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September 1987


Editorial Comment

For Some the Year 2000 is too Far Away

Sign and Surprises - Can We Really Know When the Job is Finished?

Issachar: "Vendor of New Ideas"

A Spiritual Renaissance

Global Mapping Pre-Users' Conference "A Milestone"

Answers to One Man's Questions about the USCWM

Two Sure Winners for Children

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For some, the Year 2000 is too far away 

For others, the Year 2000 is too close 

For us the Year 2000 is just right

by Ralph D. Winter

In this issue George Otis, Jr. carefully addresses THE ISSUE: is there something special about the year 2000?

He mentions at least one person he knows for whom the Year 2000 is too close÷leading to the conclusion that to talk about completing the Great Commission by then is "rubbish."

But for everyone who has thought about it and concluded that we can't make it by the year 2000 (because the time is too short), there are 1,000 believers in this country for whom the year is too far away even to think about.

Robert Walker has been thinking about it, and he is not persuaded that it is impossible. But he knows there are many weighty factors. That's on page 8.

Let's stand back for a moment and try to see this issue in focus. The date of the year 2000 is not going to go away. But the question is what precisely do we think should or could be done by then?

The Roman Catholic tradition has a problem in defining the completion of the mission task. Their church government is so territorially defined that once a Bishop is appointed for a given geographical area, that area, by definition, is no longer a mission territory. Right after the 2nd WW, all over the world the Roman Catholics set up hundreds of new bishoprics, and in so doing wiped out as many mission fields. This action has severely confused for them the issue of what their mission orders are supposed to be doing.

The Protestants also have territorially defined church structures, but at least in America they have become used to the idea that structures like that can overlap with other denominations. The assumption underlying the very concept of a denomination is that no one church is the only church. That is, they have learned to get along with other churches.

In missions, however, they have painted themselves into somewhat the same corner. In many mission fields today, the older denominations especially have arrived at the idea that if in India there is a church, then there is not any room for any more denominations.

That is, once the "national" church is born abroad, then, whatever the name of the country, that new church movement is assumed to be official and authoritative for the entire country in which it is found.

The assumption is that no move can be made by any mission organization anymore unless "the" national church gives its OK. Which national church? There are 280 different Christian traditions in the Philippines. Which church is the one to call the plays? There are also dozens of tribal groups that do not yet have any indigenous church of their own. Which of the 280 existing denominations has authority over this or that tribal group? This perspective sounds Roman Catholic.

Biblically, neither countries nor national churches defined by political boundaries are primary, but rather the ethnic realities, the heartfelt, meaningful relations which are cultural and ethnolinguistic.

Biblically, it would seem, it is not a question of territorial termination of the mission cause, but it is a matter of fulfilling the Genesis mandate÷to be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth. There is more to the subject than this, but not less. Any year-2000 goal that fails to honor and respect these ethnic realities is missing a fundamental strategic consideration, which is profoundly Biblical as well.

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