Notes from FIEC Leadership in Lockdown webinar on ‘World Mission after COVID’ with John Stevens, Eddie Arthur and Michael Prest.
1. A key foundation for gospel ministry is that we love our people. This means caring for them, sharing our lives with them (not ministering from a distance), and not being an unnecessary burden on them. Faithful ministry is not just doctrinal faithfulness from the pulpit but sharing lives with people.
2. COVID Update:
– We will be entering into Step 4 on 19 July.
– Personal responsibility seems to focus no on freedom but being cautious.
– With regards to face coverings and vaccine passports we will likely see inconsistency across society.
– It might be that churches which use rented premises will have restrictions put on them by the building owners.
– Specific guidance for places of worship has not yet been produced so we do not know what it will say on the key issues of social distancing, face coverings, and singing.
– Church leaders still have health and safety responsibilities and are to do what is reasonable to provide a safe environment, plus we don’t know what view insurance companies will take.
– Next week we will be in a much clearer position.
– It is difficult for church leaders to plan.
– Four groups of people to recognise in congregations: 1) Those who have not come back; 2) Those who are cautious but happy to come; 3) Those who are keen to move forward; 4) Those who want to get back to normal as quick as possible.
– This is a moment when church unity might be in danger of fracturing, and there will be a need for members to consider the interests of others above their own.
3. The centre of gravity of the church has shifted. It is now found in the southern continents rather than the West. Though we are not at the centre of the action, we are still in the body.
4. The pandemic is not over and much of the developing world has been hit hard. Medical staff have been disproportionately affected with health systems devastated by the number of doctors and nurses who have died. The economic problem when communities are shut down because if people don’t work they don’t get paid. Pastors don’t receive a salary if people don’t go to church and give to the collection and so are leaving the ministry to go back to farming so their family can be fed. Pastors, like medical staff, have been disproportionately affected as they visit and seek to help those in need – churches are losing experienced leaders. Church members not able to gather physically, but also not online because they can’t afford the data.
5. Lament the vaccine injustice. If I refuse a vaccine it doesn’t help anybody. But those who have contact with people who are in a position to make a difference should be engaging – not all of us can get involved, but those who can should.
6. World mission is not the same as it was. A movement away from Christendom mission (mission from the West through established agencies, primarily based on cross-cultural sending); from industrial to indigenous mission (missionaries have returned home during pandemic yet Christ has been building His church), and churches rather than agencies need to be the centre of our thinking (both as sending and receiving).
7. Lots of pastoral and practical implications of pandemic affecting missionaries – emotional toil, family issues, health issues, financial concerns (especially those seeking to raise support), devotional life, ministry questions, visas delays, waiting to return for home assignment.
8. Two things for churches to consider: 1) Are you supporting too many missionaries? Is it time to make a transition from supporting many to focusing and investing in a meaningful way with a few. 2) Who might you send? The privilege and responsibility to send people to cross cultural mission still remains.