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.
Since the world entered this unprecedented period in modern history, over 184,000 people globally have stepped into eternity from COVID-19 (as of April 23) and that number is rising. It was reported this week that this virus killed more people in the US over the previous month than the seasonal flu did in the past year.
It’s obvious that this virus is a real threat. It is causing a lot of destruction (not just in deaths). A plethora of families are mourning lost loved ones and many are affected financially and/or emotionally. As the body of Christ, we are responsible to mourn and grieve with those negatively affected (Romans 12:15), as well as, to rejoice with those who have been hit hard yet have walked through it successfully. With all that said, this virus must be dealt with. But, there is a threat that is far more costly, and far more deadly than COVID-19 and I’m not referring to another virus or earthly crisis.
A greater crisis is a person stepping into eternity never having the opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel is a far worse reality than this virus or any crisis will ever be. Why? The life we live on this earth is brief, but the life we live the moment we take our last breath is eternal.
Dying apart from Christ is hell in itself and it will be eternal. This is why Christ came, to redeem us from our sin nature and offer us a path to being reconciled with our Maker (John 3:16). This is not an automatic gift that we receive, simply because we are human, nor is it something we have to work for. It’s a free gift that is offered by God through Christ alone (John 14:6), and we need only to accept it.
As those who are redeemed, we have the responsibility to advance the Gospel throughout the world, to ALL nations, even during this pandemic. In fact, it doesn’t matter what crisis we find ourselves in. The Great Commission will always remain “Open for Business”. The “What” of this commission remains the same. The part that changes, even if temporarily, is the “How”.
I cannot tell you exactly what the “How” will look like for you, because we are all connected differently. But, prayer is the key to discovering your “How”. For some, it’s using Zoom. Others are posting Facebook ads to see if someone will respond. But, these are only two of many options that may or may not work for you. Maybe it’s getting to know the neighbors you haven’t interacted with (or met) or calling lost family members whom you have not spoken to in a long time. Regardless, there is a way to find lost people during this pandemic and share the Gospel.
When we seek first God and His Kingdom, He will show us the “How”. He may even lead someone to cross your path in a unique way that you do not know, like He did for me a few weeks ago. During my church’s online service, a Muslim in Istanbul, Turkey joined us. I got to converse with this person and it was evident they were searching for Truth. This is why we cannot let the Great Commission be sidelined. We may need to work at being more aware and intentional with our efforts, we may need to be more creative with our “How”, but we cannot forget the many lost souls who face a bleak eternity if we remain silent or let this pandemic shift our focus away from the Kingdom of God.
As your brother in Christ, I am right there with you. Lately, I have found myself often praying for wisdom because the “How” is not often that clear, simple, or easy. For some I know, they thrive in this environment but I do not. I thrive on face to face interaction and this pandemic has caused me problems in this area. But, regardless of where your or I thrive, we must allow God to mold and use us differently than we might have been normally used prior to 2020.
If you are struggling in this area, comment below or contact me. I may not have the answer but I can pray for you and maybe share a little insight.
Steve Schirmer, President of Silk Road Catalyst and co-Host of Missions Talk. Least Reached Advocate. Dedicated to No Place Left.