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Speakers cite hope for church’s witness amid perils of ‘post-human’ millennium

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–“As America stands on the precipice of the 21st century, we overlook a chasm of moral declension and antagonism toward the church,” John Franklin told participants in the Summit for the Third Millennium Church hosted by Glorieta, a LifeWay Conference Center, Sept. 22-24 in New Mexico.

Franklin, a prayer and discipleship specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, joined other speakers to challenge church leaders to minister effectively amid the potential peril the church may encounter in the new millennium.

James Parker, professor of culture and worldview at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., called this era a “post-human” age.

“We live in a day when the definition of the human being is changing,” Parker said. “If a person isn’t a human being, created in the image of God, anything goes — abortion, euthanasia, infanticide — nothing is off-limits. Depending on what we do with the question, ‘What is a human being?’ will determine whether we will be going into the Garden of Eden or into Jurassic Park.”

Author Gordon MacDonald, former pastor of Grace Chapel, Lexington, Mass., lamented the emphasis shift in today’s culture from character to competency.

“People are valued more by what people can do that what they are. Biblical character,” MacDonald said, “must be integrated into the core of my soul and into the actions of my life.”

Sally Morgenthaler, a worship consultant and author of “Worship Evangelism,” emphasized that Christianity is not the only religion competing for Americans’ attention.

“People aren’t asking the question, ‘Is there a God?’ If you think they are, you are 20 years behind,” she said. “They are asking which one?”

Though advocating the use of technology in worship, Morgenthaler said that worship in the new millennium isn’t about technology. What the church needs to do is create “sacred space” where people can experience God, express their brokenness and enter into community with others, she said.

With all the potential perils, the tone of the conference was upbeat. Leith Anderson, senior pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn., said he is optimistic about the future.

“This is the most extraordinary time in which to live,” he said. “Worldwide, there are in excess of 3,000 people per hour becoming Christians. We live in a time when Pentecost is not a rare occasion … it is an hourly event in our generation.”

Repeatedly, speakers called the church to look to God for the future. They stressed God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.

“If anyone tells you they know what is going on in this new world, don’t believe them. I can’t figure it out,” said Leonard Sweet, the E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Drew University, Madison, N.J. “God will be in this future,” Sweet continued. “The question is: Will we?”

Henry Blackaby, founder of Henry Blackaby Ministries and author of “Experiencing God,” said, “God is not confused about the third millennium. He knows what to do. What he wants is for his people to return to him and seek him with their whole heart.”

After quoting the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28:18-20, Dallas Willard, professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California, said, “If you want to know what to do while we deal with the reality of the coming millennium, this [call to witness] is it!”

Franklin rejected the notion that all the church needs is better methodology.

“Some say, ‘Become relevant, be contextual, nontraditional, change the way we do church.’ These things may be needed, but they are not enough.”

Many of the social problems America is facing, Franklin said, are God’s judgment on a church that has rebelled against God. Changing methods without changing our hearts won’t make a difference, he said, challenging the church to “rediscover the ‘fear of God.'”

The Summit for the Third Millennium Church is the first of a series of events called “Regenerated” and hosted by Glorieta. The next such event, “Evangelism in a Brave New World,” is scheduled at Glorieta, April 27-29, 2001. For more information, visit the Glorieta website at www.glorieta.com or call toll-free 1-800-797-4222.
Wilson is pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Seaside, Calif.

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  • Jim L. Wilson