A Church Prepared for the Worst
As I write, the world is reeling from the effects of the coronavirus. Stock markets are plummeting, restaurants, hotels and schools are closing and churches are canceling services. Mission organizations are postponing or cancelling conferences. President Trump has declared a national state of emergency. Whole countries like Italy, France and Spain are on lockdown. The world is hunkering down, hoping this “angel of death” will pass by their door. With growing travel restrictions and spreading quarantines, the global mission enterprise is being forced to rethink business as usual. In times like these we need a Church that is prepared for the worst.
At this time, it is hard to know whether the draconian measures taken by many governments around the world will effectively blunt the spread of this disease. With a death rate seven times that of the typical flu, many countries are working to prevent their health systems from being overwhelmed such as in Italy. But what seems likely is that the world and our mission enterprise will be dealing with this virus for some time to come until effective vaccines or treatments are widely available.
So how should the global Church respond when the world is falling apart? It is clear that our current western model of doing church, where people attend mass events, is not capable of meeting the needs of the surrounding society when governments and health officials ban such mass events for legitimate health reasons. Whether it is a virus, a war or persecution, the global Church needs to be spiritually prepared, well trained and effectively structured so that we can love and serve a frightened world in need.
As followers of Jesus, we need to approach such world events with faith and courage, not fear. If we are at the front of the long lines at Costco to hoard toilet paper just like everyone else, how can we be ministers of the gospel to a hurting world? We can’t. An unbeliever has no reason to listen to us or trust anything we say if we are just as fearful as they are—unable to live out the gospel in faith.
We need a Church that is equipping disciples to be disciple-makers, not passive audience members. We need church members who, on a moment’s notice, are as disciple-makers and church-planters in the absence of the usual pastoral leadership and large church meetings. A mass audience of people dependent upon one pastor for directions is not equipped to share the gospel and meet real needs in a crisis when things are at their worst. When a viral pandemic infects the world, bringing fear and isolation, we need the viral spread of trained disciple-makers and church-planters to spread the love of Jesus to a world in chaos. Many churches are working creatively to reach out to people in the midst of this crisis through modern technology. But that is no replacement for millions of equipped disciple-makers. Because we have relied so much on a mass audience approach to sharing the gospel, the global Church is now largely ill-prepared to deal with the current coronavirus crisis.
The methods and strategies currently being employed by the 1,053-plus Kingdom Movements growing around the world are precisely the kind of disciple-making and church-planting we need in times like this. The churches in these movements are small, usually around 10 to 20 people who are much better able to monitor the health of their individual members than in a large audience. This size of church is also well suited for monitoring and serving those people in their respective relational networks who may be ill and need help with meals, grocery shopping, etc. When it comes to dealing with the needs of individual people in crisis, small groups of committed, well-trained Jesus followers are much better able to deal with these needs than an impersonal, disconnected larger group of audience members.
It is my hope and prayer that this current global crisis will wake up the global Church to the reality that doing church as usual will not suffice as we face various crises going forward. It does not mean that we must do away with all large church gatherings. What it does mean is that every church needs to develop a small group strategy where each believer is trained and equipped to make disciples and lead small groups or churches. This can help a movement to develop now and will prepare us for the next crisis when large church gatherings are no longer possible. This current crisis is a wake up call for the global Church. The question is whether we will answer the call.
Tokyo 2010 and Its Impact Today
Ten years ago, almost 1,000 delegates from 73 countries got together for the Tokyo 2010 conference. In this issue we look back over the last ten years to see what impact this meeting has had on the course of world evangelization and to answer the legitimate question of “Why does Tokyo 2010 still matter today?” Is it possible that a meeting of 1,000 mission and church leaders could actually be making a difference 10 years later? That is what we want to look at in this issue and to take note of what God has done over the last 10 years in order to see what still remains to be done. I highly recommend Paul Eshleman’s article on “The State of the Unfinished Task” starting on page 19. It gives a great overview of where we have been, what we have accomplished and the challenges we still face. There is still so much left to be done among the Frontier People Groups and so many more movements that need to be fostered in every unreached people and place, but we can rejoice at the great progress we have made over the last 10 years.
Ten years ago, at Tokyo 2010 making disciples was a major focus, but fostering movements of discipleship was not. Church Planting Movements were a minor topic of discussion regarding innovative new strategies. No one knew how many of these movements there were until mid-2017 when delegates from around the world met to form the 24:14 Coalition. When the people who were fostering these movements got together to compare notes, it was discovered that there were 472 of them. Just three years later there are over 1000.
As our lead article starting on page 8 indicates, the most important result of Tokyo 2010 was the focus on making disciples and developing a structure for ongoing collaboration by all those church and mission leaders who want to train disciple-makers. Also take note of the wonderful article on Business for Movements starting on page 22, which reflects that the Tokyo 2010 structure has been adapted to include the latest movement strategies of today. If Tokyo 2010 has indeed provided an effective structure for collaboration through their Connect platform, (connect.ggcn.org) then the impact of Tokyo 2010 could continue long into the future.