This is a briefing paper presented to the press on August 16, 1990 at the "Congress on the Holy Spirit and World Evangelization" in Indianapolis.
We have gathered here at this Congress in anticipation of the most extraordinary moment in human history--the year 2000.
In our day and time, futurists, trend watchers and global planners and have all had their eyes fixed on the year 2000.
To Christians at this Congress, however, it is no accident that the final decade of this Millennium is also the final decade of a century marked by the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit ever recorded in Christian history.
The next ten years has been heralded as the "most important decade in the history of civilization, a period of stunning technological innovation, unprecedented economic opportunity, surprising political reform, and great cultural rebirth." (Megatrends 2000, p. 11).
The final decade of the 20th century may well prove to he the greatest decade in Christian history for signs and wonders, miracles, conversions, evangelism, and the greatest wonder of them all: Christians loving one another and gathering in unity everywhere.
Speaking of the importance of the year 2000, corporate guru and social forecaster, John Naisbitt observes in Megatrends 2000, that "the year 2000 compels us to examine ourselves and resolve our problems so we can meet the Third Millennium with a clean slate."
Symbol of the Future
Clearly, the year 2000 is the most compelling symbol of the future in our lifetimes.
In our world we have faced over arching symbols, but most of them have been symbols of the past, not metaphors of the future. Only recently have we been released from the Cold War, a symbol of the past whose shadow was cast by World War II. The "Cold War" has now passed off the scene--what may take its place is not yet apparent.
In this intervening period looms the year 2000. For centuries this date has ignited our vision for a better world--alongside nightmares of the world's end.
No milestone before or beyond, has gathered about itself such extraordinary prophetic bets as the year 2000. Not 1000, 1792, 1844, 1914, 1984, 2020, 3000, ...not even 2001.
Latter day seers, theologians, psychics and visionaries, from Isaac Newton to Nostradamus, Martin Luther to Hal Lindsey, have long taken the year 2000 as the terminus point for humankind.
Correspondingly so, the year 2000 has also been history's most: mentioned gateway to the New Jerusalem, the New Age, the New Humanity. This viewpoint sees the door of the 20th century closing on the past and embarking upon a whole new era of human history. The coming New Century is to our century's end, what the Renaissance was to the Middle Ages.
Whether the year 2000 brings us Armageddon or a Golden rage, it would seem that humanity has never collectively faced such a widely agreed upon milestone.
For Christians, in the '70s, it seemed as if the year 2000 might never arrive, given the rash of born-again predictions arguing that the 'signs of the times" pointed to Christ's immediate return.
But the mid-1980s witnessed a reversal. By 1987 the year 2000 had become such a favorite target for evangelists, that Dr. Thomas Wang, the former international director of the Lausanne movement began asking his now familiar question, "By the Year 2000: Is God Trying to Tell something?"
Recently, computer literature searches revealed more than 2,000 books since 1950 had dealt with some aspect of the year 2000 or the turn of the Millennium, and another 15,000 journal articles had attempted to do the same.
More than one group has already begun to plan for our maiden voyage into the bird Millennium. Founded y a group of Yale graduates of the class of 1979, who realized their 20th year reunion would come in 1999, "the Millennium Society, on December 21, 1999, will bring together aboard the Queen Elizabeth II some 2,000 of the world's most 'inspiring' people." (Schwartz, Century's End, pg. 276). Among those invited on the millennial cruise are Steven Speilberg, Corazon Aquino, Ronald Regain, Despond Tutu, Michael Jackson, and Deng Xiaoping.
Not to lag behind, an enterprising Christian group by the name of Candlewax of San Francisco has begun to make detail plans for a CELEBRATION 2000, as "an offering of praise and honor to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Christian groups from across the world will be invited to share how close they have come to reaching to goals they have set for the year 2000.
CELEBRATION 2000 will be a proclamation of "Faithfulness in Jesus Christ 2000 AD" through the arts, drama, and music. According to their director Dr. George Heiner, they have copyrighted a "Celebration AD 2000" logo and have licensed it to more than a 100 groups.
This fall they plan to release a musical album entitled Mission 2000 AD along with cassette interviews of Pat Robertson, Bill Bright, and Loren Cunningham, to name a few.
Clearly, the year 2000 has become synonymous with our future and what we will make of it.
According to Naisbitt, the year 2000 is like a huge electro magnet, "already pulling forth bold experiments in market socialism, a spiritual revival, and a burst of economic growth around the Pacific Rim" (Naisbitt, Megatrends 2000, p. 16).
Aiming at 2000
Not a week passes in 1990 when a new group somewhere in the world does not set their goals with reference to the year 2000, goals for ending hunger, goals for a drug-free society, or goals for curing cancer.
