Creating a Gospel Pandemic – Lessons From the Virus
These are times of rapid change globally. And while our mission to ‘make disciples of all the nations’ hasn’t changed, this reset season is a great time to re-examine and review the traditional approaches to the task if we must accelerate to see gospel-movements happen and remain effective at the same time.
How do we unleash the gospel and make it go viral? Here are a few lessons from COVID-19:
- Get ‘infected’ – The virus is harmless to humans until it gets inside the body and infects the respiratory organs. Left on objects and surfaces, it poses no real threat until it gets inside. In the same way, the gospel has to first be internalized in me before I can pass it on to anyone else. Perhaps the reason why many believers aren’t sharing the gospel is because it hasn’t yet taken hold on the inside. They are insulated from the permeating effect of the gospel. Unless we are fully persuaded and convicted about the gospel message, there will be no urgency to get it out to others. We need more cases of infected disciples who are ready to lay down their lives for what they believe and refuse to be ‘treated’ by the world. The gospel is an infection we don’t want to recover from.
- Get personal – Every person who was infected simply spread the virus through interaction with other people, howbeit casually. In the same way, the gospel is best communicated when every follower of Christ intentionally ‘spreads’ it to those they come into contact with naturally. I often tell people that ‘Missions is not for missionaries. Missions is for disciples.’ We desperately need to return to the simple replicable methods of making disciples who make disciples. This makes allowances for highly organic transmissions where ordinary people are sharing the gospel rather than depending on evangelistic projects, programs and personalities to get the job done.
- Get mobile – From a so called wet market in Wuhan, China, the virus went global in 3-6 months largely through person to person contact but also at mass gatherings. As people traveled for business, conferences, tourism and other reasons, the virus spread to almost every country on the planet. As the travel industry slowly recovers from the pandemic, we must mobilize and equip marketplace disciples with opportunities for travel to other gospel-needy countries. Potential students and tourists in and to those countries must carry this potent gospel to places where it hasn’t yet reached so that Missions truly becomes everyone going everywhere, every time.
- Get strategic – In every country, cities have been the epicenters where the virus spread fastest with very few infected cases in rural areas. In Kenya, certain cities were ‘contained’ for fear of spreading it to other parts of the country. The government placed stiff travel restrictions with tight controls whereby travel in and out of the worst hit cities were banned. The UN estimates that 55% of the world currently live in cities with Africa leading as the fastest urbanizing continent. Missions in Africa has been largely rural based. But there is hardly any city today which doesn’t have pockets or communities of unreached people groups sprinkled or scattered therein. Rather than contain the gospel to ourselves and our churches, we need to saturate entire cities with disciple making movements till there is no place where the gospel isn’t seen and heard in our cities. Culture flows from urban to rural areas, not the other way round.
- Get Online – In most countries, schooling and the work place moved home during the lockdown. This led to a sharp spike in internet usage by many households. The top telecoms operator in Kenya has seen a 70% surge in data usage since COVID-19 hit. It currently supplies over 300,000 homes with fibre connection. To locate young people now, you do not need a physical address as most of them now live in cyber-space. Missions must develop effective, appropriate and relevant online tools and platforms for evangelism, discipleship, mission mobilization and training of potential cross-cultural workers. While we must keep going physically, we must also ‘go remotely.’
- Get together – There was a wild scramble by bio-pharmaceutical companies to come up with a vaccine against the virus at the earliest possible date. The initial thought was ‘whoever comes up with it first smiles to the bank.’ But eventually, several big companies decided to collaborate to fight a common enemy. Though there has been a lot of talk in mission circles about inter-agency collaborations and partnership with churches but very little of that is being done in our part of the world. We have a common goal: to make disciples of all ethne (Nations) and the only viable way to get the job done is by working together. Someone has rightly quipped: ‘The main cause of division in mission circles are logos and egos.’ Let’s get together for our global cause.
The virus was uncontainable for several months and even at the time of this writing, most countries are still battling to curb spread of the Omicron variant. So long as infected people interact closely with other people, the virus spreads. In the same way, if disciples make and multiply disciples exponentially, the gospel will unstoppably reach the ends of the earth regardless of what the world is facing. We must be people with deep convictions who take personal responsibility, equipping ordinary believers, using technology as a tool, focusing on strategic locations and collaborating with others in order to make the gospel go viral. Above all, we must do all these through unflinching prayer which remains our unchanging and potent weapon to advance in the midst of a changing world.
Mark Kolo is the International Team Leader for Global Activation.