Many dramatic transformations are occurring all around us. Our world will never be the same again. How we work, study, shop, relate, play, and rest have been permanently changed. In light of these changes, I want to share a couple of missiological ideas and provide some city-level kingdom collaboration for the near future.
The recent pandemic has liberated the church from its imprisonment to a place and time. It has exposed the ecclesiocentricism, the clout of the religious professionals, the programmatic approach, and the funding models of the church, while it also brought out the communal dynamics and missional core of the gospel and church. The facility-based performance-oriented church services will give way to more virtual, informal, communal, and dispersed aspects of Christianity. The death of distance, institutional tyranny of the church, a plethora of ways of disseminating worship and sermons, and the growing comfort level of people with virtual interactions have transformed the socio-cultural dynamics, spiritual formation, financial models, and the mission of every local church.
Scattered and Gathered
One of the mega-themes of the Bible is scattering and gathering. The narratives of the Expulsion from the garden, dispersion at the Tower of Babel, the Call of Abraham, Exodus, Exile, etc. to Incarnation of Christ, Great Commission, Pentecost, the birth of the church, Paul’s missionary travels and eventual eschatological vision, we can observe the overarching theme of migration and its critical role in the biblical salvation history. The word for scattering in Greek is Diaspora and the word for gathering is Ekklesia. God scatters, and then God gathers the scattered, and then he scatters the gathered on his mission.
What missional theology and ecclesiology literature have tried to accomplish over the last three decades, God has effectively carried out through a pandemic in the last three months. Now a local church has to operate as a mission agency and a local church pastor has to develop a mindset of CEO of a mission agency. Pastors must see every member of their churches as a missionary who is deployed in a particular locality and their task changes to equipping and supporting them for effective witness of the gospel. The church work will shift from star-studded performance, erudite communicator, and irreproducible high energy weekly experience to prepare, connect, resource, and train people for lasting Kingdom impact. Churches have to unleash the power of all of their people, every walk of life, every relationship, and with all of their resources to have a missional impact in every sphere of society for the glory of God. It is time the whole (local) church take the whole gospel to the whole of their worlds.
Firstly, the pandemic has brought a church-at-home model and highlighted the critical link between family, church, and the world. The Oikos ecclesiology (household of God) is more pertinent than ever before. A church is nothing but a family of families and the ministry focus will shift in the direction of the home for spiritual vitality and generational transmission of faith. This will redirect the role of the church and pastoral ministry to be more supporting, enabling, and equipping of the saints for ministry while elevating the ministry of every member of the church. The home-centered model of church and mission-oriented equipping will unleash new levels of dynamism and missionary engagement for churches in North America.
Secondly, the global Christian influence on North America will surge. The center of Christianity has decisively shifted to the Global South and increasing its influence on North America church. Remember, there are nearly 700M Christians in Africa, 600M in Latin America, and some 500M in Asia. They are sending missionaries to other parts of the world and eager to pay back their missionary debt to North America for what they had done to their forefathers. Many Global South churches have also started digital communities here in the US and elsewhere. The transnational links of the diaspora communities are facilitating this proliferation on a global scale. This will save us from our notions of racialized, parochial, ethnocentric, managerial, and corporatized Christianity. A new global awareness and orientation toward the church worldwide and my local home-based faith community are two-edged transformation occurring simultaneously on account of the Pandemic and is realigning our ecclesial structure and activities.
City-Level Kingdom Collaboration
What could churches do in the coming months, in the mid-term, from Fall 2020 to early 2021?
- First of all, before we rush into strategic planning or finding a pragmatic solution of reopening our facilities, it is time to pray, repent and stand in the gap on behalf of our people, our cities, our nation, and the world.
- It is time to collaborate across racial, ethnic, generational, and denominational lines. Pandemic has created a new level playing fields across churches and exposed our common predicament. Pastors and churches are realizing their need for each other and learning from each other.
- They are finding new ways to collaborate. An Indian church with its technological prowess is helping an aging white denominational church to stream their service and develop their website. A Chinatown church is helping small businesses and unemployed youth in the city. Middle eastern refugees have come in the aid of a local church to run a food pantry. A predominantly Hispanic church is helping Venezuelan asylum seekers in Orlando.
- This is not time to pull back from global mission. Every pastor in North America could equip congregations in the global south where there is not enough pastoral leadership which will provide new insight into equipping your own people here.
Finally, our world has changed, but our gospel and mission have not changed. We have some exciting new opportunities to work together with other churches in our neighborhoods and cities for the glory of God.
Check out this video from Sam on this important topic.