1.6 million US church members travel internationally each year on mission trips valued at $1.1 billion USD. https://buff.ly/2R0HV6j
While cancelling short-term mission programs (generally speaking) is not a good idea, re-calibrating is and this pandemic is providing us with the opportunity to do just that.
While I know there are many factors at play and there is no one issue the global Church needs to tackle for greater missions effectiveness, that's a lot of money for US volunteers to spend a week or two (some longer) in a foreign country. The question we need to be asking is "Is it worth the money spent?".
For some, absolutely. I know some God has never called to live on the field long-term and they are extremely effective, mindful, and intentional where they serve, and it's worth every penny spent. But, this is not always the case and those cases may be more frequent than most are willing to admit.
The mission has not been cancelled. God did not push the pause button. Our role in obeying it has not changed during this COVID-19 pandemic. What am I referring to? I’m referring to the commission Jesus gave his disciples, which is just as applicable to us today as it was nearly 2,000 years ago when he first uttered the words. I’m referring to Jesus’ words we find recorded in Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28:19-20.
Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
Jesus said, “Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
With COVID-19 swirling around us, we find ourselves in a unique situation, at least within our lifetime. Some of us have experienced or are currently experiencing a mandatory quarantine in our homes. Some of us find ourselves living under strict government induced lockdowns. Others of us have merely been asked to stay at home and do our part in social distancing. Regardless of our personal circumstances, the words Jesus spoke to His first disciples have not changed.
Does God ordain suffering? Is all suffering ordained by God?
This is a difficult topic, one that many are discussing these days due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. While I believe Scripture has an answer, I do not believe it is a simple answer either.
The Chinese word for ‘Crisis’, 危机 (pronounced: Way-Gee), is a combination of the two words. Danger (危) and opportunity (机). This is a powerful reminder. Yes, the crisis includes danger. I do not need to remind anyone of this truth because that is what we normally meditate on. But, what mankind tends to ignore is the fact that this new viral crisis also brings opportunity. For Christians, God is using the body of Christ globally to reach and touch lives because a crisis has a way to make hearts sensitive to spiritual and eternal matters like no other situation does. In this scenario, it’s a global crisis.
We all know that a plethora of ministry transpires all the time, all over the world. Yet, there is nothing like a crisis to get the body of Christ mobilized on the scale I have seen with COVID-19. Yes, this pandemic has caused some ministry efforts to pause but the pause is only temporary for most. But despite the pause for some, other ministry efforts are ramping up.
My pastor taught on Daniel 3 two weeks ago where we learn about the events of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. For those of us who have been Christians for some time now, this is a familiar story.
You probably learned, as I did, that these three men were steadfast and faithful to God despite opposition. We learned the result of their faithfulness landed them the death sentence by fire. Once inside the furnace, a fourth man showed up described as a ‘son of the gods’. Yet instead of death, the men lived without even the smell of smoke and fire on their clothes. This led the King to decree that all should worship the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
There is more surrounding this event but that’s pretty much the gist of the story. But, my pastor pointed out a key component of the text that I previously never noticed.
Everyone rushes to the store and suddenly no toilet paper or paper towels is available. Sound familiar?
Now imagine many needing ventilators at hospitals due of COVID-19 but there isn't enough to go around. This is a possibility and the problem, even if those needing ventilators is a very small percentage of those infected by the virus.
This is not the flu that can be prevented with vaccine or treated with antiviral drugs (yet), it's not a Democrat hoax trying to overthrow POTUS or the Chinese trying to destroy America. This is a global pandemic that affects (has affected) Republicans, Democrats, Chinese, Iranians and every person and nearly every country/political party on earth.
COVID-19, recent riots in Delhi, the global refugee crisis, war, famine and the list goes on. There are many crises in this world. Every year and decade, crises evolve and change. Some go away, new ones arrive on the scene and certain ones capture our attention more than others. No matter how severe a crisis is, I believe there is no crisis greater than having no Gospel access.
2.1 billion people are Gospel Deprived. This means they have no access to the Gospel. They have no opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel, not even one time. While the spiritual lost in America’s Bible Belt are equally lost and need to hear the Gospel over and over, they are different. They are different because they have Gospel access. The 2.1 billion spiritual lost souls I’m referring to do not.
This. Is. A. Crisis!
I keep hearing people say, "Have Perspective" regarding COVID-19. Every time I hear it, it's usually someone who seems to be down playing the reality of the virus so to take their advice, let's have perspective.
China shut off an entire city of 10+ million people over a few thousand "official" cases. As the cases grew, nearly the entire country was quarantined . Really? I was in China during SARS and H1N1. None of that happened over a few thousand confirmed cases of those new viruses. Think about that for a moment. That doesn't even sound logical unless the official figures were far worse than being reported, which is highly probable. Most experts believe it is much higher larger due to the unreported infections and even deaths.
World Health Organization (WHO) states COVID-19 has a higher mortality rate than the season flu - 3.4% vs 0.1% for seasonal flu. That makes COVID-19 more than 30xs deadlier than the season flu, if accurate.
As Jesus followers, we do not need to be fearful about the new Coronavirus but we need not be misinformed either about its reality.
This virus is very contagious, although it appears most experts are unsure how contagious. Is it seasonal flu level contagious or not? No one knows yet. But, we do know a few things to be true.
I’m reading “Something Needs to Change” by David Platt. It was just released and, from what I have heard, all the proceeds from the sale of this book is going toward Great Commission initiatives focused on reaching the most unreached peoples.
I was asked the other day if this book is similar to Platt’s well known book “Radical” (also a great book). My answer is Yes and No. It has been a while since I read Radical but I will say that it’s in the same genre yet still different.
Steve Schirmer, President of Silk Road Catalyst and co-Host of Missions Talk. Least Reached Advocate. Dedicated to No Place Left.