This Overview was written in the midst of a global crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chinese term for crisis consists of two words: wéi jī, meaning ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’. The global pandemic has certainly shaken not just the world but also the church. Some have referred to it as a ‘divine wake-up call’. Will we seize this opportunity to rethink new ways of being the church, to re-examine our missiological paradigms, to rediscover our calling as kingdom people, giving hope to a suffering world?
Although three of the articles in this issue were written before the coronavirus exploded onto the world stage, they are amazingly relevant in such difficult times. I would like to thank the authors who were able to update their articles briefly in view of the current situation. The final article addresses directly a COVID-19 related dilemma faced by many mission workers—staying or leaving in a time of risk?
Churches around the world have been pushed to use their creativity for worship services, discipleship programmes, and group activities, with the help of modern technology. Some have tried to bring the gospel into homes by virtual evangelistic Bible classes and WhatsApp Bible studies, as well as Zoom counselling sessions. In his article ‘Mobile Missions Mentoring in the COVID-19 Era’, DJ Oden, a cross-cultural worker in Southeast Asia with PIONEERS, explains how mobile devices are being used securely and effectively for ‘monitoring and supporting semi-literate field workers in creative-access contexts’. He shows us where opportunities abound for sharing the gospel using such new tools, yet there are challenges such as trust-building, security issues, and skills development. We may wish to heed his helpful advice.
Phill Butler reminds us in ‘Who Gets the Credit in Collaborative Efforts?’: ‘Since its birth in 1974 one of the distinguishing qualities of the Lausanne Movement has been its focus on linking God’s people together.’ ‘In the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen intense levels of collaboration going on’. What are the vital essentials to enable effective collaboration, biblically and practically? Phill, Senior Strategy Advisor with visionSynergy, emphasizes trust as the key element. Based on the teaching of Jesus, he suggests practical steps toward trust-building and effective credit-sharing. As the Lausanne Movement involves the global church, he rightly cautions us to take note of its cultural diversity and to ensure ‘a level playing field’. We have paid most of our attention to sharing responsibility in partnerships and networks but have not created sufficiently ‘an atmosphere which encourages sharing credit.’ Hopefully through lessons learned during the pandemic crisis, our missiological paradigms have shifted from individualism to communalism, and from parochialism to globalism.
For the first time, we have commissioned an article in Portuguese, translated into English for Lausanne Global Analysis: ‘Connecting Brazil’s Youth with God’s Global Mission’ by Lissânder Dias, a journalist and one of the founding members of Movimento Vocare. ‘Movimento Vocare is recognized in Brazil by the mission leadership as a successful initiative for mobilizing and connecting young people for God’s mission,’ writes Lissânder. It is a Brazilian missionary movement that has helped them to explore and discover their vocation or calling in God’s mission, giving them meaning in life. ‘With the history, initiative, witness’, and the high number of young people ‘involved in ministries in their local churches’ as a result of their involvement in Movimento Vocare, ‘we are very hopeful that the mission of the Brazilian Church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, has been renewed by young people’, Lissânder concludes. This resonates powerfully with the mission of Lausanne’s Younger Leaders Generation (YLGen)—to enable each younger leader to flourish in their calling and to have a key role in advancing God’s global mission.
In the light of the worldwide COVID-19 crisis, many cross-cultural mission workers have been pondering questions around ‘In a Pandemic, Should Missionaries Leave or Stay?’. As the author Kirst Rievan says, it is ‘an opportunity to rethink our missiology with regard to risk.’ In this article, he uses ‘the concepts of polarity management and mental models to explore if our present missiology of risk still holds true.’ Is there a healthy balance between ‘avoiding risk’ and ‘sacrificing or suffering’? This is not a light-hearted but a very personal and complex question for Kirst as he and his wife were facing that dilemma in Asia at the time of writing. They are serving in Asia with a global faith-based development organization. In conclusion, Kirst writes, ‘The COVID-19 crisis might reset the mental models we presently use for overseas missions with regard to risk.’ How will that impact our approach to the broader issue of vulnerability and mission for our mission workers?
We hope this issue has been thought-provoking and challenging for church and mission leaders across borders. May we not miss this opportunity to be a beacon of light for Christ in this present darkness and beyond.
Lausanne Global Analysis is also available in Portuguese, Spanish, and French. Please send any questions and comments about this issue to [email protected]. The next issue will be released in September where we will address some longer-term post-pandemic issues affecting global church and mission.