The COVID-19 coronavirus is altering lives and church ministries across the globe. Drastic measures - cancellations, travel restrictions, closed borders, and mandated quarantines - have been put in place to minimize its spread. Though these changes are critical to save lives, they have also presented great challenges to the mission work of the church. Is the church just supposed to press “pause” on the mission of God during this crisis? NO. Then, what can we do in making disciples of all nations when we are prevented from traveling or being close to others?
Though it may look differently right now, any church, any size, any where can advance the gospel to the nations, including times like these. In fact, it is critical that the church stay engaged in fulfilling the Great Commission in every way possible. Here are some vital ways that every church can be involved in advancing the gospel among the nations.
Prayer is the vital component of reaching the world with the gospel. Every person and church can be a part of global gospel advance by praying. GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS. So, during a time of limited travel and social distancing, reengage your dedication to pray for God’s work among the nations.
- Prayer Walk/Prayer Ride – Pray over your primary mission field, the place where God has planted you – your community. Prayer walking is praying on-site with insight – whether it is in the desserts of Africa or in your neighborhood. Dedicate this time to walking in your neighborhood and praying over the homes and people that live around you. https://blesseveryhome.com/ is a great tool to use to do this. You can also drive to specific areas which might need your prayer – schools, fire stations, hospitals, apartment complexes, college campuses. You don’t have to get out of your car to pray for God to work in those strategic areas. Click Here for ideas on how to prayer walk/ride well.
- Pray for Missionaries – The number one request we receive from missionaries around the world is for more people to consistently and faithfully pray for them and their needs. This is an optimal time to faithfully pray for missionaries around the world. Pray diligently for the ones to whom you are connected. Here are some great resources to aid in important work.
https://www.imb.org/pray/ - Daily prayer requests from SBC missionaries around the world. You can also download the IMB’s pray app to your mobile device.
https://www.namb.net/pray/ - Weekly prayer guide with multiple prayer requests from church planters and mission workers across North America.
Pray52 Text– Sign up to receive two prayer requests every Wednesday from a South Carolina missionary serving around the world.
SCGo News – Twice a month, the mission mobilization team sends out a newsletter containing multiple prayer requests from missionaries around the world.
- Pray for the Nations – https://www.prayercast.com/ is a great website for praying over current needs related to the pandemic as well as for praying over God’s work among the nations. http://www.operationworld.org/ is another terrific resource for praying for the peoples of the world, and its full of content about the needs of the world which will inform your prayers more.
What is one simple but powerful thing you can do to advance the gospel during the COVID-19 outbreak? PRAY!
Take some time to step back and better understand God’s work among the nations and research the missional needs of the world. Doing so may help you discover where God is leading in future mission endeavors.
- Recognize how God is at Work - To see where God is working around the globe, go to the International Mission Board web site, https://imb.org. Their Video Gallery is a good place to discover places and people groups where God is at work. Narrow your search by looking into the global affinities of the IMB and articles on work around the world.
- Learn about unreached and unengaged peoples around the world. Take time to learn about unreached and unengaged people groups where people have limited to no access to the good news of Jesus. If research is not your specialty, ask someone on your mission team or in your church who enjoys it to help do research with you. http://www.peoplegroups.org contains information provided through the International Mission Board’s Global Research Department. It has great information on unreached people groups around the world and where they are located.
- Discover unreached peoples near you - https://www.peoplegroups.info/ has information on people groups living in North America. There are helpful resources on this site which can assist your church in discovering unreached peoples living nearby. You can search South Carolina’s major cities and see what people groups live nearby.
- Connect with your Mission Partners - If your church has a mission site where you have been partnering or sending teams, reach out to your partner to check on how they are doing. The COVID-19 virus has affected most nations around the world. Set up a call via Skype, WhatsApp, Facetime or Zoom. When you make contact, pray together and ask if you can share their prayer requests with others. Ask about current needs that your church can meet by sending a care package or by collecting supplies. Be sure to contact any partners in the United States who may have limited access to necessary supplies as well. Here is a helpful resource for caring for missionaries well: Caring for Missionaries.
- Develop Resources and Training for Mission Teams - Now is the time to read books and web articles on missions to better resource your mission committee and teams. Missions: How The Local Church Goes Global and The Sending Church Defined are two great reads for helping a church be a Sending Church. Websites like imb.org and www.namb.net are filled with ideas for mission partnership and training for mission teams.
You have probably said, “I will get to this when I have time.” Well, now all of us have more time, so it is a good time to plan for future mission partnerships and trips. Take a look at your plans for mission trips/engagement for Fall 2020 and 2021. Making those plans now will prepare you to effectively lead in the near future.
- Discuss Possibilities with your Missions Team - Take what you learned from your connections with mission partners and create a mission opportunity list. Check out scbaptist.org/send for more opportunities to connect with mission opportunities. Pray over the list and share it with your missions team or people who have led mission teams in the past. Ask for their input and feedback after they have prayed about the opportunities. Prioritize the list based on your time of prayer and feedback from your team. Then move toward putting some mission trip plans in place for the next year or two.
- Use the Partnership Grid - This is a tool developed by the Upstream Collective and taught at Send Me conferences in our state. First select the priorities you have identified as a church in the left column. Then determine how well each of your mission partners/places match the priorities your church has chosen. This grid can be helpful when you are on a vision trip as well. Fill in your own priorities and come up with a checklist you can use.
Download Partnership Grid For other free downloads and resources visit theupstreamcollective.org.
God has brought to us a diversity of people in our own community. We can participate in God’s mission by finding simple ways to connect and minister with groups that might often get overlooked in times like this.
- People with Greater Risk to the Virus - Recognize that our high-risk friends and neighbors like the elderly or those who are sick may not have help to provide basic needs. We can offer to get groceries or other items they need and use the time as an opportunity to share the love of Christ with them.
- Ethnic neighbors and friends – People from different backgrounds, languages and culture may not completely understand how our country deals with crisis issues. If you know an ethnic family in your neighborhood, visit with them and let them know you are available if they have questions. They may ask why you want to help them, which will give an open door to simply say, “I am a follower of Jesus and I love you.” This could open opportunities for further gospel conversation.
- Refugees and Immigrants – Many industries these people work in such as agriculture, hospitality, construction, and even medical fields are being stressed now to the point of many losing their jobs. If for some reason they have limited resources or do not qualify for government assistance, they are especially vulnerable. This leads to opportunities to help in Jesus’ name and have gospel conversations with them as well. To learn more about refugee resettlement agencies in SC, go to World Relief and Lutheran Family Services.
- Ethnic Churches in SC - Your church could be a valuable partner to an ethnic congregation in South Carolina. Did you know there are worship services in more than 25 different languages every week in our state? Many of their members may feel especially isolated and separated right now because of difficulty with the English language and understanding American culture. By reaching out to them and asking about ways your church could support them at this time, you may discover a nearby partner in them as you seek to make the Gospel known in our state and around the world. Check out the List of SCBC Multi-Ethnic Churches
In Matthew 9 after spending time with hurting people, Jesus felt compassion for them and asked His disciples to pray for workers in the harvest. During these uncertain times, people all around us and around the world are fearful and uncertain about many things. What a great opportunity for us to pray, prepare, plan and participate so that God will send workers into the harvest, and so that those who now live in fear will one day find faith in Jesus.