Whats Different About That?
J. Philip Hogan
Until that fateful moment arrives for the return of Christ, the world will undoubtedly continue to trudge along. Clocks and calendars will constantly remind us that a mysterious quality called time accompanies our existence and limits our sojourn. And, if our Lord delays His coming, many of us will soon enter a new centurythe 21stwith little or no recognition of the significance of that day.
A new calendar will hang upon our wall, reminding us that we have begun the year 2000. But that date will actually serve no greater purpose than that of a buoya simple marker in an endless ocean of time that will notify us that we have reached a certain point in our journey through human history.
For some, the year 2000 will be a bit more meaningful than for others. After all, the year will naturally lend itself to a review and analysis of the previous 100 years. Researchers and historians will recall the 20th century, recounting its breathtaking changesboth for progress and for deterioration.
For the New Testament Christian, however, the approach of this momentous event provides a unique opportunity to analyze our position in history before the rest of the world.
If we do that, we will undoubtedly realize that God has developed a pattern throughout history of employing periods of natural change to incorporate His own purposes. God has habitually used the closing of the old and the beginning of the new to quicken His Church to its responsibilities toward a world of lost souls.
For example, soon after the dawn of the 19th century, the Battle of Waterloo began the process of reshaping the map of Europe. This political event afforded the Church new opportunities for world evangelization unknown to it before. Kenneth Scott Latourette later called the 19th century the great century of Christian missions.
The opening years of the 20th century also witnessed a remarkable rise in missionary activity on college campuses in both the United States and Europe. This unprecedented move of the Holy Spirit gave rise to the Student Volunteer Movement, which sent thousands of young people to the mission fields of the world under the battle cry, The evangelization of the world in our generation!
Most church historians have also recognized that the great Pentecostal revival of our day had its inception at the beginning of the 20th century, when the Holy Spirit began to fall upon isolated groups of believers in the United States and Great Britain.
But what about A.D. 2000? What can we expect at the beginning of the 21st century? Is there anything magical about that point in time? I believe so.
In recent months, I have been witnessing a growing phenomenon. There is breaking upon the Christian world a marvelous emphasis that is sovereign in nature and undesigned by human ingenuity. Within many denominations, the Holy Spirit is resurrecting the fires of missions and the awareness of the imminence of the return of Christand the Holy Spirit is letting the leaders of the body of Christ know that the two are closely linked.
Recently, a number of evangelical missions agencies stepped up the pace of their worldwide evangelistic efforts. They are actually contemplating and talking about completely evangelizing our planet by the year 2000. And they are looking forward to the challenge and gearing up for it.
A few months ago, about 30 leaders of major worldwide missionary societies met in an informal meeting at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. We conferred to see whether, indeed, the Holy Spirit was moving in this way through all our various groups. We also planned ways that we could share our data and inspire our respective constituencies to support an evangelistic effort of this magnitude. And to this end we prayed.
This event was quite a confirmation to me and to other leaders in the (Assemblies of God) Division of Foreign Missions. For prior to this gathering, we had already called for a Decade of Harvest in the 1990s to lead up to the 21st century. We felt confident that the Holy Spirit wanted us to do this, even though we were not yet aware that He was sovereignly moving in other quarters of the Christian Church.
Independent researchers are now numbering the worldwide fraternal fellowship of the U.S. Assemblies of God at between 22 and 24 million. These 22 to 24 million Pentecostal believers are spread throughout at least 120 countries. Mobilizing this great body into action will require nothing less than a sovereign act of God.
For that reason, we initiated our move into the Decade of Harvest last month with a unique, all-night prayer service. Leaders from more than 40 of our sister Assemblies of God organizations in foreign lands joined us for several days of planning. We concluded our time together with 24 hours of fasting and prayer, and Assemblies of God churches around the world joined us by telephone linkage to participate in that prayer meeting. We are asking God to use us for the greatest evangelism the world has ever seen.
Can you begin to imagine what would happen if 120 or more Assemblies of God organizations around the world joined their talents, their personnel, and their resources for a common, directed effort to win souls and establish churches? Can you begin to imagine what would happen if this vast throng of 22 to 24 million Spirit-anointed people caught a common Holy Ghost compassion for the lost of this world and were divinely inspired to finish the task of evangelizing the world before A.D. 2000? Can you imagine what would happen if 11,000 U.S. Assemblies of God churches began to fervently pray to this end?
We now have the technological capability to reach every lost person on earth. We now have the urging of the Holy Spirit to try. And we now have a deadline. Will you help us?