1985 MARKS THE MIDPOINT OF THE EIGHTIES, the next-to-last decade of the fabulous twentieth century. What will this new year bring our little planet and our nation? Further, where ought we to direct the energies of the church?

This second question cannot be answered fully without dealing with the first. It is true that God has given his church its marching orders, and in broad perspective they are the same for all times and places. The Great Commission is unequivocal: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them … and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20, NIV). Surely, here our Lord is setting a priority for the church as a church. Its first duty is to evangelize and to instruct its members. Without evangelism there is no church. Without instruction a church is ineffective and can be dangerous, working at cross purposes with its Lord. But an informed church is God’s way of bringing his greatest good to the world.

Yet even a church informed by the instruction of the Lord will prove ineffective unless it understands the world it must work in. For example, are the tens of millions of dollars evangelicals spend annually on TV evangelistic programs the wisest use of limited funds? Or would we do better to concentrate on printed material? Or on the outreach of the local church? Or on neighborhood Bible studies?

Again, how important to us is a politically and socially free society (and, therefore, one that is also religiously free)? How does that affect our attitude toward Nicaragua, or the Philippines, or national defense?

We cannot answer such practical questions unless we first understand the world we shall face in the last half of the eighties. Our knowledge, though incomplete, is adequate ...

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