Over the 5 or 6 years leading up to our Covid-19 experience, we worked in our Church Missions around the world. Many of us were unaware of the sweeping changes occurring in the world that promised to change everything worldwide, in regard to the completion of our Great Commission Mandate.
Some of these changes were:
The cell phone, smart phone, and social media phenominum, which resulted in a small device placed in most people’s hands, allowing for real-time communications between people in every nation using “WhatsApp” and other connecting media. We greatly increased practical communication and collaborative activities around the world as never before in human history.
Training movements, such as “No Place Left,” which was initiated in Nepal and North India began to increase around the world, resulting in Church Planting as they received the tools and processes needed to grow exponentially and multiply movements in many nations.
Efforts to reach the remaining unengaged and unreached people groups were promoted widely by conferences such as “Finishing the Task” under the leadership vision of Paul Eshleman and Rick warren. In 2019, most of the remaining few unengaged people groups were “adopted” with plans and strategies through multiple partners and agencies. This was announced at a conference held at Saddleback Church in Southern California that year. A milestone was clearly reached after many years of concerted efforts by many.
Most of the remaining language groups not having Scriptures in their heart languages received at least a portion of the Bible in their local dialects.
NOW, FOR MY COVID-19 “SLEEP” METAPHOR:
The Covid-19 phenominum came upon us suddenly. As a missionary observer and participant, particularly in the “developing world,” I had been communicating with and visiting Movements and leaders for a few years. Then, with Covid-19 policies adapted by political leaders around the world that affected all the Churches, a worldwide persecution-like event, covered the planet. Travel was restricted, congregational meetings were forbidden or limited, church buildings sometimes closed, and in some cases, people not allowed to work sufficiently to feed their families.
During this Covid-19 time, I observed “Holy Spirit Workarounds,” as believers sought to continue and in some cases expand ministry. Some submitted unquestioningly to medical and political authorities but others courageously challenged imposed limits by finding ways to serve their neighbors, preach the Gospel, make disciples in small group settings, and use communication technology to broaden their reach.
Churches helped feed their neighbors and prevented starvation in some cases. In CMC (Church Multiplication Coalition Ministries), the main fellowship of churches I serve with, our actual field work increased, when measured by other factors beyond large gatherings. Covid-19 policy events had prompted us to change “THE WAY WE DO BUSINESS.”
The experienced pain from the restrictions prompted us to make changes that we had previously exhorted one another to make such as:
Doing more small group discipling with processes to start new churches, mostly in informal settings. This movement to smaller settings was required when congregating in church buildings was restricted. Actual pain from the restrictions resulted in a growing movement outside the four walls of church buildings.
Using technology more and better. In 2020, I had some mini-strokes, probably caused by atrial fibrillation. As a result, I had medical tests and lost my driver’s license for a time. Concerns for maintaining my full mental functioning prompted me to learn the Spanish language at age 70.
My discomfort with technology also decreased, as I communicated each day with Christian leaders all over the planet. Movements in many countries began to grow rapidly, as I encouraged leaders in texts, photos, video calls, etc. I even made videos in English and Spanish. As things began to open back up around the world, we did hybrid CMC Conferences for training, which combined some face-to-face settings with zoom meetings, and local outreaches.
I figuratively AWOKE from my “COVID-19 NAP” with the exhilarating sense that God was up to something around the world and with my wife and myself personally. I had moved into activities clearly outside my “Comfort Zone.” The connections around the world have increased every week. Like many around the world, I have found myself being stretched. His strength is sufficient in our weakness.
Connecting more with Church Planting Movements like” No Place Left,” (in Spanish, known as Ningun Lugar Sin Alcansar). These training movements, which apply the principles taught in the book, “T4T” ( Training for Trainers) by Ying Kai and Steve Smith, have developed highly transferrable processes that result in rapid multiplication of churches. “T4T” is known as “A Discipleship Revolution,” – “The Story Behind the World’s Fastest Growing Church Planting Movement and How it Can Happen in Your Community!”
The name for the “No Place Left” movement comes from Acts Chapter 19 as the Apostle Paul reflects on his completed successful movement in Asia Minor. We had started implementing this type of movement training earlier than the Covid-19 time, and continued during Covid. As a result of the training movements, which follow Paul’s exhortation in 2 Timothy 2:2 and the pattern we observe in Jesus’ ministry throughout His three years of activity, rapidly growing Great Commission Movements expanded.
The training movements use small scale settings to train leaders, who then train others very rapidly, in comparison to previous Western discipling models and expectations. When we awakened from the Covid-19 “SLEEP” time, we saw this happening.
Focusing more on working in nearby fields. Planting churches at long distances is expensive and slow. Localized focus was adapted, because travel to do ministry in further places was discouraged. This local focus encouraged much stronger community ties and better use of locally based resources, with sharing of resources among multiple church groups. Before Covid-19, groups could act more independently. During this season, we needed each other. United work was often the result.
F.) Doing practical projects for food relief and livelihood. These were a natural outgrowth in the struggling communities in our areas of work. Churches became instruments oftransformative change as well as emergency providers.
The sense of being in a sort of sleeping mode during Covid-19 and now waking up to all our new possibilities is very encouraging. We now have all the tools and processes needed TO LARGELY FULFILL THE GREAT COMMISSION IN OUR GENERATION.
Most of our remaining barriers are between our own ears, as we stand, like the Children of Israel at the gates of the Promised Land. The world is our land of conquest.