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A Church for Every People Beyond 2000

In 1995, Jay Gary was the first world mission leader to call the church to focus beyond AD 2000 goals in evangelization.

The mid-decade check up
Beyond 2000
In May, 1995, the AD2000 and Beyond Movement (Colorado Springs, Colo.) convened the Global Consultation on World Evangelization, GCOWE ’95 in Seoul, South Korea, as a “mid-decade check-up.”

While delegates heard encouraging trends in Third-World missions and national initiatives, few reports dealt with the diminishing chances to reach the goal of “A Church for Every People by the Year 2000.” Within a month, a “Beyond 2000” e-mail forum was formed to correct this oversight, and to ask some tough questions, such as, How can we:

  • measure whether the world is reached by 2000?
  • project the work that is undone into the next century?
  • steward the millennial symbols with credibility?

In these electronic discussions, now sponsored by the International Society for Frontier Missions, participants agreed that the double goal of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement (“A Church for Every People and the Gospel for Every Person”) is “not impossible,” but its probability of completion is hovering at “5 percent or less.” Given these slim chances, many leaders are now turning their attention to what lies beyond 2000.

Should we look beyond 2000? Over the past five years, David Barrett’s bimonthly newsletter has documented many new efforts among the leastevangelized. With its 41st issue last August, however, Barrett’s periodical changed its name from “A.D. 2000” to “A.D. 2025 Global Monitor.” Barrett now feels “A.D. 2000 is too close for goals related to comprehensive evangelization of the unreached.”

He projects a scenario of 1 billion unevangelized in A.D. 2000, gradually falling to 600 million in A.D. 2025. From a demographic perspective the year 2025 makes sense. The new projected date is a generation of 30 years into the future and consistent with the United Nations Demographic Database, upon which all population projections for countries, peoples, cities, and provinces are made.

Are we past the time for world missions to consider the millennium as a finish line for frontier missions? Has the time come to drop A.D. 2000 as an event horizon for frontier missions? If we did, where would that leave “A Church for Every People by the Year 2000”?

A team for every people
Few leaders have stepped forward with answers to these tough questions, but it appears that since GCOWE ’95 some have modulated their tone. Instead of promising a full-blown church-planting movement among every remaining unreached people by 2000, they now seem to be talking about “minimal” goals for 2000. Rather than “A Church for Every People,” people are describing these goals in terms like “A Prayer for Every People,” or “A Team for Every People” by the year 2000.

One example is the recent rollout by the AD2000 and Beyond Movement of the “Joshua Project 2000” plan. This new “Adopt-A-People” scheme, which reaches full zenith by October, 1997, calls for some 2,000 lay teams to conduct on-site research and prayer walks among the 2,000 remaining unreached peoples. A prayer and a team for every people figure highly in these plans.

After GCOWE ’95, Patrick Johnstone, author of Operation World, said, “[It is] our part to have laborers actually working at discipling every significant people before 2001. It is the Holy Spirit’s part to give the increase and breakthroughs.”

Johnstone went on to note that many of their WEC “teams have been working for 20 years in hard areas before the breakthrough came.” If Johnstone’s view reflects current sentiments, it would appear that the church needs to affirm starting strategic work among the unreached “by the year 2000,” while realizing that this work might not bear its fruit until long “beyond 2000.”

What does this mean for the watchword of “A Church for Every People by the Year 2000”? Will this rally cry have a future beyond 2000? Mission leaders are now asking, Will there be a successor to the year 2000, or will it be the last global milestone for world evangelization? Is there a way to maintain a time-target focus for missions into the 21st century?

Ironically, given the immensity of the unfinished task, the closer we get to A.D. 2000, the less likely it will be a milestone, and more likely it will be a stepping-stone in world evangelization. Rather than the tape at the finish line, the real significance of A.D. 2000 might well be its power to remind us of the historical significance of Jesus Christ.

The anniversary attraction
If it were time to commemorate the 2,500th anniversary of Aristotle or 100th birthday of Einstein, we would likely reflect on the impact that philosophy or physics has had on our lives. Now at the year 2000, we are at a unique position to weigh the life, legacy, and lordship of Jesus Christ. It will be appropriate for anyone, not just Christians, to ask, What is unique and universal about the life of Jesus? and Why have the ethics of this poor man from Nazareth so deeply affected the cultures that followed him over the past 20 centuries?

Just as Columbus was the historical figure to deal with during the 1992 quincentennial, so Christ will be the pivotal person from 1999 to 2001. We must not let the world miss his significance. Rather than a milestone, A.D. 2000 is likely soon to be seen as a memorial to Christ, in light of his 2,000th anniversary. In preparation for this anniversary season until 2001, the United Prayer Track of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement, led by C. Peter Wagner, recently convened a “Jerusalem 2000 Celebration.”

A bimillennial perapective
Beyond 2000, how will the church think about its mission at the dawn of the third millennium? Last year, DAWN leader Jim Montgomery declared that in the case of saturation church planting movements, the year 2000 should be seen as a beginning, rather than an end. More mission leaders are echoing Montgomery’s conclusionthe task of frontier missions will not reach closure by 2000.

Rather than the end of frontier missions, it will likely be seen as a beginning. But given the intensity of the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ, it is likely that A.D. 2000 strategic thinking could eventually focus on the year 2033, the 2,000th anniversary of his death, resurrection, the giving of his Great Commission, and his ascension. Other intermediate years could also serve as mission milestones: A.D. 2010, the centennial of Edinburgh; 2017, the quincentennial of the Reformation; or 2025, the quarter century mark. But clearly A.D. 2033, the second bimillennial of Christ, will carry immense symbolic importance for the mission of the church. It will be the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of the church.

We should not abandon our goals for the year 2000. Society has been building its bimillennial paradigm for some 30 years. If in the providence of God we maintain momentum through the turn of the millennium, we might live to see “A Church for Every People” fulfilled by the 2,000th anniversary of Calvary.

Dr. Jay Gary served as the director of Celebration 2000 from 1992 to 2000. He is the author of The Star of 2000 (Bimillennial Press, 1994). His mission experience ranges from developing the Perspectives study program in the late ’80s to serving as the consultation director of GCOWE 2000 in 1989. This article was published in the July 1996 by Evangelical Missions Quarterly (ISSN 014-3359), volume 32, number 3. It is posted here by permission. EMQ, P.O. Box 794, Wheaton, IL 60189, (708) 653-2158


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