Computer bug causes ministry to change rallies

Orlando Sentinel/February 26, 1999
By Mark I. Pinsky

Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney said Thursday that the Year 2000 computer problem is one of the reasons his Christian men's group is scaling back plans for large rallies at state capitols on Jan. 1, 2000.

Segments of the evangelical community think the Y2K problem could lead to a general collapse of society.

Promise Keepers officials acknowledge that many of the men who might want to attend the rallies would want to remain close to home on that day to look after their families.

Some experts fear computers may be riddled with errors or fail altogether when the date changes on Jan. 1, as a result of the so-called Y2K bug.

Some have predicted widespread power outages, transportation problems and a breakdown in financial systems.

Speaking to a gathering of 250 pastors and lay leaders at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, McCartney said his organization is recommending that members participate in "in-home gatherings" on Jan. 1.

If there are no major disruptions, Promise Keepers is recommending church services later in the day.

The former University of Colorado football coach said he is more certain that a religious revival is coming than he is of computer-induced chaos. But he recommended that churches stockpile food and water in case there is a disruption.

"Will you be ready?" McCartney asked the audience. "Will you be ready to serve your communities through your churches?"

If the computer glitch turns out to be just a "blip," the food can be donated to the poor.

Leaders of Promise Keepers have contacted "several world-class preachers," McCartney said, and asked them to record inspirational messages for a 75-minute tape to be played in churches on Jan. 1.

McCartney said the decision to ask his members to stay at or close to home that day, rather than travel to a rally "comes out of the wisdom of a lot of Christian leaders."

Several times in the past year, Promise Keepers has cut back on staff and plans for stadium rallies. Attendance at rallies dropped from 638,000 at 19 events in 1997 to 450,000 at the same number of events in 1998.

In an interview after his speech, McCartney said the latest change did not mean the steam has gone out of Promise Keepers.

"It has nothing to do with steam," he said. "It hasn't happened. God doesn't work that way."
The Orlando gathering was sponsored by the Mission America Coalition, which is planning a series of national fasts and prayer observations through the end of 2000.

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