One of the biggest challenges for most people during this current pandemic is how to move forward. Everything is on pause, and yet, American nature tells us that the thing to do is strategize, look to the future, and figure out next steps. Cancellations feel like a step backward, and plans are currently made only to be changed. It feels as if one just can’t GO anywhere, but it is indeed possible to GO when you can’t go.
In church missions, the most common association with the idea of missions is usually the idea of going. For most people, missions is about going somewhere, whether taking a short-term trip or serving long-term. If this seems like a belief that is not justified, just tell someone that you are going to be a missionary, and they will ask where you are going. The being a missionary or doing missions simply requires going by its very definition. Even a good old Google search for the definition of missions quickly spits out a definition that says missions typically involves travel and that it often means going into the world. Go, go, go, so what if one can’t go? Does that mean that missions is hindered? It just might feel that way if short-term mission trips are canceled and flights are canceled and missionaries on the field are sent home!
Here is some good news: it is still possible to GO when you can’t go! One of the newer trends in church missions is to change the name of the traditional missions committee, missions board, or missions team to something that more clearly defines the church’s idea of what missions might mean. In fact, one of the most common new acronyms in the church world is GO. Note that both letters are capitalized, and that is because the acronym stands for Global Outreach. The new trend is to be a Global Outreach Team or Committee, which emphasizes the purpose for missions to reach globally. Yes, global still includes local, but a GO Team can be focused on reaching all around the globe even when they can’t go.
How could a GO team go forward even in spite of being told to stay home? Here are some practical ways to GO when you can’t go and continue doing Global Outreach even when you can’t leave home:
There is an Oswald Chambers quote that says, “Prayer does not equip us for greater works; prayer is the greater work.” We Christians do a great job of saying how important prayer is and not always taking action on what we say we believe. Any missionary will tell you that spiritual warfare is heightened in their work. Although missionaries have many needs, if someone will become a true prayer warrior for their work, the Mastercard advertising campaign of “priceless” says it all! In between prayers for daily provision and petitions for healing, churches could be igniting a flame by praying for mission work around the world.
• Encourage church members to contact a specific missionary that is sent or supported by the church and ask the missionary what prayer requests they may have and then pray for those.
• Begin praying for a new people group that does not know Jesus. Joshua Project has an app that will give a people group of the day that also outlines specific ways to pray.
• Voice of the Martyrs has an app that names a country to pray for each day, and it also describes the spiritual climate in that country.
• Encourage church members to write out a prayer and email it (or even snail mail it) to a missionary on the field so the missionary can “hear” the prayer directly.
Your church’s committees are probably not meeting in person right now, but that doesn’t mean they can’t GO forward. In this time with evening activities mostly canceled or postponed, a Global Outreach team can be evaluating effectiveness of their missions strategy (or formulating one for the first time ever!).
• A Global Outreach team could develop training and education resources for new ways to mobilize the church. Then new members will be ready to go when the going gets started again.
• A Global Outreach team could read a book on missions or watch a free webinar in place of meeting together. Any of these action steps will propel the church to go forward even when some limitations will be placed on going somewhere.
• A Global Outreach team could call on a church missions consultant. Certainly, the consultants and coaches are waiting to help churches with this process, at no cost to the church. All of the experts and professionals who regularly provide conferences and workshops are also restricted on travel and actually going, but they are just a phone call away to discuss strategy, policy, mobilization, and more!
Just like many people stuck at home are finding time to clean out a closet or start on spring cleaning, churches can use this time to revise the policies and procedures that have been governing their missions efforts.
• Facing questions for funding missions and have no policies in place to guide that funding? Get a policy in place now or revise one that is already in place!
• Facing challenges on how to care for missionaries on the field and have no systems in place for missionary care? Revise the ministries and systems or design a new one!
• Feeling limited with resources of time and money and have no way to fully evaluate and assess priorities and effectiveness in your global outreach efforts? This current situation is a time to pause and revise so that the best of spring cleaning can take root in the church. Take a church missions strength index, and in five minutes you will have a starting point for evaluating global outreach. Take that survey HERE.
If the church can’t go by hopping on a plane or traveling to a distant place, they can still GO by engaging in global outreach efforts that start at home. In Acts 13, the church at Antioch fasted and prayed and got ready to send Saul and Barnabas off well (Acts 13:3). Your church can pray, strategize, and revise and be moving even without ever going. WAY TO GO!!!!
Kirsten McClain serves in church missions mobilization for OMF. She has been serving churches and mission agencies for the last 20 years. She has a heart to see the church realize her potential in missions and is driven to be a mobilizer to this end. She lives in Georgia with her husband and three children, and she is ready to direct pastors to the various resources that OMF uses to come alongside churches and individuals so that they can do missions well. firstname.lastname@example.org