For months churches have been adjusting to life with Coronavirus – keeping in touch with people without seeing them, services online, recorded or hybrid, funerals and weddings with hardly anyone there remembering or celebrating. But there have been some great encouragements of reports anecdotally and from national surveys of more visitors to services online and more people praying, with some stories of people finding faith in Jesus. It has been a mix of ‘maintenance’ and ‘mission’, both in new ways.
How can we keep mission going in the long term as it now is?
Or how can we start mission as it is going to be like this in the long term?
How can we be like Paul in Acts 28 who was ‘locked down’ under house arrest for two years but yet it is able to be said that “he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ – will all boldness and without hindrance” (v 30, 31)?
Here are some suggestions for all of us:
Praying for people who are not Christians – prayer has no space or face mask restrictions and only God truly transforms peoples’ lives (John 16 v 8).
Caring for vulnerable people around you – neighbours, elderly, people with mental health issues, as so many people did during lockdown earlier this year. As followers of Christ we should always do this as He did (John 13 v 34).
Sharing the reason for the hope we have (1 Pet 3 v 15) when people ask why we are caring (see above) and living the lives that we do (1 Pet 2 v 12), sharing our story of what God has done for us.
These things can also be done together as church: for example, are we praying for people who are not Christians in our online church prayer meetings or in the church prayer requests that we are emailing around?
Thanks and thoughts – Evangelist Roger Carswell during lockdown wrote personal thank you cards to key workers like delivery people and refuge collectors and included a leaflet about how Christians see the world during COVID. Could this be done now for them plus hospitality staff? School staff?
Watch and wonder – put some videos with Christian content that are interesting for people who are not Christians on your social media to watch, wonder about and ask questions about. Some examples of videos to use can be found here and here.
Here are some suggestions for Churches specifically:
Equip and encourage people to do some / all of the above.
Providing practically – working with other churches where needed and where possible to provide things like food and debt advice which so many people are going to need in the months and years to come. People often need to know we care before they care what we know.
Online services – if we know we are getting visitors (and even if we don’t let’s assume so / aim for it), is our content inclusive of them in format and language generally (1 Cor 14 v 16) and sermon applications specifically? What about having some online guest services with a specifically evangelistic message?
Outside services – I am sure we have heard of churches doing services in church yards, parks, car parks or streets recently. Where could you do services where people who don’t go to church will pass by and at least notice the church is alive and active?
Online courses – I am going to be running a Puzzling questions course online for people who have no knowledge or belief in Christianity to explore some big life questions from the Christian view that this time might have raised for them. Could you run something like that?
Website witness – with such a move online, does your church website explain what the church is, does and believes in a way that is accessible to someone who knows nothing about Christianity?
Some of this is not new. Some of it should be normal. God has used new circumstances and normal situations many times in the past to spread the gospel. Perhaps this is another time?
If you are a church leader who is struggling to make mission happen or wants help to make more mission happen, I can offer virtual training, online preaching, Zoom strategising or socially distanced support to facilitate the new normal evangelism. I would be delighted to talk about it with you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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