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The Birth of an AD 2000 Agenda

Note: This was one of three addresses Jay Gary presented to the press on August 16, 1990 at the “Congress on the Holy Spirit and World Evangelization” in Indianapolis.

Participants at Indianapolis '90

Participants at Indianapolis ’90

Calling the church to finish the task of world evangelization by the turn of the century is nothing new. One hundred years ago, evangelist D.L. Moody called for the completion of world evangelization by the year 1900.

Soon afterwards, in 1888, more than 1,600 Protestant mission leaders gathered in the great Centenary Conference in London to consider what could be done to divide the remaining unevangelized areas of the world among Protestant mission agencies.

Tragically so, this “Countdown to 1900” movement arose, peaked, declined, and saw its premature failure as a century’s end movement by 1894.

The history of world evangelization is littered with hundreds of well-intentioned calls and pronouncements that aroused enormous interest but came to nothing.

Our grandfathers of 1890 might well be compared to what the Scriptures say of Abraham and his sons, “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance” (Hebrews 11:13).

Gathering here at Indianapolis 1990, we find ourselves at a similar pointfacing a century’s end. This “Congress on the Holy Spirit and World Evangelization” is the first of three major Pentecostal/ Charismatic Congresses this year to take up the call of world evangelization by the year 2000. The next meeting will gather in a month in Rome, for the “Second Worldwide Retreat for Priests,” under the theme, “Called to Evangelize.” And the third major congress will gather next summer for “Brighton ’91,” under the leadership of the International Charismatic Consultation on World Evangelization.

The Need to Seize the Moment

I have the overwhelming conviction that we as leaders stand at a very crucial moment in history. Before us we have a brief window of opportunity during which decisive action is possible. We face a moment in history that can be compared to the “Exodus Generation,” as they camped at Kadesh Barnea. This was the time when the 12 spies came back from the promised land (Numbers 14).

We face a brief window of opportunity, perhaps from now until 1994, or 1995 at best, during which decisive action for AD 2000 is possible.

After that time, it may no longer be possible for even major movements to do anything substantial by the year 2000. Either we seize the day, or the time may come when we cannot go out and possess the land. If there is one lesson from history we must recognize it is this:

It is one thing to call for a decade of evangelization; it is entirely another thing to work toward its implementation.

In my opinion, the greatest deterrent to world evangelization is rhetoric by Christian leadersthe constant oration, discussion, and ventilation of issues about world evangelization, without any corresponding implementation.

For too long, the Christian world has been camped at Kadesh Barnea and allowed their discussions to go on without any reference to a global agenda. Conferences among Christians today have degenerated into an unending sequence of “concerns,” or “trends”, each of which are tried, consumed, and eventually discarded. The list of the “New Things to be Into” is practically endless: holistic ministry, power evangelism, mobilizing the laity, women in leadership, unreached peoples, and social action.

Each of these issues is discussed, documented, talked about among intelligent people for a while, held in respect by many, and at last accepted. A conference statement or book on the subject may even be adopted as a standard text for certain areas of study or dropped into a special, neat, compartment of contemporary studies, labeled as “important issues of contemporary missiology.” Yet the whole process does not make a perceptible difference in the life of a single person who lives without the gospel. As we enter the 1990s, this cycle must be broken.

This generation must stop its wandering in the wilderness. Some over arching agenda for change must be offered.

The Need for a New Agenda

In a world captivated by short-term causes, before us lies the year 2000. This millennial date can act as a built in framework to refocus our priorities on long-term solutions to difficult challenges in world evangelization.

A year ago, those of us working on this book “Our Globe and How to Reach It,” (Barrett and Johnson, New Hope, 1990) released the statistics contained in “Global Diagram 24” pertaining to the probable status of global Christianity at the end of the 20th century. Many were surprised that the present number of unevangelized persons in the world was so lowonly 24% of the world’s population or 1.3 billion. That was the good news.

The bad news was that the world was not being rapidly evangelized, as popularly thought, despite the massive global renewal we are experiencing. The conservative forecast for the year 2000 was that the unevangelized world would remain at 24%, if present trends continue. Of course, if church growth were to exceed today’s levels and jump definitely during this decade, the percentage of unevangelized persons in the world could conceivably drop from 24% to 16% (see chart). Even this is far short than this Congresses closure goal of 1% or less left unevangelized by the year 2000.

