Lessons from the Church in the EastTeresa L.
/Tuesday, November 29, 2022
Over these past two years my ministry context has allowed me to experience the impact of the pandemic on the church in the East and the church in the West.
The impact of Covid is global, but I have had the opportunity to interact with the church in a variety of different situations and contexts and observe the difference of response.
What drives the difference?
How can we learn from our brothers and sisters in the East as they responded to the same or even greater challenges than us?
Would it help to prepare us for the future?
The Situation in the East
The Micro Church in East Asia:
Being familiar with threats and persecutions, the Church has intentionally prepared for the worst.
She views discipleship in the light of obedience, suffering, and succession. She focuses on advancing mission and developing leaders that are faithful and willing. While crackdown measures were tightening, Covid hit in 2020. Her response to Covid and censorship is: "Come as it may, just do what is right and essential."
She rallies fasting prayer and strives to connect, communicate, and collaborate.
The result is double growth, double the number of leaders, services, Bible study groups, prayer meetings, and church attendance.
The Cross-Cultural Committee in East Asia:
Covid canceled short-term mission trips but did not stop the committee from advancing in mission. Instead of waiting for the old normal to return, they made extra efforts to prepare for succession and growth.
They reviewed their strategy, strengthened the structure, recruited new leaders, trained new members, and pressed on with a fundraising initiative. The team gained momentum, which helped their South Asia Partners overcome their crisis and increase their reach and impact.
Ministry Partners in South Asia:
These partners hold a similar view of discipleship as those mentioned above.
Before Covid hit, some of their pastors saw the danger of losing their second generation to the secular culture but did not know what to do. The impact of Covid, compounded by early flooding, was catastrophic. Lacking medical supplies and mitigation guidelines, the rate of fatality was high.
Even so, pastors and church planters put the needs of their people ahead of their safety. They devoted themselves to prayer, almsgiving, and house visits. They lost more than a hundred ministers to Covid.
Their sacrificial services presented a powerful testimony with lasting impacts, the fruits of which only eternity can tell.
When the pandemic storm became quiet, the urgency of multiplying disciples hit home.
The question that triggered leaders to immerse themselves in multiplying disciples is: "You are good disciple-makers, but what about your disciples? Who are they going to disciple?"
Finding the missing piece of the puzzle, they moved on to build Discovery Bible Study (DBS) groups, engaging their connections and helping their disciples to form multiplying groups. In about a year, approximately one hundred fifty groups reaching six spiritual generations deep were created in this country and continue growing.
The Situation in the West
Lulled by the ease of life, the Church takes peace and freedom for granted and loses sight of the imminent storm of the end-times predicted in the Bible. She generally holds an incomplete and distorted view of discipleship, leaves disciple-making to elites, and turns the cross into either a concept or a promise of comfort or prosperity, rather than a call to obedience, service, and sacrifice.
When Covid hit, the Church froze in shock like the rest of the world. Many turned to live in survival mode, focusing on the physical and losing sight of the spiritual. The average attendance of the Church dropped by an estimated 30 to 40%. Only a tiny percentage of those who resumed worshipping offline awakened to the reality of the spiritual crisis. Some pastors were depressed and stressed, and some resigned from their ministry.
The Problem Revealed
Although the contrast is drawn only from my personal experience and observation, Covid has revealed a more significant problem, a distorted view of discipleship.
Covid shook the world. Some of its damage is irreparable. In no way should one spiritualize or downplay the pain and suffering caused. Yet, perspective on discipleship is critical; it makes a difference in resilience and impact in the face of crisis, trials, and sorrows.
So, let's pause for a moment to examine our perspective on discipleship.
- What is your view of discipleship? Is it closer to the East or the West?
- Which perspective would better prepare you to face the imminent? The West or the East?
- What action will you take to prepare yourself and other followers of Jesus for the future? Would fervent prayers and asking simple questions be an excellent place to start? How about questions such as: What needs to change? Who is my social network that needs to know Christ? Who can be my next disciple? When to act?
As for me, I see multiplying disciples as most important to the Lord, most pressing to the Church, and most far-reaching to lost souls; therefore, I shall focus on Multiplying Disciples through DBS.
May the Lord bless you with the joy of multiplying disciples in every facet of your life and ministry.
Teresa L. is a global worker with Outreach Canada. She focuses on Disciple-Making Movements, specifically through the ministry of Discovery Bible Study.
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