Every stone counts

November 15, 2004

A NEW GUINNESS WORLD RECORD FOR DOMINOES WAS ATTEMPTED LAST FRIDAY EVENING IN HOLLAND. Eighty-four specially-selected volunteers from fourteen European countries had been setting up set up 4,250,000 domino stones over the past two months with painstaking concentration in a large exhibition hall in Leeuwaarden. The official Guinness record they were aiming to beat was 3,847,295 dominoes.

Working for months in near-silence, the sock-clad teams padded around the cavernous hall, building an intricate kaleidoscope of patterns and scenes: a sailboat, a volcano, the Roman Colosseum, a royal portrait, and a complicated graphic design of M.C.Escher. Special ‘comb-holders’ enabled whole rows of dominoes to be laid at a time. Others were placed with tweezers, all precisely spaced to ensure no breakdown of momentum once the process was started. Occasionally the silence was broken by the premature clatter of falling stones, followed by groans and even tears from the workers at the prospect of re-doing a day’s work.

Eventually, amid hyped television attention carrying the attempt live to all the participating countries, singer Shania Twain had the honour of ‘kicking off’ the record attempt. Literally millions of watchers followed the ripple of movement through the stones from pattern to pattern, and transitions from section to section were watched with bated breath. Right from the start, however, something went astray as the row of stones Twain set in motion seven metres above ground level did not fall as expected, and several sections failed.

Parallel movements were set in motion, with ripples heading off in different directions to ensure continued action even if the process broke down at some stage. Yet every stone counted in the effort to beat the world record. Transition after transition was made successfully, but here and there something did not quite go as planned. Yet the ripple movement moved on through the remaining layouts and finally after three and a half tense hours, the last stone fell.

But had the record been broken? Notary lawyers now moved in to count the stones still standing, according to the Guinness rules. The team estimated 3,950,000 dominoes had fallen-enough to beat the old mark-but at the time of writing, no official declaration had appeared on the web.

Nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus stood with his eleven disciples on a mountainside in Palestine and ‘kicked-off’ a ‘domino-effect’ that continues down to the present day. He told them to go and make disciples, and teach them to make disciples who would make disciples, who would in turn make more disciples, until eventually every people group on earth had been discipled.

The movement quickly spread out in different directions – Thomas went eastwards, Philip went south, Paul went to Europe, Andrew went north towards the Caucasus, others went west along the North African coast. Despite heavy persecution, the movement continued at varying speeds. Sadly, at times, transitions were not always successfully negotiated. In some places, movement stopped altogether. We can imagine the groans and tears in heaven as God’s purposes got bogged down.

At other times it seemed to continue underground only to resurface in surprising places – like in the Egyptian desert, and from there back up through Palestine to Cappadocia in today’s Turkey, across to Gaul, up to Ireland, Scotland, England, back across to mainland Europe. Here, regrettably, the forward movement was lost again for centuries until eventually, less than three centuries ago, the ripples stirred again and moved on out to India, America, Africa and Asia. And no doubt there was renewed cheering in heaven!

Today, after nearly twenty centuries, the ripples are moving strongly again from the southern nations, including Brazil and Korea. Signals indicate strong ripples to come soon from China back along the old Silk Road to Jerusalem and the Muslim world.

Every believer in the world is a stone in this long domino process started by Jesus and his disciples. We are believers because someone passed the message on to us. Our task is to pass it on to others. Every stone counts in this process. Jesus has no other plan. Each one of us is significant in God’s purposes. Sadly, many have missed out on hearing because others failed to pass the message on. We are not simply pawns and insignificant nothings swept along by irresistible, impersonal forces of history. Each one of us has eternal significance. Our actions and choices count for eternity.

And that’s good news, whether we live in a country like England with a relatively large Christian population, or in say, Turkey, with a tiny Christian minority. We’re not just lost in the big Christian crowd, or overwhelmed by the non-Christian majority. Each of us have our part to play in God’s overall strategy.

I have just been speaking to young Christian Turks gathered near ancient Ephesus while their Muslim compatriots celebrated the end of Ramadan. We talked about this image of the domino effect, and they took courage from the fact that the whole worldwide Christian movement once started with just a handful of ‘living stones’. When Paul stayed at Ephesus for two years, the Christian movement was very small still indeed! But look what that has become! Even as a tiny minority in an overwhelmingly Muslim country, they began to realise, they could be part of a small but significant movement with eternal consequences.

These are days of great and historical changes in Turkey. Next month, the European Union leadership decide whether or not to start the process to lead to Turkey’s membership. Could this bring more ripples of openness and change in this country? What should we think about this overwhelmingly Muslim nation joining this European club of nations with basically ‘Christian’ roots?

We’ll look at that question next week.

Till then,

Jeff Fountain

Till next week,

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