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AD 2000: Prophetic or Target Date?

The year 2000 is the mother of all target dates, perfect for the end time missionary battle, claims Jay Gary. Date-setting seems to be a popular pastime these days. Like finely feathered darts, people are throwing dates all over the millennial dart board. 

The masters who play this A.D. 2000 game today, as the Washington Posts says, include prophets, visionaries, doomsayers, conspiracy hunters, survivalists, world-savers, peace-makers, cosmic party planners and global evangelists all kinds of holy fools!

Yes, global evangelists! Since the late ’80s, hundreds of evangelical leaders have been aiming at the year 2000. But the “time targets” by the global evangelists are of a slightly different nature than the “end-time” dates the bible prophecy movement continually comes up with.

This became even more apparent in May 1995 when the “AD2000 & Beyond” movement gathered more than 3,300 evangelical leaders in Seoul, Korea for a Global Consultation on World Evangelization.

First, these AD2000 proponents are quick to say they carry no eschatalogical significance. Second, they say they are like “moving targets,” or event horizons for the purpose of global planning in missions. Despite these built-in limits, AD2000 supporters bubble over with enthusiasm to reach the world for Christ by the year 2000.

Enthusiasm for world evangelism got its first boost among evangelicals one hundred years ago when they raised the standard, “The Evangelization of the World in this Generation.” Since then many global movements have carried the gospel pigskin onto the mission field, including the International Missionary Council, the Lausanne movement and the World Evangelical Fellowship.

Now the “AD 2000 & Beyond” movement is the latest gospel grid-iron team desiring to move the ball forward. Based on the activity at their recent congress, there is no doubt that we are late in the fourth quarter. In fact, GCOWE ’95 reminded us just how late it was, with just “5 minutes” to go until the year 2000.

When the clock runs out on this century, will our Lord say his Great Commission game plan has been fulfilled?

The AD2000 movement has chosen a double barrelled watchword to answer this question. It is “A Church for Every People and the Gospel for Every Person by the year 2000.” This is a brilliant, catchy retreading of the famous YMCA watchword, but with a new twist addeda specific “time target.” What’s more the “AD 2000 & Beyond” movement comes stamped with a shelf life, and has pledged to dissolve by year’s end 2001.

Apparently, evangelicals are growing up after nearly 150 years since the Adventist movement of William Miller. Date-setting the Second Coming and target-dating the fulfillment of the Great Commission are two different things altogether. And perhaps in the providence of God we might see the Great Commission fulfilled to a greater degree in the next century, and still not see the Second Coming of Christ.

But the question remains, “Will the year 2000 clock confirm or disconfirm the double goal of the AD2000 & Beyond movement?'”

Or to ask it another way, “Will the AD 2000 bubble of optimism burst? And if it does, will it leave the kind of disillusionment and cynicism the 1988 and 1994 prophecy dates did?”

It is unlikely, because date-setting and target dating are increasing becoming two different modern phenomena focused on the “end of an age.” Date-setting in bible prophecy takes a calendrical event as the terminus of the world. “It will be 1988 and I got 88 reasons why!”

Target-dating in world missions is open ended, and uses years such as 2000, 2010, 2025 or 2033 as event-horizons, or milestone dates for achievement.

Until the Christian public becomes more accustomed with mission target-dating, they will likely continue to confuse it with its apocalyptic cousin, date-setting.

Even the nature of target-dating in missions is two fold. The first leg of AD 2000 watchword stands for the beginning of the end of the Great Commission among every people group. In World War II terms it represents D-Day, not V-Day. Rather than setting the world aflame, it calls for placing a spark in every unlit tinderbox. Rather than gathering the end of the age harvest, it calls for putting a combine in every unreaped harvest field.

This level of understanding of the unfinished task and eschatology was evident at GCOWE ’95. Rather than promise to bring home a complete victory by 2000, AD2000 aspired to raise the play to a championship level. And now because of GCOWE ’95, evangelicals around the world have their game book filled with dozens of new plays, such as move into “Gateway Cities,” focus on “strategic partnerships,” and for heaven’s sake, don’t forget “warfare prayer.”

But will the “D-Day” dream of “A Church for Every People” indeed be fulfilled by the year 2000?

GCOWE 95 logoEveryone of course hopes so, and is cheering like mad for the home team. But unlike an event played out on a single football field, the the AD 2000 game will need to be won on more than 2,000 unreached people fields. Not even with 500-channel TV can we monitor something as diverse at that, or direct all the plays.

One of the hopeful signs coming out of GCOWE ’95 was the greater clarity among the offensive coaches, directed by Patrick Johnstone. In a plenary entitled, “A Strategy for the Final Push,” the British expert and author of “Operation World,” called for new mission work to focus on 12 “affinity groups,” containing 130 “gateway peoples,” rather than 2,000 separate unreached peoples.

The play book, according to Johnstone, would call for various affinity bloc conferences to meet over the course of the next year, representing both western and third world mission agencies, national church bodies and prayer networks. For example, the Malay “affinity group” conference would draw people from around the globe to focus on the South Asian Malay world. In this way, strategic partnerships among various teams could be formed for each gateway people. This would be repeated for each affinity group, whether for the Arab world, the Sahel Africans, Iranians, Turkics, East Asians, etc.

Will this “final push” game plan be enough to at long last fulfill Christ’s Great Commission by the year 2000?

At this point, few experts think so, but at least in A.D. 2000, when we celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of Christ’s first touch down on earth, we will be closer to the dream of “a church for every people.”

If we don’t reach the 2000 target date, yes, the AD 2000 & Beyond movement will disband, but the game goes on. It will be overtime for sure, but the world mission clock will be reset for a new period.

[This editorial by Jay Gary was released in conjunction with GCOWE 1995, a congress hosted by the AD 2000 & Beyond Movement in South Korea. They were distributed by Bimillennial Press via the Internet.]

Dr. Jay Gary is president of, a foresight consulting group. Over the past twenty years he has helped non-profits, foundations, civic leaders, and strategic alliances to create more promise filled futures. He also teaches strategic foresight, innovation and leadership at the graduate level and through professional development courses.

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