the Israeli army was in desperate straits-vastly outnumbered, totally outgunned, demoralized to the core, and with a leader (King Saul) who stood under the judgment of God because of his willful and presumptive sin. A bleaker situation is difficult to imagine.
Yet in this dark context Jonathan kept his eyes on his great God, and he saw a great possibility. Now he didn’t presume to know God’s mind in the matter for sure, but he knew it was worth a venture because God was certainly able to give them the victory if he so chose. Verse 6: "Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving,whether by many or few." Once given a go-ahead sign from the Lord, therefore, Jonathan and his armor-bearer went forth against all odds and did what they could do. And as the story ends, God did all the rest, giving Israel a great victory over the Philistines because two men focused on the possibilities rather than the problems.
As we in the missions community move forward in these final 15 months before the dawning of the year 2000, let’s not be presumptuous in either ignoring the problems or failing to plan appropriately for them, nor in pretending to understand that which is inscrutable in the plans and mind of God. Instead, let us venture forth in light of the grand and great possibilities of what God may want to accomplish in world evangelization in spite of the problems.
Y2K is likely to cause some serious logistical and economic tremors. Focus on AD2000 is likely to spawn some serious triumphalism, as well as some serious second guessing ("If only we had. . . ."). Fear, however, does not have to rule the day. God delights in displaying his strength and faithfulness through our weakness. Like Paul, we can say, "When I am weak, then I am strong." Like Jonathan, our part is simply to dare to trust him enough to see the possibilities.
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