Jason Mandryk of Operation World just published a 53 page booklet exploring the Impact and Implications of the CoVid-19 Pandemic. You can download it for free here and I think it is well worth your time. Here I give three reasons why I think you should take the time to read it, introduce the material, and supply some parts which resonated with me the most.
3 Reasons to Read:
The author is well positioned to have something worthwhile to say. Mandryk works with Operation World, a ministry which works to help the church pray for the entire world. They have connections and partners all around the globe and spent time listening to them before writing this booklet.
The approach taken in the booklet is humble and sensible. This comes as a welcome relief when so much of the commentary through the pandemic has been shrill and panicked.
The author has something worthwhile to say. Rather than half-baked prognostications and slogan tossing, Mandryk does his best to stay focused on what can be said with some measure of confidence and he connects his points to broader realities in the Global Church. The booklet will surely raise at least a few points you hadn’t thought of and reminds us that survival is not a big enough goal: the church is here to make disciples of all nations.
The Booklet Itself
Global Transmission: Global Mission is not a quick read but do not be daunted. The booklet is essentially a numbered list of short points so you can take it a few at a time. Mandryk has organized his points under the following headings:
Into the Unknown
The Bigger Picture: Sociocultural Issues
But What About the Economy?
Christian Testimony in a Time of Pandemic
Church Life During Lockdown
Mission Field Realities
Prayer – The Last Resort?
Reasons for Hope
The section on the dangers and opportunities of digital church is quite helpful. It is important to be reminded that the gospel still walks best on two feet, just like Jesus did. If you find yourself getting lost in the middle, make sure you skip ahead to the final two sections. Mandryk does an admirable job of reminding us that a pandemic is not a pause for the Great Commission and has gathered insights which will help us position ourselves to follow Jesus in the midst of the current situation.
On our opportunity: “Whatever we go back to after all of this, it will not be what was, but it could become more like what should be.”
“CoVid-19 will by no means be the end of the Church. However, if we seize the opportunity presented to us, and move in the love of Jesus and the power of the Spirit, it can be a chapter of refining, of thriving, of growing, and spreading. The choice is up to us.”
On the frightening advance in surveillance technology: “Imagine underground congregations whose devices betray not just their locations, but their very conversations. There is no need to imagine; the technology is already everywhere. It is troubling to realize that this can happen to us in countries with freedom of expression and freedom of religion; it is chilling to think of how forces hostile to the Christian faith could abuse such power.”
On exposing the prosperity gospel: “Hopefully, this crisis will expose for all to see the spiritual bankruptcy of those who gratuitously peddle the prosperity gospel. The relentless march of CoVid-19 through churches (even and especially Pentecostal and charismatic churches) seems to disregard any “name it and claim it” faith that purports immunity to viruses in this fallen world. While some teachers have demonstrated that the prosperity gospel works – at least for themselves – their fixation on their own income streams while the poorest of the poor suffer most has a profound tone-deafness, quite apart from the troubling theological implications. Such people speak about a compassionate and loving Jesus, only to act as wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
On the Western Church learning from the Majority World Church: “Look at the vast majority of the places where the church is currently reproducing healthily. Grassroots movements are the conduits by which the good news gets transmitted most faithfully, and by which disciples are made most effectively. When the church becomes an institution, numerical growth can be held back and spiritual growth can become stuck within the confines of increasingly sophisticated organizational infrastructures…. CoVid-19 is demonstrating all around the world that the essence of the Church is not in the physical structures, but in the people who abide by His word and are filled with His Spirit…. Increasing antipathy toward organized religion, dwindling finances, a disinclined younger generation, and congregations too frequently disconnected from local community all may require the Church make a quicker transition to being a relational network rather than a calcified institution. In the face of pandemics, societal dissolution, economic crises, and even sustained persecution, such grassroots models have proven themselves time and time again. It may feel macabre even to make such comparisons, but the best-equipped churches in the days to come will likely resemble how people follow Jesus in Iran or Vietnam rather than the USA or Australia.”
On the challenge for Global Missions: “Convincing people to cast their eyes upon mission fields, white unto harvest, is a challenge at the best of times. In situations such as we find ourselves currently, advocating that our finite resources, finances, energy, and attention should be spent on strangers will be a particularly hard sell amidst a global pandemic. This may be the single greatest setback to the cause of world mission – not travel restrictions or economic meltdown, but a closing of Christian hearts to the urgent spiritual desperation of the unevangelized who live elsewhere. Whenever the Church emerges from lockdown – whether scarred from the trauma, or full of newfound confidence and evangelistic zeal – gaining back the ground and momentum lost in mission mobilization will be a daunting prospect.”
On the dangers of digital church: “Media ministry and virtual church will thrive in this season – that much is already evident. But there is, in a very real sense, competition for the limited capacity of Christians to discover and engage with digital content – and far more than we can handle already exists even before the wave of new content crests. What’s more, we do not all begin this new race from the same starting line. The celebrity pastors and A-list teachers, the worship bands attached to the highest profile churches, and the podcasting prophets with the most subscribers all have a huge head start. I fear this will all just end up as a content marketing competition. And therein lies a problem: those with the most savvy search engine optimizers, videographers, sound technicians, graphic designers, and marketing teams are not necessarily the voices we most need to hear. They just happen to have the most resources available to leverage their already formidable distribution channels.”
On listening to the Global Church: “But this global crisis is the ideal time to tap into voices from the Global South – where the majority of Christians are from, where the majority of missionaries are from, where the majority of the unreached live, where the majority of humanity languishes – that we would also be well served to hear. Africa, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latino voices. Female voices. Voices from the slums and villages. Voices translated into English, because their own English comes haltingly – it is their third, fourth, or fifth language. Voices that can’t necessarily quote Bosch, Hiebert, and Newbigin, but can tell us from their own cultural framework and their own extensive experience what the crucible of missionary life is like. Whoever those people are, I’d like to be able to hear from them, and learn from them.”
On prayer: “Now, this is an area where the body of Christ can shine. I would go so far as to say that it is incumbent upon us, in our forced curtailment of so many other activities, to intensify our own praying and to mobilize others to do the same. Now is the perfect season for the global Church not only to cultivate the discipline of prayer, but to demonstrate the power of prayer!”
“Global intercession, especially when done in collaboration with our brethren from the Global South, provides an antidote to our torpid unbelief. We in the Global North have been enjoying the most secure, safe, and affluent existence since Adam and Eve left the garden. What do we need prayer for, when we already have everything?”
On our hope and confidence: “All of our strategies, programmes, resources, and efforts cannot accomplish God’s work on their own. By contrast, He can do all He intends quite without our assistance! He graciously invites His children into this great restoration as co-participants, but it is His mission from start to finish. The example of China’s miraculous church growth illustrates that God does not depend exclusively on missionaries to accomplish His redemptive plans! The growing number of unevangelized people whose journey toward faith was marked by dreams and visions of a previously unheard-of Jesus demonstrates that the Good Shepherd is pro-actively seeking the lost sheep. To realize this is in fact a relief. It gives us freedom from the traps of productivity and performance. We are to plant and water, but it is God who gives growth (1 Cor 3:6). That He invites us to be His Kingdom ambassadors, and that our lives actually have an impact on the fulfillment of His sovereign plans (2 Pet 3:11- 12) is a paradoxical wonder. And while our obedience might bring acceleration and our disobedience delay, He assures us that His promises will be fulfilled and His mission will be accomplished. What part will you play?”