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Y2K authors still advising Christians to prepare for ministry opportunities

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–As the new millennium approaches, two Christian authors with books on the “Year 2000 Problem,” or “Y2K,” continue to advocate preparing for potential year-end computer problems — with ministry in mind.
“We have a responsibility to be an agent of calmness and peace,” said Shaunti Feldhahn, a former Federal Reserve analyst who wrote “Y2K: The Millennium Bug — A Balanced Christian Response.” The book has also been released in Spanish and youth editions.
“It’s entirely possible the media could play this thing up and ‘hurricane buying’ occurs, where [grocery store] shelves are picked clean,” she said. “The church has a role to say publicly, ‘We’re going to get through this. If you’re worried about Y2K, you shouldn’t be. We have someone who will never leave you or forsake you.’“
Michael Hyatt, whose two books were included in a recent Wall Street Journal guide to Y2K literature, said people need to study the situation, consider how they prepare for it and do the best they can.
Even if they can only follow the Red Cross’ recommendation to have provisions for up to a week, that’s better than nothing, he said.
“From a Christian perspective, leave the rest with God,” said Hyatt, a vice president at Thomas Nelson Publishers in Nashville, Tenn. “We’re told in the Sermon on the Mount we’re not to give any thought to tomorrow. That doesn’t mean we’re not to be responsible and prudent. But it certainly means we shouldn’t be consumed with worry.”
The Y2K problem began receiving a new wave of media attention this summer. Disruptions may occur with computers not programmed to recognize years ending in four-digit dates, meaning they may interpret “00” to mean 1900 and stop functioning or create large-scale errors.
That has sparked predictions of interruptions in utility service, food supplies and worldwide economic repercussions. Thus, Feldhahn believes the wise course for churches is to make contingency plans for possible outages.
Storing water, food and other supplies in case of trouble will enable churches to minister to people’s needs, she said, noting this can be done more effectively by networks of churches sharing resources and insights.
Feldhahn is the founder and president of Joseph Project 2000, which has 110 affiliates in eight nations. The Atlanta-based ministry encourages churches to work together and, with civic leaders, to prepare. It sells Feldhahn’s books, among them a Y2K resource guide, and maintains an Internet site, www.josephproject2000.org.
“As the body of Christ, we need to think of ourselves as separate divisions of the same corporation, working toward the same goal,” she said. “We need to put aside our separate agendas to concentrate on the main agenda. In this case, that the church is ready to serve and evangelize and do it well.”
The most important reason to get ready is so the body of Christ can be part of the solution instead of getting caught up in panic and being part of the problem, she said.
She refuses to recommend specific actions, saying families and churches should pray for God’s direction about planning for their community’s needs.
However, Feldhahn advises being aware of economic risks in case the situation creates a recession. Getting out of debt so you can survive a job layoff is more important than storing large amounts of cash, she said.
“That’s the burden I have,” she said. “The average Christian family is loaded down with consumer credit debt. I’ve asked people which would be worse — if the electricity were off for two weeks or they lost their job?”
Sadly, the majority of church members are ignoring the problem, Feldhahn said. Roughly 60 percent aren’t doing anything and don’t even know if their church’s telephone system will work after Jan. 1, she said.
Another 10 percent are actively fighting the issue, quoting Christ’s admonition not to worry about what we eat, drink or wear (Matt. 6:25); a few percent are at the other extreme, urging a survivalist “protect yourself at all costs” stance, she said.
Approximately 25 percent see this as a chance to minister. They are either making active preparations or are aware of the need to start soon, Feldhahn said.
Some predictions of problems haven’t come to pass, acknowledged Hyatt, who begins a publicity push for his “Y2K Survival Guide” on Sept. 22, which begins the 100-day countdown to Jan. 1.
For instance, 46 state governments began new fiscal years July 1 without any major problems. Fears of a computer crash on Sept. 9 (related to an obscure computer code) didn’t materialize.
While Hyatt said he is pleased problems didn’t occur with date-related financial functions, he believes there is still cause for concern.
He points to a recent Social Security snafu as a prime example. In a story published in The Washington Post Sept. 4, the agency acknowledged mailing letters to 32,000 people in August, warning certain benefits would end Jan. 1, 1900.
“For anybody familiar with software development, that’s standard operating procedure,” he said of the incorrect date in the Social Security letters. “The thing that scares the programmers working on this stuff is they know many of these systems are being put back into production without adequate testing.”
While dozens of programmers send him daily e-mails about the progress they’re making, others admit there are many unpublicized problems, he said. However, he observed, in the current political environment Y2K failures don’t lead companies to call a press conference.
The key issue is that nobody knows how severe the extent of the problems will be, Hyatt said.
“While I have a very strong, unwavering belief in God, when it comes to Y2K, I’m an agnostic,” he said. “I just don’t know what’s going to happen. But from my perspective, Y2K has never been about predicting the future. It’s always been about risk management.”
That is why he doesn’t complain about wasting money on fire insurance because his house didn’t burn down. Nor is he upset when his family doesn’t experience major medical problems, even though he pays health insurance premiums.
The same is true of storing food, water and other supplies for Y2K, he said. If the new year arrives and there aren’t major problems, he plans to celebrate.
However, Hyatt remains skeptical of pronouncements there is no cause for alarm. He questions statements that people need only to store a few days of groceries when government agencies and corporations are planning for a worst-case scenario.
Eighty-five percent of Fortune 500 companies say their spending must rise above current estimates to meet the challenge, he said, and one large retailer recently doubled its Y2K budget. The federal government’s spending for such concerns has risen from $2.3 billion originally to more than $8 billion today, he added.
“If it’s no big deal, why aren’t budgets going down or at least leveling off?” Hyatt asked. “After working for years on the problem and spending billions of dollars, we haven’t been able to get this resolved. Why do we think [a few] days after these systems go down we can suddenly get this code fixed and get these systems back on line?”
Still, he said, faith must ultimately be in God. All provisions for life in this world and the one to come stem from a relationship with Jesus Christ, he said, and anyone who puts their trust in someone else is going to be disappointed.
For more information on spiritual preparation for Y2K, check Hyatt’s home page at www.michaelhyatt.com.

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  • Ken Walker