Did you see the video that we dropped a week ago on this blog? Here is the link to it on YouTube, or you can literally just read my previous post. The point of the video is clear: even in this funky, don’t-leave-your-house COVID-19 time, we’re still the Church! We’re still on mission!
This is the message I have been sharing with our missionaries serving with Genesis for the last month. In fact, in the first days that our nations began to mandate that we #stayathome, I shared a devotional with each church planting team about closed doors actually being accompanied (if we look hard enough) by other, more creative doors being opened. I also offered them several important, practical ways to stay engaged and on mission even during curfews and quarantines. Many of you have asked what those are, so here are what I am calling…
Ten Missional Strategies for a Quarantined Missionary
- Get closer to God than ever before. “Hey, that is not missional,” you say. Au contraire. This is always the most missional thing we can do. The only way any of us can reach a lost and broken world is by first sitting at Christ’s feet. In fact, Jesus himself appointed the twelve as his apostles (“sent ones”) with a dual purpose: 1) that they might be with him and 2) that he might send them out to preach and drive out demons (Mark 3:14-15). You can’t have one without the other. When we spend time with Jesus, that is an expressly missional endeavor.
- Pray and prepare for a revival. “Wait,” you say. “These first two suggestions are things we should be doing all year long, even when there isn’t a pandemic.” Correct! But do we? In the past weeks I have had dozens of conversations with pastors and Christian leaders who are sensing a spiritual awakening in our people. We are finally realizing that the Church is not the building, and that the word of God is not confined to a sanctuary. Wouldn’t you hate to get to the end of this life-altering event and have missed God’s moving because you spent weeks and months watching cats play the piano (or other drivel) on YouTube?
- Cultivate and bless your contacts (ie. relationships) in the community. Many of our missionaries had gotten to know and even evangelized hundreds of children, youth, and adults in the weeks before the virus hit. Do we just forget about them now that we can’t visit them? Not a chance. Our missionaries are using social media and texting apps to call and stay in touch with a ton of people in these days! In fact, some of them have reached out to civic leaders like doctors, nurses, and police officers and offered to pray for them each day by telephone. Wow! God is opening doors for ministry in this desperate time that we had perhaps never realized were open before!
- Disciple new converts through videoconference technology. Our Genesis team in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala had just had an outreach event the weekend before the government abruptly called a halt to all activity. A young man named William came to know the Lord. They had given him a Bible, and then – BOOM – they couldn’t follow-up in any way. Or could they? Now the team of four is meeting twice a week with William and teaching him the Bible and what it means to be a Christian. That’s what I’m talking about!
- Further your studies. What better time than now to enroll in online classes to learn more about missions, theology, ministry, etc.?! In our countries of the Mesoamerica Region, we offer Bachelor’s, Master’s, and even Doctoral programs through SENDAS in great part online. This week we even launched a new School of Leadership lay-minister’s program for those interested in missions. Our goal was to have 40 students enrolled. We have 133. They are realizing that a call to serve in the future is a call to prepare (and also serve) now.
- Strengthen your relationships with your missionary team and the church leaders around you. Our Genesis teams are from multiple nations and cultures and are usually made up of younger men and women. It is undoubtedly an adventure for them to all live together and cook together, let alone minister together. And even if they eventually form a close bond akin to a family (which oftentimes happens), they also find themselves daily in touch with pastors and leaders that live and work in the same city. Sometimes busyness causes us to not nurture those relationships. Now more than ever we can invest in these people closest (literally) to us, encouraging and praying for them.
- Strengthen your relationship with your donors (and intercessors). How many times as missionaries do we find it challenging to be in good communication with the people who are constantly giving to us and praying for us? “Oops, that newsletter didn’t get written this month; I’ll try to find time to do it next month.” As my wife and I have been relegated to the house this past month, we have found ourselves more than ever contacting those faithful people who fund and fuel the mission. Through video, online services with local churches, notes of gratitude, etc. we are updating them more intentionally than ever. Another plus: reaching out ends up being an encouragement to us as well.
- Evaluate, dream and plan creatively and strategically. Four weeks ago, I contacted our Genesis team in Monterrey, Mexico, hoping to inspire them to keep on engaging in mission. I was amazed to hear that they were already creating new discipleship material for the new Christians in their neighborhood, and an entire children’s ministry curriculum that they will use once the quarantine regulations are lifted. Way to go, guys! This time when we are “stuck at home” can actually end up as a way to evaluate our effectiveness and strategies, so that we can get “unstuck” in ministry. I have talked with many colleagues who are recognizing during this pause that in certain facets of our lives we needed a “reboot” any way.
- Connect with family. Have you ever heard the saying: “When momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? That goes for all members of the family, actually. If you have a parent struggling with their health or a child struggling with their grades, those can feel all-consuming. Likewise, if things are great at home and with our extended family, it positively affects our mission. It sounds crazy, but COVID-19 is helping us realize that a healthy family dynamic aides our ministry and, in fact, IS OUR MINISTRY. Whether family is far away or in the same home, we cannot fall for the lie that says that family and ministry must constantly compete with each other. We truly can be healthy in both areas at the same time, and the health of one can lift the other.
- Utilize your career and degrees to help others. All of our missionaries with Genesis have studied theology at some point, but most of them possess a college degree in something else. During this quarantine I have witnessed our church-planting psychologists listening and counseling to neighbors online, as well as teachers offering to tutor kids from the community online. And then there is the couple from Tuxtla Gutierrez, México who is using their engineering degrees and skills to create protective masks for medical personnel, free of charge. God knew that our careers would be needed in this challenging time. Let’s utilize them for maximum effect in His kingdom!
So, there are ten missional strategies for quarantined missionaries. We’re still the Church! We’re still on mission!
What is your perspective on this odd time of missions? Do you have any other suggestions that I missed?