Pastors from Europe say North America: Get Prepared Now The alternate
European countries have become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, with both Italy and Spain outperforming China in the number of COVID-19 deaths. Although we hope and pray that they will finally peak in new cases per day, it is too early to judge.
Executives around the world are now looking for lessons in these European countries on how to effectively respond to the outbreaks in their own countries. And if the number of new cases in the US does not slow down, experts tell us that we are probably only a few weeks away from experiencing a lot of what is happening in Italy and Spain.
This week, the Send Institute hosted a zoom call with pastors, church planters, and missionaries in Italy and Spain to show solidarity and show them how to prepare North American churches for the next few weeks.
The resounding topic of the call was: Get ready.
Francis Arjona, Director of the European Christian Mission in Spain, gave us a sobering assessment of what is happening: “For my friends in North America, the whole system is breaking down here. The hospitals have collapsed. The food supply has collapsed. You are overwhelmed and flooded. "
And while the situation in North America is early and maybe (we hope) not too bad, we should prepare for it and pay attention to the words our fellow Christians in Europe have for us.
Pastors should take social distance seriously
Ron Anderson, Lausanne Catalyst for Church Planting in Europe, has been a missionary in Europe since 1978. He lives in Madrid, which is considered the ground zero for the virus in Spain. Ron works with pastors and leaders across Europe and sees the detrimental effects of pastors who do not take social distance seriously. He told the story of a pastor who spread the virus during a funeral and passionately asked American pastors: “If I can tell you something, don't abuse the fact that you have to be isolated. especially the pastors. We have many of our pastors in the hospital with respirators. "
While most pastors and church leaders in North America are taking the necessary precautions to ensure health and safety for themselves and their church members, there have still been some churches that have held very large worship services over the past weekend, some as many as 1,800.
If a pastor can spread the virus while preaching at a funeral in Spain, what are the risks of pastors in America who continue to hold such large gatherings?
Beyond the spread of the virus, pastors who do not take social distancing seriously will inevitably tell the people who run it the same thing. And churches that don't take government policies and restrictions seriously don't end up thinking seriously about their neighbors.
Pastors should empower people to eat spiritually
The spiritual crisis that Church leaders are dealing with is not a crisis of streaming weekend services. The crisis that many churches face is that they have not adequately equipped men and women to lead people in their homes and in their neighborhoods.
Miguel Castillo, coordinator of church planting coaching at M4 Europe, says: “When a crisis shows up, you show what you're made of.” And at that time, Miguel realized that we didn't really train people to read the scriptures feed.
Miguel sees with some church planting teams where people do not understand the scriptural promises during the crisis and where they lack familiarity with Christ. His insight for the North American Church is, "Now that you have a week or two, probably not much more, go back and do an" express class "(for people) about how to eat the scriptures and how to feed on Christ. "
We may hear from European leaders that whatever we do for weekend services, we should make sure that we intentionally teach people in the coming weeks to hear God for themselves through the scriptures and to lead people in their homes and Neighborhoods to do the same.
How pastors equip people now will decide what discipleship will look like in the coming months. And as the International Mission Board missionary, Angela Jolley, said, "We should train people now that if Zoom fails, they will be able to guide you without them."
Pastors should pray and work at the same time
All leaders in Italy and Spain agreed that while the Church is responsive and active, it is a challenging and dark time. Health systems have almost completely collapsed. Doctors are tired and many of them haven't seen their families in weeks. People have no eye contact in grocery stores. Those who have loved ones who have died in these weeks cannot give adequate funerals.
This is amid the fear and growing boredom that people have been dealing with in the past few weeks.
Both the spread and responses of the virus have caused their social condition to go beyond the stage at which people panic and now that people are dealing with fatigue, loneliness and sadness.
Justin Valiquette, a church planter in Italy and pastor of Nuova Vita, told us that they had taken into account all of their church members, past guests and people who had contact with their church. This is useful as a prayer list, but also so that you can intentionally ensure that everyone in your church has personal contact every day. After our call, Justin posted an Italian prayer on Facebook, part of which we translated into English:
“While the world around us is full of fear and insecurity, this is our opportunity to shine like lights in the dark. We can be a community of people with calm hearts like the sea, a community that has listened to its voice and proclaims its great power and infinite love to the world. "
Prayer calms our panic and also guides our preparation.
Our European brothers and sisters
We stand in solidarity and with great empathy for our sisters and brothers in Christ in Italy and Spain, especially when they are at the height of the crisis and we are in the early days of our crisis. We feel a greater urgency today for churches in North America to not only provide worship services online to equip leaders and make disciples who are spiritually stronger than before from this crisis.
Just as the churches in Italy and Spain are currently modeling this for us, in the coming days we will pray that the churches in North America learn from them and show a higher level of urgency and preparation.
Since the level of urgency and preparation that we have to limit the spread of the virus at present can later be a starting point for urgency and preparation, we must continue to spread the gospel afterwards.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair for Church, Mission and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center and publishes church leadership resources through the Mission Group.
Daniel Yang, director of the SEND Institute, contributed to this article.