As the world emerges from a two-year pandemic, it won’t be back to business without examining hard realities and how to utilise them in strategic planning. Following considerable research, we’ve determined three distinct yet complimentary priorities for maintaining focus as a complex organisation is a complicated world. They are
- Rethink missions
- Rebuild connections
- Restore community
Each priority must be inspired and driven by biblical values. Let’s begin with rethinking missions.
To begin with, Jesus followers (including us) will have to be more inclusive and generous in partnerships that strategically train and resource near- and same-culture workers. Also, we should look for whatever events or forces are disruptive to the status quo (like COVID or waves of refugees), since they open up new ways to do missions. After all, the gospel and teachings of Jesus are disruptive to individuals and societies.
Senior leadership, decision-making, contextualisation, resource allotment and more should reflect the fact that the majority of Jesus followers are now non-Western. OM is slightly ahead of the curve in this. At our most recent international meeting, I invited over 30 people who were assuming national leadership of OM fields to come onto the stage. A Dutch brother remarked to me that half of these leaders were women, and few were white. This is not to merely look progressive, which can be a huge mistake if people aren’t ready for higher leadership positions. So, we invest heavily in training people, particularly from the Global South; when they are ready, we’ll appoint them to leadership.
The internet, an unstoppable opportunity
To rethink missions, we must augment our normal ministry with today’s online opportunities. Some fields have had remarkable breakthroughs in engaging unreached people through virtual ministries and with social media. For example, the Pamir team has engaged Afghans worldwide through radio and TV programming, and has branched out to use smartphones to share and distribute the gospel, as well as to prepare seekers to actually meet together in small groups. Elsewhere, one couple carries out ministry online to over 10,000 Somalis every week. The potential for similar ministries and discipleship anywhere is unlimited.
What of the vast number of retired mission workers who have left their fields with so much experience and a heart for the least reached? After decades of ministry, they feel a loss. But the internet could be a realistic way to continue contributing to mission work. Since many cultures honour the elderly, these retirees could provide online testimonies, Bible teaching, counselling or personal follow-up; really, the only limitation is a physical presence. We have overlooked a multitude of possibilities in this area.
The COVID-19 pandemic also drove most of our global communication to the internet. True, we need to be face-to-face regularly, but virtual meetups allowed far more of us to restore, expand and maintain our relationships. Increasingly, we use hybrid models where some people will be able to be physically present and a far larger group will interact virtually. Most of our training programmes will meet once annually and two or three times virtually. This new structure saves money, travel time and much more. In this regard, what initially looked like a loss has actually become a great innovation.
Churches must also rethink their mission
Many churches are having a hard time filling up pews to pre-COVID numbers. People are used to working at home; why not church? But the whole point of community—sharing the good and the bad together or praying together—is difficult if you’re physically absent. Churches must accept and engage the virtual world if they want to retain contact with their communities.
If we want to go forward, we will encounter many changes as the world around us constantly shifts and adapts. No one is making plans beyond five years ahead. This is the new normal. The difference for us is that we have the Spirit of God in us, and thus, we can stay in step with Him no matter what.