Clearly, if we are to address the challenges of the year 2000, major changes are necessary in how we think and carry out world evangelization.

This leaves us squarely with the need to forge a new agenda for the year 2000. We must ask ourselves questions such as: What would a global evangelization agenda for the year 2000 look like? What new gifts is God giving His church today that leaders must serve in light of AD 2000? How can we insure that the ’90s will really be a turnaround decade in evangelization? How can Charismatic leaders discern their distinct agenda for world evangelization in light of the year 2000?

In my opinion guidelines have already been developed that could be a starting point to answer these questions. “Our Globe and How to Reach It” offers three key breakthroughs in this area of an agenda for the year 2000:

The Starting Point

Our Globe and How to Reach ItFirst, “Our Globe” offers a concise authoritative view of the 1990 starting point from which we are working at in world evangelization.

On page 12, you will find a master diagram which puts the 32 remaining diagrams in perspective. Each of these numbered boxes represents a global diagram found on the succeeding pages. I want to call your attention to the column which describes the present, world status, contained in global diagrams 6 to 19.

Tremendous progress has been made by Christian researchers in the past 18 months in regards to global baseline statistics. This is especially needed when we are calling the church to complete the task of world evangelization by the year 2000.

The cry of the day is for more compassion, more credibility, and more cooperation. This comprehensive, concise view of the harvest field and harvest force we enter this decade allows us to think anew with clarity about the remaining task in reference to the year 2000.

Roughly speaking, as 1990 began, one-fourth of humanity was still unevangelized. This is a grand total that has remained unchanged for decades. All things being equal, we have left the tough work in world evangelization to last. Our present patterns of stewardship are totally inadequate to tackle this challenge.*

Unless changes are made now in how we think and carry out evangelization, we could see this decade slip by as well and be no closer to taking the gospel to the whole world.

My prayer is that the research in this book, and the power of its ideas, will provide the vocabulary and agenda for public discussion among Charismatics as to how to make the Decade of Evangelization an actual decade of stewardship.

The Finish Line

Second, “Our Globe” paints a picture of the overall aim of world evangelization in terms of AD 2000 goals.

No denomination, mission agency, or network can lay down strategies for the ’90s without working back from the goal of the world by 2000.

This is exactly what Part 5 of Our Globe provides. Starting on page 78, this section lists close to 200 goals for the year 2000 currently being pursued. These goal statements were compiled from a worldwide survey of Christian groups in the fall of 1988. A number of the goals received back from this survey originated in languages other than English, such as Bengali, French, Chinese, Korean, Telugu, German, and Spanish. This massive survey resulted in this composite list of 168 global goals which targeted the year 2000.

Some goals put forth by agencies were as straight forward as “place a Bible in the hands of every family on earth by 2000.” Others were broader in focus, such as Number 3: “Enroll 170 million Christians in a world prayer force promising to pray daily for successful closure of world evangelization” or Number 56: “Curtail by AD 2000 the worst manifestations of the world’s `structures of sin’ through determined Christian publication and activism.”

Each of these statements are a goal to complete an aspect of world evangelization by AD 2000, and to keep it completed beyond that date. It is not necessary for all 168 goals on this list to be achieved. If only 10 or at most 20 of these goals were to be achieved, then world evangelization would certainly be completed by anybody’s definition.

This effort represents the first time in history that world evangelization has been described so comprehensively from the standpoint of achievable goals for a decade. Calling for reasonable goals to be set for a decade, seems to be an idea that aid the church as it strives to make the Great Commission understandable and achievable over the course of a decade.

Hurdles to Be Overcome

The third major break through “Our Globe” provides is a “Global Action Plan.” This can be found in Part 6, starting on page 84.

As we enter this new decade, God is calling leaders from around the world to consider how they might serve those new things He is giving the church. Not only do new solutions need to be envisioned, but the side effects of proposed innovations need to be examined and blind alleys avoided.

On page 89, you see a checklist of more than 100 action points organized under eight (8) major headings. These points represent action steps that need to be implemented in the early ’90s if the overall year 2000 goal is to be reached. It was compiled over a six-month period by 13 missiologists, working from places as diverse as Rome, Singapore, London, or Nairobi.

