Four ways to engage in Mission, even in a Crisis!
So, here we are all adapting to a new normal, whether you’re a business leader or church leader, stay at home mum or high flying executive, school kid or university PhD; the coronavirus pandemic has changed the world. If you are a follower of Jesus there are some things core to who we are as God’s people whether or not we are able to gather together for corporate worship. As much as we have enjoyed that for many years, it seems that what we really miss is being physically present with fellow pilgrims of the Way.
Many churches have quickly reorganised their community into online small groups, with many churches seeing a marked increase in the number of people connecting in this way. Why? Because when the music fades, as the famous song suggests, we come back to the heart of what really matters; people.
So here are four ways we can continue to engage in Mission during a time of uncertainty.
1. PRAY and WORSHIP
We pray because times like these reveal how little control we really have over life events. Plans made at the turn of 2020 are now turned on their head. We pray because we submit to the one who knows all things and sees all things. We pray for our protection and provision, not only of our own family and community but for our brothers and sisters scattered across the world, who unless God steps in will be left in dire circumstances. For billions of people on the earth they probably didn’t think life could be much harder but without the ability to work in order to feed their family, life is about to get some much harder. They don’t have welfare systems, NHS or government sponsored bailouts to help. Nothing. So, we pray and we listen to the Spirit to shape our response, because respond we must.
We pray because we remember those who have responded to the call of God to leave the familiar and go to new lands to advance the gospel and serve the marginalised. We pray of our Elim missionaries and partners scattered across the globe; some stuck between locations, many choosing to stay and all working out how they can minister to the neediest.
We worship because God is unchanging! He is sovereign over His creation, seen and unseen. He is fully trustworthy, even when we don’t fully understand what is going on! We worship because our hope was never based on whether we could have a worship experience on a Sunday but on the resurrected Jesus who is the light and hope of the world who rose on the third day. We worship with our whole life as an act of service and adoration of Jesus, who was heaven-sent and is still sending his people to the last, lost and least of every nation.
2. We ENCOURAGE one another
There are around 100 ‘one another’s’ in the New Testament which is not an insignificant amount, but why so many? Well one reason could be that we run the danger of being prone to self-protection and self-interest. In a time of crisis it can be our instinct to protect and keep, which is understandable but let’s not lose sight of the plight and need of others. The wonder of technology means you are only a couple of clicks away from dropping a note of encouragement to the missionary you support. Listen to the nudge to pick up the phone to that person who has just come to mind!
We gather in community (online for the time being) because it is the way we are wired. God has designed us to walk with Him and each other because we are relational beings. The coronavirus has brought out some of the best bits of our humanity, in which we reflect the beauty of the image of God. Yet people are still lost and in need of good news, they need to hear the message of the good news and they need to see it lived out among the people of the Jesus way. We might have to do it online but what a great opportunity to encourage people in the faith to keep going and those outside the faith to explore Jesus!
Jesus said, ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)
Jesus didn’t say it was by our snazzy services the world will know we are his disciples but we communicate our love through acts of service, compassion and kindness long after the world has snapped back into self-serving greed. Communities of faith-filled, cost-counting, passion-fuelled disciples of Jesus formed during this crisis have the potential to change the world and reach millions of people for Jesus as we see the people of God unleashed to fulfil the mission of God!
3. We choose to live GENEROUSLY
We do mission because it is the one thing that the church has the monopoly on. There is no other body on the face of the earth with the mandate from heaven to go into all the world and declare the good news of King Jesus. There are many organisations who do kind things, serve the poor, help the elderly and generally contribute great things to our world, but unless they are students of Jesus they don’t have eternal hope to pass on. We carry the presence of the King and our acts of service are an opportunity to point to the One who gave the greatest act of service the world has ever known; “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)
Our generosity, where in acts of kindness or with our finances, reflects the generosity of God who gave everything to save us. The apostle Paul commends the Macedonian church in 2 Corinthians 8:1-6:
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favour of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.
Sure, we are all concerned about the impact of coronavirus on the economies of the world, and therefore on our church or personal finances but let’s not hold back from our support of others, for in doing so, we make room for God to supply our need through the generosity of others.
4. Look for OPPORTUNITIES
One thing is clear throughout history that when crisis hits, the church doesn’t step back but steps up to embrace the pain but explore the new possibilities. We embrace pain because change is always painful but change always brings new possibilities that weren’t there before. In this season, maybe we will see some pioneers emerge from our congregations with gospel clarity in their hearts and minds. There is an opportunity for us to train a new generation of missionaries to pioneer gospel communities and begin to call out missionaries to cross borders once they open up! The future of mission might look different in its delivery but the message of mission remains the same; Jesus is the hope of the world!
In this time of shaking, let’s keep our eyes open, ears attentive and hearts full of courage to embrace a vista of new missional opportunities at home and abroad.