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January 9, 1999
Column #906

(Second of a three-part series)

Y2K II -- WHAT SHOULD YOUR CHURCH DO?

On Dec. 3 the Evangel Christian Church of Hendersonville, N.C. and leaders of 15 other churches met with government officials, bankers and representatives of Duke Power, the local electric utility, about problems of ''Y2K,'' the possibility that when the calendar hits January 1, 2000 that people might not have access to their money or power.

The Duke Power official acknowledged that some of its computers had a ''millennial bug'' embedded that misread an abbreviated date such as 01/01/00 as taking place in the year 1900, not 2000 but said the utility was ''70 percent compliant.'' This was not too comforting to Evangel pastor Jerry McClellan, who sees his job as ''prying the lid off certain facts.''

However, state officials were so impressed with Evangel's leadership, that the National Guard will designate the church as a community shelter, and locate a 60 Kilowatt generator there that would have cost $30,000+ to purchase in case there is a power outage.

Why should churches worry about a computer glitch that could cause temporary disruptions of power or food deliveries? ''We are called to be ready to love and serve others in all circumstances,'' writes Shaunti Christine Feldhahn in ''Y2K: The Millennium Bug.''

She points to Chapter 41 of Genesis, where Joseph interprets a dream by the Pharaoh to predict seven years of bountiful harvests followed by seven years of famine, so severe that ''all of the abundance in the land will not be remembered.'' Therefore, Joseph urged Pharaoh to ''take a fifth of the harvest during the seven years of abundance,'' to be held in reserve to feed people during the years of famine.

The impressed Pharaoh appointed Joseph to manage Egypt. Joseph's predictions turned out to be valid. During the famine, Joseph had stored enough food to not only feed Egypt but surrounding lands.

Similarly, Christian economists such as Larry Burkett, wrote in his June, 1998 newsletter that we should ''ask God to use the impact of Y2K whatever it turns out to be as a catalyst to awaken millions of people and turn them to Christ....If the churches were prepared with food, water, and power, and this thing really happened, and they can say to the community, `Come on in, we'll help you,' what a great opportunity God's people would have.''

The current issue of Christianity Today quotes Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft's chief technical officer saying, ''It's very hard to tell how bad the situation will be. I'm sure things will break. It's very hard to dispel a nightmare scenario...The dark-side scenario of airplanes falling out of the sky and bank computers crashing is possible. But it's fundamentally very, very hard to know whether the impact will be big or little.''

The reaction of Christian leaders has varied widely. Jerry Falwell, in an August sermon predicted God's wrath next January. 1: ''He may be preparing to confound our language, to jam our communications, scatter our efforts and judge us for our sin and rebellion against his lordship. We are hearing from many sources that January 1, 2000 will be a fateful day in the history of the world.''

Nonsense, argues the General Council of the Assemblies of God: ''Needless fear and alarmist tactics over the Y2K issue and the approaching turn of the millennium are directly in conflict with the teachings of our Lord. We encourage our people to not engage in activities such as hoarding food, withdrawing money from banks, believing doomsday scenarios.''

In the Toledo area, Jeff Keim's Bethel Assembly of God has ignored its headquarter's advice, and has established a local ''Joseph Project,'' a loose network of 75 people from 15-20 churches who are conducting community awareness/action seminars. His church is expanding a storehouse of emergency food and medical supplies. ''There are many families who don't have resources invalids, the handicapped who will have to rely on others,'' he says..

I asked, ''What if you are wrong and your national church leaders are right?'' he replied, ''I don't care about being right or wrong. If we help people and there is no need, no one gets hurt. If we do nothing to help, and it turns out there is a need, people could be harmed.''

There are now at least 40 Joseph Projects springing up. Rev. Larry Baker of Prayer and Praise Christian Fellowship organized the first one near Atlanta. Every two week, 80 people from several counties gather ''to balance spiritual preparedness with practical preparedness.

To learn more, call 770 592-1975.

Copyright 1999 Michael J. McManus

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