A third of the 100 points put forward in this document deal with overcoming crucial problems which have eluded the best of evangelization plans in the past, such as point 56: “Redeploy Christian missionaries who work with heavily christianized populations to non-Christian populations.” Another third of the points invoke the aid of modern technology unavailable just 10 years ago to accelerate communications between leaders. The third and final groupings chart new territory, such as publish “a whole range of alternate future scenarios for AD 2000” or initiate mutual assessment of evangelization strategies between different groups become standard practice.

Since its unveiling in January of 1989, the Global Action Plan has stimulated further creativity, and caused its fair share of controversy. Initial media reports circulated after the “Global Consultation on AD 2000” in Singapore indicated that some leaders felt the Global Action Plan could be perceived as top-down planning, ignoring grass roots input.

It is true that no one world center could presume to organize the day-to-day evangelism of Christians everywhere. Yet that does not prevent Christian leaders from developing well thought-out strategies for evangelism at local, denominational, national, confessional, or global levels.

Despite its strong research base, its ecumenical backing, its publications and consultations, it is still too early to tell what impact this global checklist will have on the ever-narrowing window of opportunity for AD 2000.

Yet developing an agenda toward 2000 for evangelization is as essential as developing a Global Action Plan for world literacy, health care, environmental care, control of epidemics, control of terrorism, and the like. It is unlikely that we will see substantial progress in reaching the unreached by the year 2000 apart from fashioning an action plan like this.

This is an area where Pentecostal/Charismatic leaders need to put their attention. In the coming months, they need to spend much time praying through the shape of a global agenda for change in world evangelization as we approach the 21st Century. If this is to happen by 1993, it will require smaller working retreats of leaders following up these great 1990 and 1991 Congresses which will kick off the Worldwide Decade of Evangelization.

Speaking on behalf of the working group who fashioned this document, I commend this “Global Action Plan” to leaders worldwide who have a heart desire to bridge the remaining gap in world evangelization. Every national, regional, or international congress needs to give this document serious consideration.

Approaching the Year 2000

As we approach the 21st Century, humankind will be faced with an enormous array of mega-priorities, such as:

  • Solving world hunger
  • Readying disaster aid and relief
  • Saving the environment
  • Upholding human rights

Clearly as we approach the year 2000, the physical challenges that face our world are escalating. As Christians we need to be at the forefront on each of these issues.

In the ’80s, we wined and dinedbut now the waiter has brought the check.

As John Naisbitt says, “Those problems we do not willingly confront, it seems, are being thrust upon us. The 1990’s will force us to make choices about planetary concerns from nuclear accidents to chemical and environmental pollution.”

But a more over arching challenge remains. It is interconnected with the ones mentioned above, but is one that only Christians can tacklethat is: world evangelization.

World evangelization is the church’s monopoly.

Other than the church, who can preach the gospel? God has given an evangelistic monopoly to the church. If the church doesn’t preach the gospel, nobody else can. It is that serious. God has given us this sole privilege.

Many of you in this room represent the Christian media, some are publishers, others editors or broadcasters. You are an obvious leader in the march toward world evangelization. You have incredible influence in this area of forging an agenda for the year 2000. You can keep the Christian world honest as it promotes AD 2000 goals. You can analyze agendas, promote goals, point out short comings and publicize new innovations.

In 1961, John F. Kennedy called for America to put a man on the Moon by the end of that decade. The imagination of millions was stirred, and this vision shifted the priorities of the national budget, re-tooled hundreds of industries, and put sciences at the head of the class in thousands of high schools. Within eight years an American stepped on the surface of the Moon and the whole world watched in amazement.

Today God is speaking to His church about world evangelization by the year 2000. Before us is a decade of opportunity. It must become a decade of stewardship.

The time has come for the Christian world to capture a strategic vision for a decade.

We need to get excited as much about completing world evangelization as we have been about cleaning up the environment.

May God give you the potential to dig for answers and the ability to make relevant what is seemingly a far off issue agenda 2000.

*Today, some two decades after the release of the GCOWE 2000 global action plan, the Christian world has yet to embrace any over arching agenda in evangelization. To schedule an interview with Dr. Jay Gary on world evangelization in the early decades of the third millennium, use the contact form.

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