12 theses and 12 hopes[1]

By Günther Beck, Director of DMG

Corona restrictions and the consequences for people worldwide, church and mission
Corona restrictions and the consequences for people worldwide, church and mission

1.) Mission keeps going until the Lord Jesus comes again

Mark 13:10 "The gospel must first be preached to all nations." The whole 13th chapter of Mark's gospel is about the end times, the end of the world, thereturn of the Lord Jesus to earth. But beforehand, first of all, the message of Jesus MUST be preached. This mission exists at all times and under all circumstances, with religious freedom but also without it. The forms of preaching may change radically, but our basic mission remains the same. Since you are reading this, we assume that God’s mission is also important to you, and we thank you for this solidarity.

2.) We need Jesus not only for our souls, but for everything

The suffering caused by corona prevention measures is unimaginable. Even before corona, hunger [2] was the leading cause of death worldwide. Many people in other countries live from hand to mouth, feeding themselves by providing services, from shoeshine and rickshaw rides to guiding tourists, jobs which are only paid for when they happen. Begging is also one of these sources of income. As a result of contact restrictions, all this income is lost; according to the UN, this affects half of all earnings in Africa. Our missionaries have reacted very quickly and many of them distribute food packages, regardless of their primary duties. The distinction between "social" and "spiritual" mission has always existed only in theory. It is not only in Micah 6:8 that justice and goodness are described as God's standard for our actions. Man lives "not from bread alone, but from every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). God's salvation is for the whole person in all physical, social and eternal needs. Christian activities are considered "not vital" if they address only a narrow area of human existence.

Our hope is that Christians intervene in emergencies in a way that does not allow emergency aid to take on a life of its own or become a permanent solution. Existing resources of the people we want to help must be recognized and supported.

3.) Questions of blame do not change our mission

Are the prevention measures too strict or too loose? Where does the virus come from? Who spread it? Is a clandestine international plot behind it all?

For most of us it is pointless to look for answers to these questions. The question we have to ask ourselves is, "Lord, what do you want from me in this situation?" In the vast majority of cases, God's answer will be the same as in Thesis one. We know that God remains the Lord of history. Our job is to discern his will and do it.

Our hope is that Christians spend less time following the concerns of the world. That they do not let themselves be infected by the fears and worries of the world, but rather pass on the hope of the Gospel.

Director Günther Beck, DMG
Günther Beck

4.) Internet worship services strengthen the trend towards Christian consumerism

It's nice that we don't have to do without church services altogether. Many churches have offered church services very quickly via internet or telephone. What is missing is mutual encouragement, the Biblical "one another"[3]. Just by my visible presence in the service I encourage others who see that I am there too. Instead of being there in person, we watch or listen to services that are becoming more and more professional. At some point we stop attending the virtual services of our home churches because we realize that there are others that are much cleverer, more entertaining, deeper or whatever. So we listen to better and better services - and then? Who benefits from this? Figures on how many people watched my YouTube video may be of fleeting interest, but they don't reflect the growth of the Kingdom of God. 

Our hope is that Christians meet in person whenever and wherever possible. If this is not possible, then in online groups that are small enough to allow real sharing.

5.) Large gatherings are only one form of fellowship

Spacing requirements will continue to accompany us for some time. Even large sanctuaries are quickly full if you have to keep a distance of 1.5 to 2 meters or allow 10 m² per person. This is not necessarily a bad thing. All promises for Christian fellowship are valid for as few as two people. If there are more, even more gifts can be developed, but the concept is not "the more the better", but "the more committed the better".

Our hope is for every Christian to have a friend with whom they can have a brief daily conversation about their spiritual life: What did you read today? For what are you grateful to God, for whom can you be a blessing today and how? What are you struggling with?

Our hope is that Christians meet at least weekly in small groups - personally or by electronic means - to encourage one another on the way with Jesus.

New type of schools for missionary children
New type of schools for missionary children

6.) Learning works online too

From regular school lessons to specialized seminars, within months we have managed to teach and learn in a decentralized way. Does this have to stop? Missionaries often return because the education of their children in the country of assignment is difficult despite the beneficial work of the German Distance Learning School. Even if they use these times in Germany to further their own education, distance learning could allow more flexible models.

Our hope is that Christian schools in Germany will offer decentralized classes and mixed forms that allow a flexible change from face-to-face teaching to online and vice versa.

