Back in March, when the COVID-19 pandemic was just underway in North America, some warned us to expect it to be around longer than we initially thought and that we were entering into a season that was more like a winter, and less like a blizzard. Four months later, it appears that we have entered a little ice age as the pandemic does not seem to be going away quickly.
The most important structures of our lives are being challenged, and in some cases even questioned, including our way of doing church and mission.
And while the why of mission remains the same, the what and how of mission seems much more fluid these days, especially as it pertains to leading and launching new churches. The pauses and the causes we are seeing arise in the midst of 2020 have forced a disruption that may either slow down our missional engagement, especially if we only white-knuckle our way through it, or accelerate it if we pay attention to what is really happening.
The pandemic has brought great tragedy, including a climbing death toll and an economy struggling to stabilize. Amid everything, we are seeing racial tensions in America escalate, with both the political and theological polarities widening.
The combination of these challenges create a unique circumstance we have never seen before in our lifetime. And while this is not a time to exploit the vulnerability and fragility of our culture, it is indeed the right time to think about how the gospel is still the power of God that brings salvation to everyone, and how Christians can better partner with the ways in which his Spirit is at work at this exact moment in history.
The missiological strategies developed a generation ago should now be acted on if they still apply, updated if they do not, or put away if they are hindering mission in our time. And whether they are acted on, updated, or put away, it should be done with the urgency that 2020 is demanding of us.
Last week, the Send Institute hosted a daily Facebook live series called A Post-Pandemic Missiology for North America. As the pandemic began to unfold, many from the Send Institute missiologists council began sensing that the challenges we were facing were also potential opportunities to rethink mission and church planting in North America.
During the series, the council addressed five key areas that should be examined now and into the post-pandemic. They provided a near-term, mid-term, and long-term analysis of the key areas, pointing out the key opportunities for greater mission if we begin addressing them now.
The near-term analysis looks at how we can respond in the pandemic between now and the fall and winter months of 2020. The mid-term analysis looks at how we can respond coming out of the pandemic. And the long-term analysis looks at deep and permanent shifts that we can work towards on an ongoing basis post-pandemic.
You can watch the daily episodes by clicking on the “FB Live Video” links. You can also watch the presentations made by the missiologists by clicking each of their individual links below.
Relaunching Decentralized Churches (FB Live Video)
Over the last few months, churches have discovered valuable lessons regarding more decentralized structures such as meeting in smaller groups and releasing more people into mission. Today’s missiologists unpack these very crucial lessons and how to carry them over into the future.
Holistic and Locally Present Engagement (FB Live Video)
The work of community engagement and organizing has become a crucial skill for church planting teams. During the pandemic, church leaders were faced with not only asking how is my church doing? but also how is my community doing? Today’s missiologists offer a look into holistic engagement and its necessity for local missions.
Gospel and Culture in the 21st Century (FB Live Video)
The pandemic and the events surrounding it have revealed cultural angst, idols, and longings. These issues are setting the stage for mission in the post-COVID era. Today’s missiologists will unpack some of the greatest challenges and opportunities for mission organizations.
Church Planting as Normative (FB Live Video)
In the months during the pandemic, churches and networks have been given the opportunity to rethink their mission structures and engagement strategies. Some have begun imagining better leadership pipelines and converting small groups into missional communities. Today’s missiologists will give unpack how churches can plant more effective churches.
City-Level Kingdom Collaboration (FB Live Video)
The pandemic revealed both the strengths and weaknesses churches have in our cities when it comes to working together for greater gospel impact. As churches now are rethinking their mission strategy for the local context, a prime opportunity has been given to collaborate with others in their city. Today’s missiologists offer pathways toward more meaningful and effective city collaboration.
Paired with the Church Planting Manifesto for 21st-Century North America, this body of work done by the council of missiologists at the Send Institute has laid a foundation for churches and organizations to build practical strategies for church planting and missional engagement based on expert analysis and missiology.
The pandemic and the societal tensions we are facing right now are not mere tragedies that we are simply trying to survive. We are amid sovereign conditions through which many church leaders are being awakened to see the systems and structures of mission built on paradigms that are perhaps aging and expiring.
The opportunity is before us to follow the new wind of the Holy Spirit and to engage a new normal with new wineskins.
We will not find the way forward by concentrating on salvaging or reviving old structures. Indeed, we ought to be prepared to evaluate them honestly and take necessary decisions to terminate those that no longer serve a valid purpose. We should turn our energies to discerning what the shape of mission is to be in the changed world situation and find the wineskins that can hold the new wine of God’s Spirit. - Wilbert R. Shenk, Changing the Frontiers of Mission
Daniel Yang is the Director of the Send Institute. He planted a church in Toronto where he also helped recruit, assess, and train church planters through the Send Network and the Release Initiative. Prior to church planting, Daniel was an engineer for eight years. He is currently a Ph.D. Intercultural Studies student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.