By Yana Conner
In the past few weeks, you’ve probably heard the phrase: “The Great Commission isn’t quarantined.” You’ve probably even said it to remind believers of our task to make disciples—even during a pandemic.
But how are we supposed to ”go” when we’ve been told to “stay”?
Just recently, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) added talking to the list of ways people can contract the coronavirus. Talking!
To paraphrase Romans 10:14, how can they call on Him whom they have not believed in Him? And how can they believe in Him without hearing? And how can they hear without someone talking?
Are you sure the Great Commission isn’t quarantined?
These are a few of the questions taking up residence in hearts and minds of Christians—certainly church leaders—as we live in the tension of the Great Commission that calls us to “go” and CDC that tells us to “stay.”
Especially since both, during a pandemic, fulfill Christ’s command to love others as He has loved us.
How do we love others by simultaneously going and staying?
1. Let Love Guide You in Your “Going” and “Staying.”
For many, this tension between going and staying exists because we find our identity in what we do. The state’s stay-at-home order is like a set of handcuffs around our need to be productive citizens of heaven.
May I encourage you to rest in the gospel that saved you?
May I invite you to adopt the Apostle John’s heart?
In 1 John, he starts his letter, “…what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life…we also declare to you, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ, We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:1-4).
John is writing his letter for two reasons. First, he’s writing because he wants his hearers to share in his fellowship with the triune God.
Second, John is writing because he wants his readers’ joy to be complete. Both of these reasons flow from a heart of love.
When our goal in evangelism is to love people and not construct an identity, the tension between going and staying begins to subside. Our restlessness turns into thoughtfulness.
Though we want to serve others and share the gospel, we will find creative ways to do so to ensure we don’t cause harm to others.
2. Trust God’s heart.
We should always live with an urgency to share the gospel, but our urgency needs to reside in the context of God’s sovereignty.
The One who wrote each of our days before we lived them knew the coronavirus was coming (Psalm 139:16).
He knew what limitations it would put on the church’s ability to gather on Easter and send missionaries overseas.
He knew. And even though we’re not “going” in ways we’ve always have, He still is.
The Great Commission isn’t in quarantine because He’s not in quarantine! He’s everywhere, working in the hearts of people of every nation in every corner of the world.
3. Go where you already are relationally.
If you’ve already been cultivating relationships with unbelievers, find new ways to connect with them.
Yes, you’ve got Zoom and FaceTime, but change things up a bit.
If you had gym buddies you hung out with before COVID-19 hit, find a workout challenge to do together virtually for accountability and community. And for your coworkers, take some time at the start or end of your Zoom calls to check-in with them personally.
Maybe even send them a funny meme to lighten the mood and open the door for a below-the-surface conversation. During this time, go for depth, not necessarily breadth.
Build a genuine friendship while continuing to look for opportunities to share the hope you have within (1 Peter 3:15).
4. Prayer walk your neighborhood.
Do you know all your neighbors? Do you know their names, where they work, and how they’re doing? What about the people living on the street behind you? Do you know them?
Take this time to get to know them by daily prayer walking around your neighborhood.
Don’t go knocking on their doors, but go walking when your neighbors are likely outside. Stick to that time to increase the probability of you running into the same people.
Stop and talk to people sitting out on the porch or gardening in their yard. Keep your distance physically, but move in personally by asking them questions about their lives, seeing if they need anything, and asking how you can pray for them.
5. Plant seeds.
Our conversations with people may be shorter and less frequent during this time, but let’s be faithful to plant as many seeds as we can—seeds of extraordinary kindness and godly love.
If you have an unbelieving coworker or friend celebrating a birthday, think of ways you can celebrate with them by driving by to sing “Happy Birthday,” sending them a gift card, or organizing some mutual friends to send them a video.
If you have friends or neighbors who are struggling financially, drop off a gift card to a local grocery store or set up a sign-up list for your church members to provide meals.
Do the same for those who are sick or experiencing the illness or death of a loved one due to COVID-19.
Every seed we plant during this time makes room for someone (maybe you) to go back and water with the gospel in expectation of God bringing about the fruit of salvation in their lives.
Prayer is the work.
I don’t know about you, but COVID-19 has me saying things like, “All I can do is pray.”
This statement reveals three things about me: (1) I only pray when I feel helpless; (2) Prayer is my last resort instead of my first impulse; and (3) I think someone’s salvation is dependent more on my words to them than my words to God.
If this describes you also, I invite you to pray these words with me:
Father, forgive me for making prayer my last resort and for believing the fulfillment of the Great Commission rests on my shoulders and not Yours. Jesus, help me in my zeal to be your hands and feet, not to forget that your hands and feet were nailed to the cross so that I might find my identity in You and not my works.
Holy Spirit, fill me with your love so I can wisely and creatively share the gospel with others amid social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Father, give me the grace to not grow idle and faithfully plant seeds that glorify you.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Yana earned her M.Div. in Christian Ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as an associate campus director at the Downtown Durham Campus of the Summit Church.
YANA CONNER ()