—This content is sponsored by The Solomon Foundation—
A pastor recently shared with me that he never had a Bible college class that focused on ministering during a pandemic. I told him I never had a class in business school about how to cope with a pandemic, either. We are living in extraordinary times.
When crises arise, Americans usually get to work to find solutions. This is certainly true with our church leaders; I have seen them rise to the occasion many times. Churches across our nation have been affected differently by the coronavirus. Some church buildings still are closed, and some churches have remained open, but all have been affected in some form or fashion.
Some local churches have poured all of their resources into responding to COVID-19 locally, to the detriment of those on the mission field. So, just how has this pandemic impacted local and regional camps, parachurch ministries, Christian colleges, and various missionaries and agencies that focus on reaching the lost?
Missions Are an Essential Part of the Church
Jesus’ Great Commission instruction makes it clear that missions are an essential part of his church (Matthew 28:18-20). Missionary work will never be completed until every person on earth has heard the good news. The challenges to reaching the multitudes of lost people include insufficient funding and a lack of people to work in the mission field.
Acts 1:8 describes the beginning of the challenge to reach all people around the world: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
We must continue to support our missionaries, even (or especially) during difficult times. Churches are understandably concerned about potential loss of revenue and conserving their resources due to the considerable number of unknowns because of current events. Unfortunately, missions funding is typically one of the first cuts a church makes.
As church leaders, we must remember two things: First, God is the great provider, so we need not worry; instead, we need to have faith and work hard at the tasks he has set before us. Second, the church should tithe to missions from the tithes and offerings they receive (see 1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8).
Ministries Are Finding Creative Solutions
I’m writing this in early September as Julie and I are traveling in the Western portion of the United States. This trip, and our earlier trip throughout the Eastern U.S., have powerfully affected me. I feel connected in ways I never have before.
My wife and I have had great quality time driving in the car together, eating all our meals together, and meeting with pastors and their wives. These trips have helped me connect with our country and its vast beauty . . . from sea to shining sea (as the song says). I’ve developed deeper connections with God as we seek to serve his church and help it continue to grow and reach the lost. I feel more connected to local churches and parachurch ministries as we have safely visited 85 of them during the last four months.
I’ve seen remarkable and seemingly endless creativity during these travels. Churches, mission groups, families, and businesses are finding new ways to interact, raise support, serve their communities, and reach the lost. Here are a few examples:
- SECOR (Southeast Community Outreach) in Parker, Colorado: Five years ago, SECOR was a small ministry within Southeast Christian Church. They were doing exceptional work providing food to approximately 400 families each week. In 2015, SECOR moved into a 9,000-square-foot facility in The Solomon Centre and almost instantly grew to feeding almost 1,700 families weekly. In fact, the ministry actually outgrew their space.
In a partnership with The Solomon Foundation, SECOR built a freestanding, 23,000-square-foot building at The Solomon Centre and again saw staggering growth. SECOR also received a major grant from Christian Brothers Automotive to build a mobile food truck to help distribute food. I believe God was preparing SECOR for what was coming.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, SECOR has been feeding 3,000 families per week! And even more impressively, their contributions from donors and churches have quadrupled. SECOR was already serving a need in the community, and when the pandemic hit, they were prepared and able to expand their mission.
- Christ in Youth: CIY has been one of the main parachurch organizations serving our brotherhood and other churches for many decades. Their cutting-edge summer programming for junior and senior high students is the best in America, and CIY has actually been branching out into Europe. CIY books venues and sells their services to students and churches well in advance with the promise to hold a state-of-the-art event in arenas across the U.S.
And then the coronavirus hit, and CIY was forced to cancel events across the country during the summer and fall. But the CIY staff, led by CEO Jayson French, did not throw in the towel. They creatively found ways to produce video materials to provide for junior high and senior high students online. They did not give up or shut their doors; instead, they adapted . . . as missionaries have done for centuries. CIY’s financial structure has undergone challenges, but I am confident they will find a way to make it work.
- International Conference on Missions: ICOM’s unique mission involves bringing our missionaries together once a year in the late fall here in the U.S. These gatherings are where missionaries connect with one another and where churches connect with the missionaries they support (and find new ones to support). I look forward to this get-together each year. ICOM’s team is now planning a hybrid event—largely virtual but with a limited in-person gathering—this month (November) in Indianapolis. ICOM knows they need to carry out their mission, and they are ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Using a baseball analogy, these three particular missions have found a way to hit a curveball out of the park. Their resilience and faith are reasons my wife and I personally support all three. We are better together. I want to challenge you to support your missionaries . . . and to seek out, encourage, and support missions and parachurch ministries that are being creative. The local church and their congregants can team up with these organizations to continue to seek the lost, teach them about Jesus, and expand the kingdom of God!