Buck Burch on Missional Means in Light of Covid-19


DULUTH, Ga. (BP) — By now there are very few places untouched by the lifestyle changes required to adjust to COVID-19. Travel restrictions and social distancing seem to be common bywords, and that affects how we think about missions in the near future.

So how does an evangelical Christian balance the call to be missional and yet maintain a social responsibility in a pandemic situation?

William Carey is called the father of the modern missions movement. When Carey first introduced his “Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens” in the late 18th century, his treatise was not given a warm reception by every single church member. In fact, some felt that living missionally through “means” was antithetical to faith in God’s sovereignty. However, the Bible and church history side with Carey to teach us that to follow Christ is to use the means He gives for the moment He allows.

When Jesus commissioned the first 120 believers of Jerusalem with the task of global mission (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1:15), He knew some of them would be impeded from actually getting out of town (Luke 21:12). The persecution He promised, though, would still be a part of His plan to put the Gospel in front of kings and governors. It would simply be a different means of getting His message where He wanted it go.

Paul’s missionary method sometimes involved going on trips, but sometimes it involved staying to train others (Acts 19:9-10). Moreover, Paul did missions even when his Roman imprisonment delayed him from “going” to Spain (Rom. 15:24), especially as some of the most missional epistles were written during this time. The perceived delays simply opened up a different means for the spread of the Gospel.

With current social distancing, we now meet a more formidable opponent to our usual face-to-face missional experiences. Flights are cancelled. Borders are closed. So, what should we use to continue living out the Great Commission? I’d like to propose four means:

1. Personal Technology. We now have at our disposal the technological means for communication in a way that Paul couldn’t dream. William Carey may have had no idea that the 21st century would be granted with such technological advances that we might literally reach any single lost soul in the world within minutes.

Our phones still work. We can call friends living overseas and be acquainted with their friends with similar likes or careers. We can talk to church leaders in Peru, pastors in Ecuador, or deacons in Guatemala with words of encouragement and/or training. And personally, we can find a long-distance friend with whom we can share the gospel.

Source: Baptist Press

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