7.) New missionaries are to be found in churches

Missions put a great deal of effort and funds into Christian conferences in order to present their work. People who are open to God's guidance are personally challenged to respond to His worldwide mission. Even without such conferences however, there is still the possibility of being open to God's guidance and personal challenge. Missions could motivate and train individual Christians to spread the Great Commission through their networks.

Our hope is that churches and groups of Christians recognize their calling to mission and make vocations known, as in Thesis 5.

8.) Natural contacts for evangelism are needed because of "Tracking apps"

Corona tracking apps are already mandatory in some countries. If a government gets access to this data, it can create movement and interaction profiles of its citizens. In an anti-Christian system, they can be used to track the movements of Christians and their contacts with other people.

Hence, if spiritual ministry is prohibited or restricted in a country anyway, encounters that arise from purely evangelistic motives become impossible or dangerous. The "normal", everyday encounters through work, hobbies, sports etc. remain allowed. Natural contacts may offer the only possibility to talk about the hope we have in Jesus. Let us use the time to practice until this happens. The number of "professional missionaries" may shrink, the number of witnesses for Jesus will not. As a mission agency, we must promote the missionary potential of Christians who are not "professional missionaries".

Our hope is for Christians worldwide to learn to pass on the hope of Jesus through the natural contacts they have in their secular professions.

9.) Air travel is viewed more critically

Nature and climate protection are important to us: assignments are adapted accordingly!

During the severe time of the corona crisis, nature breathed a sigh of relief. This positive effect has increased the skepticism, especially among young people, as to whether we always have to fly everywhere. At the same time we have learned that we can experience many things - with obvious limitations - without being physically present. We would still fly to most of the countries where we live and work, but not necessarily to short conferences.

Our hope is for more ministry opportunities, particular short-term, which will enable intercultural mission experience even without flights. For Europe this includes living and working in ethnically influenced neighborhoods, but also language and cultural studies in countries like Turkey or North Africa, which can be reached by train, bus and ferry.

10.) Financial difficulties allow a return to Biblical principles

We have known for a long time that money does not solve problems, and that mission does not (any longer) go from rich to poor, but much more often the other way round. The Corona crisis has made this even clearer [4]. Prayer takes on a new significance when we have no idea what to do. Already now we see an increase in prayer initiatives worldwide. In the same way, we should become even more aware of local missionary movements and learn from them how the Good News can be passed on even without a lot of money. As a rule, this is accompanied by extraordinary devotion and a readiness to suffer.

Our hope is for exactly that: that we, Christians who are accustomed to prosperity - yes, spoiled - ask again with a new commitment, for the will of Jesus and follow him, even without material security. "Need teaches us to pray", they say, and it can only be healthy for us to again consciously expect God to satisfy our needs.

Reconciliation is our core competence as Christians in an unreconciled world.
Reconciliation is our core competence as Christians in an unreconciled world.

11.) Reconciliation in a xenophobic environment

With the spread of the coronavirus we are witnessing growing xenophobia. At first, Asians in our country were suspected of spreading the virus. In some African countries, mistrust of whites grew. Fear often leads to isolation from strangers and to small state or tribal thinking. Suddenly, old enemy images are reactivated and new physical and mental boundaries are created. Faced with these barriers, how can Christians pass on the good news of Jesus Christ?

Our hope is that followers of Jesus overcome the barriers of prejudice and illustrate the reconciling power of the Gospel by treating every person as a created being loved by God and loving their neighbor as themselves.

12.) Your thesis?

Is there anything you would like to add? Make your observations and think prayerfully.

We hope that together we will fulfill the commission of Jesus to carry the Good News to the ends of the earth - whatever the external circumstances may be.

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Footnotes:

(1)These Theses are the result of observation, prayer and reflection. For ease of reading, we refrain from mentioning all genders.

(2) According to www.worldhunger.org there are about nine million deaths every year due to malnutrition.

(3) One another = each other“ (1. Thessalonians 5:11: build each other up; Hebrews 10:24: spur one another on toward love and good deeds; 1. Peter 4:10: serve one another; Galatians 6:2: bear one another’s burdens …)

(4) The USA has so far been the largest sponsor of evangelical mission worldwide; due to the current unemployment rate, it is expected that donations will be halved.