This past month, I had to totally reload my main computer. A malware virus somehow got into the operating system. Vista was so badly corrupted that I had to reload the whole program.
As a result of the reload, I found myself looking at files I had not viewed in a few years. I ran across a photo taken at a hotel in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The picture was of me and about eight other people who were friends of the site. Most of them were connected to our message board.
There was obviously something unusual about the photo, or I wouldn't be writing about it. What caught my attention is that none of the people in the group shot are still active on RR or any other Christian site. They have all disappeared for various reasons.
For the past five years, Rapture Ready has had around 200,000-250,000 people visit the site in any given month. Despite this stability, I know this number does not represent the same people each month. We have had millions of people come and go over the years.
What causes this massive turnover rate is a lack of endurance. People have an interest in prophecy that is very fickle. If a war breaks out in the Middle East, they all come running to the site to see if it means the end is near. Once the fighting dies down, they go back to whatever they were doing before.
I can understand why the "Curious George" crowd would come and go so quickly. What fascinates me, however, is the number of people who have had a long-standing commitment to doing the Lord's work, but yet eventually fall away.
I know some of the individual reasons for the disappearance of a few folks in the photo. One had financial problems, another had trouble with a marital breakdown, and one even had sexual identity issues.
Most of them just drifted away as if they had lost all interest in prophecy. I traced a couple of these folks down by searching various account names they regularly used. One is active on Amazon.com. He had left a few comments about various tech gadgets. The other person had joined a political board and had made some rather shocking posts.
A key factor that allows people to shift in their commitment is called "social desirability bias." People will maintain a positive view of what they are doing despite the reality of their actions.
This phenomenon turns up in poll results when people are asked questions according to what they think they should be doing, rather than what they are doing. For example, a poll by Barna Research showed that 17 percent of American adults say they tithe 10 percent or more of their income to their church. However, tax records show that only 3 percent actually do. Various studies have shown that 40 percent of Americans attend church services at least twice each month. When you use a more indirect method, like telling people they may have been exposed to a deadly virus and then asking them to list all the places they've been in the past week, the number drops to 20 percent.
"Social desirability bias" is just a fancy phrase for lying, but it’s useful because it explains how people rationalize their actions. In the area of prophecy, people believe they are still watching for their Lord’s return, when in reality they are doing nothing because they are waiting for things to get more active. This is why we should always judge our commitments by our actions, not by our intentions.
Each week, I normally receive something in the mail from someone who has put together a compilation of the end-time dates. Up until now, all of their forecasts have obviously been wrong. Last year, a gentleman sent me a book about how the Rapture would occur in 2008. He had a website with the address of 2008rapture.com. If you click on it, 2009-rapture will come up. It's getting to be late in the year, so I wonder if he has registered the domain 2010-rapture.com.
The secret to being a successful end-time watcher is not figuring out some magic code regarding when the big events will take place. The true secret is endurance. Jesus said that when He comes back, He is going to catch the Church off-guard. If you want to know how late it is, don't look at charts. Take a gaze at the level of commitment in the body of Christ. Of course, if you do, you'll know time is very short.
"Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book" (Revelation 22:7).
"Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch" (Mark 13:35-37).
Michael James Stone is now Posting Weekly. New posts, several, are added on Thursday from all Week long-MjS