By Chad Keck
How do you lead your church to take the gospel to the nations when you can barely leave your own house?
In early March, I was scheduled to leave for Southeast Asia on a mission trip. Just a few days before I was to depart, the entire country shut down. The trip was then rescheduled for May, but we were still shut down. Then we tried for July, but everything was still closed.
Now it’s scheduled for late fall, and I’m still not very confident I’ll be boarding a plane then, either. The reality for almost every believer and local church is that missions looks much different at the moment and will certainly look different for the foreseeable future.
If the Great Commission is still the mandate of the church, we must learn to participate in God’s mission in new ways and with new methods. So, how do we continue to prioritize missions (especially international missions) in our churches while we wait for countries to reopen and travel to resume?
1. We pray.
Oswald Chambers rightly noted that “prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work.” The greatest work we can do is to pray.
The great movements of missions and evangelism have often been fueled by a revival of prayer. While we may need to wait to go, we shouldn’t wait to pray. Each Sunday the church I pastor prays for—by name—the three missionary couples we’re connected with as a church.
In addition, we pray collectively for all the missionaries sent by our denomination. We know because of this pandemic that many are stateside, and others are quarantined in places with better healthcare facilities. We know this is frustrating for them just as it is for us here.
Therefore, we’ve been asking God to prepare their hearts, fuel their passion, and prepare their mission fields for a harvest of souls.
2. We share.
“Out of sight, out of mind” is a cliché that can unfortunately apply here. When we’re not hearing from people taking trips or directly from missionaries themselves, it can be easy to forget about the vital Kingdom work going on around the world.
Many churches aren’t able to meet with the same frequency as they did earlier this year; many of the communication pathways used in the past to communicate about the work of the gospel around the world may be limited.
To combat this, our church has used video conferencing to interact with missionaries and church planters. We record these video calls and then post them on our church’s website and YouTube channels.
In those conversations, we ask for the specific prayer needs of the missionaries and church planters and then work to keep these in front of the church.
3. We give.
During a time of crisis, it can be tempting to turn inward. This can be true in our individual giving. We develop a protectionary mindset. Churches can also adopt this way of thinking, and it can be harmful to both the congregation and the Kingdom.
When resources become scarce, the place churches often look to trim the budget is in the area of missions giving. But when we cut back on our missions giving, we’ll miss the abundant joy that comes when we give out of our poverty (2 Corinthians 8:2).
When we neglect to give, we’ll undercut the commitment we’ve made to those missionaries who’ve left their homeland to live and serve in difficult and dangerous places. These missionaries are part of us; they’re sent out from among us.
Sometimes we must make difficult choices in our budget, but we should never lose our heart for the nations. As a pastor, I’ve often seen God provide in abundance for us when we’ve prioritized taking the gospel to the nations.
When we can’t go, we need to give even more generously.
4. We go.
We just stated that planes are grounded and missionaries are quarantined. So, how do we go? Missions always starts in our own homes and communities.
The next generation of missionaries are being raised by today’s teachers, nurses, plumbers, and lawyers. They sit in our churches (or watch us online at the moment) and listen to the Scripture being preached and the Holy Spirit moving.
They watch us (parents and church members) to see if we’re only interested in sharing Jesus across the ocean or to see if we will share Jesus across the street.
In my neighborhood there have been more people out walking and talking than at any point I can remember in my nine years in this community. There are ample opportunities for us to connect with them and to build relationships.
If we’re prepared and sensitive to the Holy Spirit, there will certainly be opportunities for gospel-centered conversations. Let’s not squander this time waiting to go across the ocean to talk to people about Jesus.
Let’s seize the moment to walk across our yards and streets. Not only will our cities be better off, but our kids are also watching and learning about missions through our words and actions.
Missions isn’t a trip we go on; it’s a lifestyle we live. While we wait for a return of physically going, let’s not waste the opportunities God has put before us now.
CHAD KECK is the senior pastor of First Baptist Kettering in Kettering, Ohio. He’s also an adjunct professor at Cedarville University.