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.
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.
It is Sunday July 22 and I am in Sweden as I write this. I am teaching at a Chinese Discipleship Camp for Chinese for those living in Scandinavian countries. It has been a wonderful week interacting with all these precious people.
I walked in only knowing two people while having never met the other 74. After just one day, I felt like I was around family that I had known my whole life. While I had no idea what I was going to encounter here, it has been more than a wonderful experience. It is an experience I will never forget.
Today, a group of Afghan and Iranian refugees joined us for our Sunday worship service. Some of them are followers of Jesus while others are a mixture of other beliefs. Said (pronounced: Saeed), originally from Iran, is a brother serving these refugees in the city nearby. Talking with him today, I learned of an incredible thing God is doing here in Sweden through these refugees.
Juan is my father-n-law. He is from Puerto Rico and 89 years old. He is a retired school teacher that will retire from his second career later this year, as a pastor of a small Hispanic church in Central Florida. As I write this, I am sitting in his hospital room spending the night to help him.
A few days ago, we arrived in Florida so my wife could spend time with her parents as I jet off to Sweden to teach at a Chinese discipleship retreat. Yet, the day we arrived, my father-n-law was taken to the hospital. While going to the hospital at anytime has a level of stress, this day made it especially stressful for us.
The day we arrived, the day Juan entered the hospital, was the first anniversary of my sister-n-laws unexpected death. The day she died, my family and I were 1.5 hours away from arriving at in-law’s home. We had planned to spend three weeks with them and relax. Yet with only 1.5 hours from arriving, we received the dreaded phone call that my sister-n-law was rushed to the hospital, where she died before we arrived. The pain of that day together with the phone call about Juan being taken to the hospital caused a lot of fear and stress.
I have heard a number of sermons and teachings on the Great Commission and the two Greatest Commandments. What I do not often hear much of is how the three work in tandem and how they are inseparable with one another. Sure, some talk about it but I do not find it taking place as much as one might think, at least not from my perspective. And yes, I am guilty of this thing.
At many mission conferences, the Great Commission is the central theme, and I get it. Believers come together to learn about and share how God is working among the nations. We talk about the need to send more missionaries to the farthest corners of the globe. We tend to focus on some of the famous Great Commission verses like Matthew 18:19-20, Mark 16:15, Acts 1:8, and Matthew 24:14. If we do not use one of these passages, some use Genesis 12 where God called Abram to go to a land he did not know.
This past Sunday, I had the privilege of sitting and listening to a brother in Christ give his testimony. He appeared relaxed before he spoke but was clearly nervous as he spoke. But, he did not need to be nervous. His testimony is a beautiful masterpiece displaying the amazing work of God’s love, grace & mercy working in tandem.
Some fellow believers might say that some backgrounds are worse than others but we all need God’s salvation. Untrue! Every sin we commit is equal in our betrayal against God. Every sin might have a different consequence on this earth but no sin has a different consequence in eternity. And, that is what matters most.
“Persecution is a good thing”, said Tom. Tom is a house church pastor in Asia that I have known since 2009. Tom was referring to a new law that recently went into effect in his country. In essence, this new law increases restrictions and punishments for those involved in unsanctioned religious activities (aka: house churches). In all fairness, it does not strictly target Christians, but they do have a giant bulls eye on their back.
"My father sought the Truth, and died without finding it.
Oh why did you not come sooner?" – Mr. Ni.
Mr. Ni was a Buddhist in the 1800’s. He made this statement and asked this question to James Hudson Taylor, missionary to China. This is the moment when Mr. Ni realized just how long Western countries have had the Gospel, compared to when it finally arrived in his community. My perception is that Mr. Ni, who did believe the Gospel, was grieving the fact that his father entered eternity never finding what he searched so diligently for because no one had come to his people sooner.
Steve Schirmer, President of Silk Road Catalyst and co-Host of Missions Talk. Least Reached Advocate. Dedicated to No Place Left.