The power of the year 2000 has also drawn a response from all major confessions of global Christianity.
In anticipation that the final decade of the 20th century would witness the greatest spiritual harvest the world has ever seen, Christianity's largest denominations have dedicated the years 1991-2000 to world outreach.
The Assemblies of God call their program the "Decade of Harvest." The Anglican Communion calls it the "Decade of Evangelism," Roman Catholics are preparing for a "Worldwide Decade of Evangelization" in response to the call of Pope John Paul II for a "New Evangelization." Other groups which have found the century's end a suitable target include programs such as Campus Crusade's "New Life 2000," the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada's "Vision 2000" or "The World by 2000" coalition of Protestant missionary radio broadcasters, to name a few.
Dr. David Barrett, mission researcher and author of the World Christian Encyclopedia, recently wrote about the AD 2000 focus as one of 20 global trends which have emerged since 1980, and one which was completely unanticipated until 1986 (Our Globe, p. 33).
Previously in 1988, Barren released a landmark study uncovering this emerging "AD 2000 movement" under the title of Seven Hundred Plans to Evangelize the World. He documented how from the early '80s, year 2000 plans began to mushroom. From seven in the 1970s, they increased to 57 global plans in the 1980s. He writes: "At this rate we can certainly expect 150 or more new, serious, AD 2000 global plans by 1999--or even thousands more if panic or hysteria sets in."
Even two years ago, David Barrett could not predict Christian leaders from more than 50 countries would hold national consultations on the year 2000, including Canada, Yugoslavia, Ireland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Italy, Costa Rica, Argentina, India, and Brazil.
I would wager to say that never in the history of the Church have so many leaders of so many denominations, in so many countries, felt God saying such similar things to them about such a specific decade. This is clearly the Holy Spirit speaking to the Churches.
The very fact that we recently discovered that more than 100 different groups in the world have the same idea about the year 2000 is a most encouraging, confirming factor. If 10 major groups had that idea, independently of each other, that could be a law of accident. If 30 major groups came up with the same focus that might stretch the imagination.
But according to Dr. Phil Hogan of the Assemblies of God--Springfield, to realize that more than 100 groups are making plans to fulfill the Great Commission by the end of this millennium has to confirm the fact that we are passing through a spiritual epoch, perhaps, unlike anything that has ever happened in the history of the Church.
How else could 100 different groups come to this idea without the sovereign move of the Spirit?
As Dr. Thomas Wang, of the Great Commission Seminary says, "It's as if God is ringing a bell in heaven, saying: it's time to wake up; you've been sleeping; it's time to get serious you've been procrastinating; it's time to get together, you've been divided; it's time to put aside all lesser concerns; it's time to get the job by the year 2000."
A Dress Rehearsal
Of course, between now and the year 2000, we will experience other milestones. Take 1992. It has been said that "Europe discovered the Americas in 1492, and now 300 years later, in 1992, Europe will discover Europe." The end of 1992 is the beginning date of the 12-country "Common Market," a Europe without frontiers. In anticipation of this coming global economic reality, the international business community is already talking and planning for 1992 as if it were already here. The 1992 Olympics and World's Fair have been scheduled for Barcelona and Seville. In the same way, they will celebrate 500 years, or the quincentennial opening of a New World by Christopher Columbus-the Christ-bearing Dove.
The American Catholic Bishops have recognized this significance and are already making plans for 1992, to celebrate the advent of Christianity in the western world.
At the end of 1992, the Bishops plan to issue a call to evangelization in view of the year 2000. One of the significant things about this 1992 celebration, according to Father Alvin Illig, of the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association, is this celebration should hold as much meaning for Protestants as for Catholics, since in 1492, the Church had not yet experienced the schisms brought by the Reformation.
More and more, 1992 is becoming elevated to the status of a half-millennial celebration--a looking forward to the opening of a New World, by a united Europe. Seen from this light, 1992 is a practice run for the much larger milestone of AD 2000 which will open a new world to a new millennium.
As we approach the turn of the century, the legend around this millennial date can only grow, given a generation that has experienced the American Bicentennial, Earth Day 1990, or Europe 1992.
As we gather here in Indianapolis, we must ask: "Is God really trying to tell us something? "Where will this spiritual revival take us over the course of this decade?"
Will the Church possibly attain by AD 2000--what "kings and prophets longed to dream of--the completion of world evangelization?"
"Or will this collection of evangelistic efforts peak and fizzle out as others have done in previous century end?"
We have gathered here to launch a Decade of Evangelization. I believe we are, as some speakers have already said, said, in the moment of "kairos," a God-given moment. We cannot let it pass by. It may not come again for us.
In my opinion, coming to grips with the meaning of the year 2000 is real story behind this Congress.