The silver lining of COVID-19 is it gives church leadership a chance to change its entire thinking on what its members must do to reach this world. Because the world is now even more suspect to the invasion of their space, we will have to learn how to get beside others in a way that they will invite. We will have to learn how to deepen trust and relationship and how to share the gospel in ways that are natural to us and resonant with them. These are three different levels of mission skills that every Christian must learn and practice: (1) Positioning, (2) Deepening, (3) Influence.
At times, outreach feels less like the reaching of neighbors and more like doing triage. You may feel this way if you are a church leader or pastor scrambling to move services online, figure out how to worship outside, or other ministerial adjustments brought on by the onset of the pandemic.
You are not alone.
The COVID-19 pandemic has swept over the world, and as of the Fall of 2020, has impacted America with close to a quarter of the total deaths. Almost every arena of life has been affected and local church fellowship, community, and worship have certainly taken a hit.
Being a church leader right now is difficult. Restrictions vary from place to place. In some parts of the world the church is still not able to gather in person together at all. Yet the mission of God goes on! The gospel mandate of Christ has not changed (Matt. 28:19-20).
But what has changed in light of the pandemic? What does the coronavirus mean for church ministries in the long term?
Given that no one has a crystal ball on what will transpire with vaccines and medical therapies, I am not here to make predictions on what will be but, rather, to declare to you what is already clear. In doing so, I aim to point out an opportunity for the church, rising before us in the COVID-19 crisis—something that could actually help the messaging of the church for eons to come.
Evangelism in a Changing World
Let me begin by saying that even if we get the best possible vaccine, and we see a major return back to the way things were, the world has changed. The world as we knew it—will never be the same. So are there resultant residuals in the culture that will have a continual effect on the future mission?
Deborah Tannen, a professor of linguistics and author, states: “The personal becomes dangerous.” Woe. Let that sink in for a second. She writes: “We know now that touching things, being with other people and breathing the air in an enclosed space can be risky,” and “The comfort of being in the presence of others might be replaced by a greater comfort of absence, especially with those we don’t know intimately.” Notice this new importance of having intimate familiarity and trust.