Fall 1999 · Vol. 28 No. 2 · pp. 136–37 

From the Editor: The Church at 2000

Douglas B. Miller

It is unlikely to suppose that those invited to an unfamiliar city to participate in a parade would be able to determine, once the parade had started, just where they were located within the city itself, where they were headed, and perhaps even where they were within the sequence of marchers themselves. They might know that they were not at the beginning or the end, but would otherwise be unqualified to make a judgment. Likewise, it is a bit audacious for those of us at the end of a millennium to pronounce upon the significance of current events or to prognosticate on what is yet to come.

Thankfully, the articles in this issue of Direction do not propose to do anything of the sort. Rather, they reflect upon pieces of our past and seek to discriminate the outlines of present thought and activity. Each makes a contribution toward helping us find our way into the time ahead—however, long, short, or momentous this might be. Jesus appeared shocked that his countrymen could be savvy about weather prediction, but inept for the “signs of the times” (Matt. 16:2-3). In two millennia we are only slightly improved in weather forecasting and probably even less capable in portent acumen.

The first two articles of this issue investigate church life. Marva Dawn urges us to celebrate God’s nature and character with a distinctive Christian language, and advises caution in the orientation of worship as a means of attracting unbelievers. Guenther and Heidebrecht review the history of church leadership models and suggest how these might be evaluated for today’s practice.

Alison Lentini provides an entrée into pop culture—music, film, literature—and demonstrates how it reveals both the pain of our times and the potential for people of the gospel to be a witness. Elmer Thiessen examines the state of Christian academic education and specifically challenges Mennonite colleges to proclaim confessionally in our pluralistic time.

A complementary group of four historical pieces completes the major articles. John B. Toews explores the house church context of early Mennonite Brethren experience and reveals its suitability for both evangelism and discipleship. As millennial fever once again surfaces among us, Walter Unger reviews the lure of end time prophecy during an early period of MB experience. Victor Wiens summarizes the Brazilian MB story, including theological and leadership issues, to explain the vibrancy of the church today. James Nikkel rehearses the Canadian MB priority on evangelism in multiple forms of outreach during the past one hundred years. {137}

In Ministry Compass, Herb Kopp demonstrates how a theological gadfly can assist believers in responding to the questions of our time. Ray Bystrom provides an unusually rich Books I Recommend for this issue—you will not want to miss it.

Douglas Miller, General Editor