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Patterson eschews Y2K fear over YouthLink; affirms Jewish witness

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Choose YouthLink 2000 over “Y2K fear,” Paige Patterson counseled Southern Baptist pastors and youth leaders, and on the question of witnessing to Jewish people, choose to heed the Jew who gave his life for mankind 2,000 years ago, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention counseled.
Patterson also urged churches to send at least one young person as a messenger to the SBC’s annual meeting June 13-14 in Orlando, Fla., in his report during the opening session of the SBC Executive Committee’s Sept. 20-21 meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
YouthLink 2000 is the SBC-wide millennium initiative to draw 200,000 teenagers and college students to arenas in seven U.S. cities Dec. 29-31 linked via satellite for a time of inspiration, celebration, prayer, commitment and missions.
With concerns about potential computer disruptions often appearing in the media, Patterson acknowledged YouthLink has “run into some difficulty about that, but nothing that can’t be overcome for God’s people.”
“I don’t doubt that there will be some dislocation with Y2K,” Patterson continued, “but come on, folks, the morning after, you get up and look around, it’ll be the same old world, full of sin and full of opportunity to lead people to faith in Christ.
“We have a wonderful opportunity to do something on those days for our young people,” Patterson said, “and I want to ask you, and urge you and plead with you, to have your young people, your youth minister and others around you involved in YouthLink 2000.”
Information about the event is available by phoning 1-888-YOUTHLK or on the Internet at www.youthlink2000.org.
Concerning witness to Jewish people, a topic pushed into the national news by the International Mission Board’s recent release of a prayer guide for Jews, Patterson recounted he had received a letter from Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, in which Foxman “indicated that he was greatly offended by the fact that we were praying for our Jewish friends and witnessing to them about the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In a letter in reply, Patterson said, “I told him that I think I can speak on behalf of almost all Southern Baptists on this … [that] we are never happy when we offend anybody.” Said Patterson, “It seems to me contrary to the spirit of Christ for us to want to offend anybody. And I said to him we are sorry for that. We do not want to offend you.
“And I said, ‘Mr. Foxman, we have sort of a problem,’” Patterson continued. “One Jew has said to us you cannot witness and you cannot pray for the salvation of Jews. Another Jew has said to us, ‘You must share my message with everybody in the world, and you must pray for the conversion especially of my people, the Jewish nation.’
“I said, ‘Mr. Foxman, we are torn between the advice of two Jews.’ And I said, ‘If it’s all the same with you, we’re going to follow the example and the advice of the one who died for us on the cross.’
“I hope and trust that he’ll understand that,” Patterson said.
“I also assured him that when everybody else had fallen away, that we’d be standing there beside them to protect their absolute religious liberty, their freedom from any kind of coercion,” Patterson recounted. “We do not believe in coercion and we do not believe in deception in evangelism, but we do believe in witnessing to everybody.”
Concerning his call for churches to send at least one “high school young person” as a messenger to this June’s SBC annual meeting, Patterson said the idea was sparked by a young adult’s motion last June requesting activities for young people during the convention.
In encouraging young people to attend a convention, Patterson said, it will “get them coming and participating and voting and being a part of the process for the years to come.”
“I attended my first Southern Baptist Convention when I was 9 years of age and have not missed one since,” Patterson said.
With increased numbers of young people, he said, “… we’ll have a good time, and it’ll add some new life to the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Patterson noted he is asking “the theme and the focus” of the upcoming convention be “on the international worldwide missionary task,” having focused in 1998’s annual meeting on the great cities of America and the home mission enterprise.