The viral spread of the gospel. This was what Jesus had in mind when He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Jesus’ mission would be accomplished as His followers would become “carriers” of the gospel from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, and ultimately to the ends of the earth, spreading the Good News from person to person, house to house, city to city, and nation to nation. These disciples would be missionary “carriers” of the message as they left home and traveled to other continents to share the Good News with every tribe, tongue, and nation.
In the past week, we have seen this virus, and the mounting fears it’s birthed, spread rapidly and wreak havoc globally. The Coronavirus pandemic has shut down our world within the span of a week. Flights are cancelled, borders are closed, the NHL, NCAA, NBA, and other sports seasons have been suspended, Disney World has closed its gates, schools have closed their doors, churches have moved to online services, entire countries are quarantined, and people are hoarding hand sanitizer and toilet paper. We’ve been introduced to a new term, “social distancing.” Thousands have gotten sick. Many have died.
So what does disciple-making look like in the midst of the Coronavirus? How are we to live as ministry leaders and Christ-followers during these days? Here are SEVEN ideas for disciple-making during our current global crisis:
- Disrupting business as usual… in the church.
For several years now, I’ve been convinced that “business as usual” in the church has failed to produce the disciple-making fruit Jesus spoke of. In this sense, the Coronavirus crisis presents us with a unique opportunity to establish Jesus-like disciple-making priorities and practices. The failed disciple-making methods we’ve employed for years in the church, our over-dependence upon Sunday services and various other programs, are being disrupted as we’ve never seen in our lifetimes. Without our services and programs, what are we left with?
Relationships. Be the church. Care for one another. Work together to serve the hurting, helpless, and hopeless around us. Be the Good News as we share the Good News. Disciple-making happens in the context of relationships.
- Lean into our relationship with the Father.
At our Disciple-Making Conference, Alan Fadling, author of An Unhurried Life and An Unhurried Leader, spoke of the rhythms by which we live and lead. We were challenged as ministry leaders to live and minister out of the abundance of our intimacy with the Father. Often, our daily rhythm is too hurried to allow time in the Father’s presence. Perhaps this current disruption will serve to drive us to our knees, deep into the Father’s arms. How would our lives, our families, and our churches benefit if we as leaders spent twice as much time in prayer during and after this crisis as we did before it? Could God actually be using this crisis to bring the revival we’ve talked about but have failed to sufficiently pray for?
- Lean into our disciple-making opportunities with fellow believers.
With the believers we’re discipling, what do they need in this moment? They need to be reminded of the nature and character of God. God is sovereign. God is our shield, our protector. God is our rock, our firm foundation upon which we stand. They need to be encouraged to earnestly seek Him. They need to cultivate the practice of prayer. The believers we’re discipling need to be challenged to think beyond themselves and their self-preservation. They need to look for opportunities to serve. Rather than hoarding in fear, they need to love.
- Lean into our disciple-making opportunities with our neighbors.
As our plans are disrupted and we’re home more than we would normally be, our neighbors find themselves in the same situation. It’s time for us to lay aside our excuses for why we haven’t built the relationships with our neighbors and just simply walk next door and see if there is anything they need. Shop for them. Share with them. Listen to them. Pray for them.
If we’ve been praying for divine opportunities to share the love of Christ and the message of the gospel with those who don’t yet know Christ, our prayers are being answered right before our very eyes. We have the opportunity to be present in people’s lives, to be a true friend. We have the opportunity to show the love of Christ. We have the opportunity to speak the hope of Christ.
- Lean into our disciple-making opportunities with fellow ministry leaders.
In a moment of global crisis unlike we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes, we can see unprecedented solidarity, or heartbreaking selfishness and division. We have a common enemy much greater than the Coronavirus, one who has endured since the beginning of mankind. His end is more certain than the end of this crisis we find ourselves in. Yet with a common enemy, why do we as ministry leaders find it so hard to work together as allies? It was Jesus’ prayer before He went to the cross. He prayed that we would be one, just as He and the Father are one.
We have an opportunity RIGHT NOW to demonstrate the oneness that Jesus yearned for! Call a neighboring pastor or youth pastor and check in on them. See how they are doing. Pray with them. This is a moment for solidarity. We’re better together. Now. Always.
- Lean into our disciple-making opportunities at home.
With our kids at home for an extended period of time, and many of us working from home during this time, we have a unique opportunity to disciple our families through this crisis. We should have honest conversations about the Coronavirus and any fears our children might have. We should pray with our children and reassure them of God’s presence in the midst of this storm. And we should help our children see this crisis as an opportunity to serve others, with us leading the way.
- Lean into change.
The past seven days have brought change we didn’t choose and couldn’t have dreamed of or planned for. How will we respond? Will we wait it out, hoping for things to settle down and church to get back to business as usual? Or we can ask ourselves, right now, if we really want our church to return back to business as usual.
If we’ve been hungry to move our ministry to a more relational disciple-making approach that embraces the ways of Jesus, we can lean into the change that is being thrust upon us right now and begin to implement those relational disciple-making priorities. And perhaps, in finding a new way to do church in the short term, we might just find Jesus’ way to be the church in the long term.
Living and loving and leading like Jesus, in the midst of a global Coronavirus crisis, and even when this crisis has passed. That’s what disciples do. That’s who disciples are.