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The Watchword and the Year 2000

On the 15th anniversary of the Watchword, “A Church for Every People by the Year 2000,” Jay Gary shared his reflections on the year 2000 as a symbol of hope. 
The awareness that the year 2000 would be a special season for Christ has been growing for some 20 years. The relationship between AD 2000 and the world mission of the church has particularly been highlighted since 1980 by the phrase, “A Church for Every People by the year 2000.” On the 15th anniversary of the watchword, this interview was conducted with Jay Gary from his home.

You were at the U.S. Center for World Mission when the watchword, “A Church for Every People by the Year 2000” was born? Tell us about it.
That was back in 1979. It was birthed through prayer one March evening at the home of Dr. & Mrs. Ralph Winter. They had invited the McGavrans over, along with two younger couples, Brad and Beth Gill, plus David and Debbie Bliss. When I first heard about this prayer meeting, I remember the excitement the watchword created in my heart. This was the first time anyone had linked the year 2000 with the unreached peoples. It released a whole new season of grace which led to the birth of the Perspectives program, the Edinburgh ’80 Consultation and the formation of the Caleb Project and Frontiers. According to Jeremiah 1:12, when God gives a word like this, He watches over it. He has done that for the past 15 years.

How did the year 2000 watchword influence you?
Back when I first heard it, it spoke more to me about the power of unreached peoples thinking. We shaped the entire Perspectives curriculum around the cry for “A Church for Every People.” By the mid-’80s, I began to pray more about the dynamic nature of “by the Year 2000.” I wrote an article which asked, “What’s the real chance that every individual on this planet will have a reasonable opportunity to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ by the year 2000?” This kind of “closure” thinking led me in 1989 to help plan the historic GCOWE 2000 meeting in Singapore. Again, I saw the power of the watchword give birth to a movementthis time the Decade of Harvest and AD 2000.

In your view, what is special about A.D. 2000?
On one hand, we can make too much of the year 2000. On the other, we might underestimate its meaning. In The Star of 2000, I compare this miracle year to a magnet hung in time. The drawing power of the year 2000 has attracted all kinds of causes. I think of it as a modern-day “Star of Bethlehem.” It’s not just the tape at the finish line, nor the times which really attract us. The real drawing power of A.D. 2000 is the treasure of Christ. The year 2000 is a milestone, but more than that, it is living memorial to the Lord Jesus Christ. Anno Domini 2000 speaks of the two-thousandth anniversary of the coming of Christ into the world. And over the past 2,000 years, Jesus has clearly been the most dramatic figure in world history. Regardless of what anyone believes about Jesus, it is hard to dispute the fact that he has been the most important and influential person who has ever lived. If Latourette [1884 – 1969, Yale historian] were alive today, he would remind us of these things.

So the year 2000 is an evangelistic symbol?
Yes, in a way it is. It proclaims the eternal gospel of God in a nutshell. It calls us to “remember Jesus Christ” and the miracle of the first Christmas. The only reason we have “Target 2000” programs today is that the Author of Life, first targeted and touched down on planet earth 2,000 years ago. The Decade of Harvest then is really a universal call to see Christ as the true Star of 2000, and come to Bethlehem to adore him. That is why I say the decade will culminate in a “celebration of centuries” in honor of Jesus Christ. The closer we get to 2000, the more our evangelistic cry will focus on Christ. The whole world ought to celebrate his touchdown on planet earth 2,000 years ago.

So your call to celebration is not a call away from evangelism?
No. We need more body life-celebration, we need more praise and worship in our cities. But I do not call the church to celebration in The Star of 2000. I call the church to Christ. The year 2000 has as much to do with Bethlehem’s Manger square as Time’s Square. It has been a tremendous mileage marker for missions, but first and foremost it witnesses to the mystery of God in Jesus Christ. I believe this Christ-centered perspective on A.D. 2000 will not only focus our hearts, but empower us to evangelize the world in a fuller and deeper way as we walk toward 2000.

Some are calling us to abandon our A.D. 2000 goals. Should we still be optimistic in looking towards closure?
Many in the world missions community have tied their wagon to the year 2000. Fulfilling the great commission by that milestone is a daunting task. So much so, that now at mid-decade, the AD 2000 Movement could face a crisis of hope. Neither false optimism nor pessimism will help us across this threshold. Only biblical hope will empower our journey. As someone once said, “The task ahead of us is never greater than the power behind us.” So before we lose faith, downscale our goals, or push back the horizon into the 21st century, I believe we should look to the heavens once again to catch sight of the true Star of 2000–Jesus. With a star of that magnitude on the horizon, there is no reason for the church to lose hope. So the year 2000 is more likely to become a stepping stone in world missions, rather than a milestone.

What do you see emerging as we head towards A.D. 2000?
Precisely because of Christ, the greatest evangelistic season in the history of the world is before us. From 1996 to 2001 we will likely see this commemorative era of Christ unfold with tributes being brought to Him from all nations. If recent history offers any clue, the celebrations of Jesus’ bimillennial will strengthen the church in many countries considered resistant to the gospel. The former Soviet Union surprised the world in 1987 when it allowed the Orthodox Church to hold millennial celebrations of the birth of Christianity in that country. In a similar way, as minority Christian communities in the 10/40 window catch a vision for celebrating Christ’s 2,000th anniversary, a great harvest could be reaped. I say, “Followers of Jesus, don’t lose heart. The Star of 2000 has arisen. Build yourselves up in the most holy faith. Your finest hour in world civilization is right around the corner.”

What then should the watchword say to us today?
It should tell us that God wants his house full. “A Church for Every People” means a house of worship among every people. And “by the year 2000” means that God is preparing a great banquet to honor his Son. It is time to tell the nations, “Come to the mountaintop, for everything is now ready. The feast is about to begin. Bring your gifts and tributes to the one and only Son.” The call to celebrate Christ during his coming 2,000th anniversary season is not a call to celebrate 2,000th years of church history, doctrine, or growth. It is not an anniversary to commercialize or trivialize. Neither should it be confused with efforts to link the return of Christ to 2000. The watchword reminds us that the nations must be invited to bring a distinct tribute to Christ on the 2,000th anniversary of his birth.

Why did you write The Star of 2000?
I wrote it to open a window on this decade of harvest. It is the first book to fully document the dream of the A.D. 2000 and speak toward its fulfillment. Chapter 10 presents a fresh look at frontier missions from a relational point of view. Chapter 8 talks about a symphony of prayer which is coming forth. Chapter 7 looks at whole cities. Chapter 6 gives the biblical basis for anniversaries. Chapter 5 documents five approaches to the year 2000. Chapter 3 gives the history of the 2000 vision. Chapter 2 is a tribute to Christ. As people have said, The Star of 2000 opens up an entirely new avenue of thought and ministry for the church in the second half of the ’90s. Don’t miss it.

Any closing words?
Star of 2000 book coverYes, the words of the great Apostle to the Gentiles: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:12). May our apostolic ambition always be renewed by apostolic hope. Christ is the hope of this hour. He is the Star of 2000.

The Star of 2000 (1994) by Jay Gary is the first inspirational book on A.D. 2000 to describe how the Decade of Harvest will culminate by commemorating the 2,000th anniversary of Christ.

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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