Ralph Winter and the Year 2000
A Passion for Understanding
by John A. Holzmann
My interest in the countdown to the year 2000 has nothing to do with trying to predict the return of Christ. I dont know when that will happen. None of us does. My concern for what can happen by the year 2000 arises simply from a desire to perceive what God is doing in the world today.
Desire may be too mild a word. Dr. Ralph Winter has a passion.
Will we be like the people who were praying for Peters release from prison? When the servant girl announced his presence at the front door, they said, Dont bother us! Cant you see were praying?!
Winters favorite Bible passagescertainly those he quotes most oftenare those that have to do with people who fail to see or understand what is going on around them.
Which will we be? he recently asked his staff at the U.S. Center for World Mission. Will we be like Simeon who was waiting and looking and desiring the coming of Jesus? Or will we be like the city of Jerusalem as a whole, failing to see their Savior come?
Winters concern for seeing, for perceiving, for understanding, permeates his life. We need to keep our souls diligently, he says. We need to keep our vision.
Indeed, vision is one of the most valuable assets Winter believes he can give away. Do you realize, he says, whole nations have destroyed themselves through lack of hope? Theyve failed to reproduce fast enough to maintain their population. They see no future for themselves. Its hope that gives people a reason to live.
He cites the example of an American indian tribe that was declining in population until the Gospel came, at which point their numbers started to skyrocket.
Winter is not himself on the front lines of mission work, preaching the Gospel to those who have not heard. But he believes he has the special privilege of helping Christians to see reasons for hope that the mission task can be completed.
But what gives hope? Is it a mere recitation of facts?
No, he says, using another favorite illustration. Facts are important, but its far too easy to be like a dog in a museum, seeing everything and understanding nothing.
He cites a recent and, to him, shocking disparity in the interpretation of facts by two evangelical leaders. One was floundering in the depths of despair; the other saw reasons for hope. Our very mood affects our interpretation, Winter says. Facts must be seen through the eyes of faith.
When he heard the news that China once more is clamping down on house churches (see p. 20), his face clouded for a minute and with bitter irony he gave his own version of Chairman Mao: Let a hundred flowers bloomthen chop them down!
His countenance brightened a moment later, however. You know, he said, its amazing! Our focus is so often directed at the number of Christians in prison, and how free we are to worship or preach the gospel, we fail to notice: Why do so many mighty empires have as one of their major goals this matter of getting rid of Christians and destroying Bibles? Over and over again we see great empires fighting, fighting, fightingagainst what? Of what are they afraid?
Will the Chinese government ever realize theyre fighting a hopeless battle? Already, there may be twice as many Christians as there are Communist Party members. Thirty-six percent of the Soviet populace is known to be Christian; they outnumber the Party seven to one . . . .
Winter privately admits to a dream that some of the worlds governments will be toppled by a power from withina revolution of the Gospel. He refers to the dramatic changes that took place overnight in Guatemala under the leadership of Rios Montt, a staunch evangelical. Its coming! he says. A Gospel revolution is coming.
He pauses for a moment. But then I wonder: Will we see it when it comes? Will we be awake to see it? Will we be looking? Or are we going to be like the five foolish virgins who didnt bring enough oil for their lamps . . . ?