TABLE OF CONTENTS
– Global Pandemics cannot stop the Great Commission
– Technology: Strengthening the Mission of the Church
– Words of Encouragement
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The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-19) can not be stopped by global pandemics. I believe that God’s word is not constrained by lockdowns and regulations. We should be able to fulfil God’s mission while adhering to the Covid-19 safety measures.
“…although he is in confinement, God’s Word is not.”
In 2 Timothy 2:8-9 (ESV) Paul had this to say to Timothy: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” Paul was confined in a Roman prison, just before his death in AD 67 when he wrote to Timothy. He wanted Timothy to remember the core message of the Gospel, namely, “Jesus Christ who is risen from the dead.” He then makes this powerful statement that although he is in confinement, God’s Word is not. It needs to be noted that about seven of Paul’s letters were written while he was in prison.
GLOBAL PANDEMICS CANNOT STOP THE GREAT COMMISSION
Past. George Mahlobo – President of the AFM of SA
In this article I would like to address the following issues: technology, the need for the church to adapt, prayer, discipleship and care.
At the time of the outbreak of Covid-19, the world was in different stages of the 4th Industrial Revolution. In 2019 during the NOB Regional Empowerment Visits, we reflected on the impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) on the church and society in general. One of the things we said was: “The technologies emerging with the 4IR have great potential to continue to connect billions of more people to the web thereby drastically improving the efficiency and productivity of business and organisations.”
One of the positive impacts of technology is that it connects people across the globe without huge expenses. The fact of the matter is, technology has redefined the public domain in the sense that we can participate in public issues without being physically together. Various virtual platforms make it possible for us to access this new public space. This is where the church needs to be. Of course, this does not mean that in-person gatherings or travelling to other geographic areas are no longer relevant. Indications are that many people still prefer in-person gatherings rather than virtual ones.
“We should be encouraged that we have access to technological tools today that were not available to Paul in his day. “
With the outbreak of Covid-19, we changed the way we socialise, conduct business, mourn and do ministry. Although we were confined in our homes we continued to connect with people and do business on various virtual platforms. The proliferation of live-streamed services is one example of how we continued with ministry during the pandemic. We should be encouraged that we have access to technological tools today that were not available to Paul in his day. These devices and gadgets open doors to share the gospel today. They come in different forms such as mobile phones, computers, portable laptops and social media. Maybe I should ask the question which God posed to Moses in Exodus 4:2: “The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff” (ESV). We have the ‘staff’ in the form of technology.
This ‘staff’ in our hands and on our desks requires that we change our mode of doing things. We must ensure that the message remains the same while we change the way of doing things. When we minister through technology, we will reach beyond our church walls. We may not hear the shouts of “Amen” and “Hallelujah” but our audience will respond with emojis.
The implications, hereof, is that the church needs to change the old ways of doing ministry. Change is no longer an occasional reality. It is the water we are swimming in.
“When we minister through technology, we will reach beyond our church walls.”
The great movements of missions and evangelism have often been fuelled by a revival of prayer. While we may need to wait “to go”, we should not wait “to pray”. Prayer is one of the keys to the fulfilment of the Great Commission. In Matthew 9:37-38 (ESV) Jesus said to His disciples: “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few, therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.” Our missional strategic plan (or One AFM Game Plan) seeks to mobilise our members to be the implementers of God’s mission.
We should pray like the prophet Habakkuk when he said: “I have heard all about you, LORD, I am filled with awe by your amazing works. In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. And in your anger, remember your mercy” – Habakkuk 3:1-2 (NLT). Various digital platforms can be used to connect intercessors nationally and globally. Some of the prayer points in this regard should be:
- Prayer for personal repentance (1 John 1:8-10),
- Prayer for the infilling of the Holy Spirit and Ministry (Ephesians 5:18) &
- Prayer for the redemption of the world (2 Thessalonians 3:1).
One of the key issues when it comes to the Great Commission is discipleship. It is one of the AFM’s missional strategic drivers. Discipleship is more than making converts and church members. It is making people true followers of Jesus Christ through their conduct and word. Technology can be used for discipleship training. Discipleship training should be aimed at our members to make them disciplers of others. Various discipleship-models can be explored. We need to be strategic and focused. We must do whatever helps to move people deeper into a growing relationship with Jesus.
“We must do whatever helps to move people deeper into a growing relationship with Jesus.”
It is a moment also for bold witness to the fullness of life in Christ, a life which embraces one’s neighbour as one’s other-self. This requires that we stay current in the community, environment, and culture in which we operate and minister.
Care for the Destitute and the Hurting
Many people have become destitute and are hurting because of the negative impact of Covid-19. I think we all know someone who has lost loved ones or his/her employment during the pandemic. Some of these people are in our neighbourhoods while others belong to our extended families. We have a social responsibility to lend a helping hand. Community Involvement is also one of our AFM Game Plan Drivers. We need to reach out to these people and share whatever we can. But above all, give them confidence and hope that come through faith in Jesus. We can do this by sharing our testimonies and prayer with them.
“But above all, give them confidence and hope that come through faith in Jesus.”
TECHNOLOGY: STRENGTHENING THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH
Dr Henri Weideman – General Secretary of the AFM of SA
There are many more examples of technology that the church used and is using to its advantage: motor vehicles, electricity, sound systems, copy machines, radios, computers, television, video and the internet. The use of technology does not equate to a compromise of Biblical truth. The Reformers did what they did, to point people back to the truths of the Bible. They fought to get the Word of God into the everyday language of people so they could understand, become disciples, and make disciples. We are called to no less a task.
“Technology will not necessarily change what churches do.”
Technology will not necessarily change what churches do. We will still gather people for worship, connect them in meaningful relationships, disciple them, train them for ministry, and send them out to impact the world for Christ. But, because of technology, how we do it, will probably change. New technological developments make it possible for churchgoers to use mobile applications to engage with the church throughout the week. Congregants can read their Bibles, follow worship services, respond to sermons, and even give via their mobile devices. Although the church will continue to gather and interact as a physical body, it should not miss the opportunities provided by being present online.
“But, because of technology, how we do it, will probably change.”
One of the options available is live streaming, meaning that an event is broadcasted on the internet while it happens. Currently, the three major options for video live streaming are Facebook, YouTube and Zoom. With Facebook, you can reach existing followers via a “going live” notification, or you can pay to have your content reach more people. To use YouTube, a YouTube channel linked to a Google account must be set up. YouTube is incentivised to make content available as broadly as possible. It is the primary place young people (Millennials and Gen-Z’s) get content for consumption.
Zoom is a reliable option for smaller and more intimate gatherings like Bible studies, staff meetings, and sermon discussions. It is free for meetings of less than 100 people and shorter than 40 minutes. Another option is to host a post-sermon online discussion. Discussions like this can align with the topic of the week’s sermon and deepen the conversation. Free and easy-to-use resources like www.churchonlineplatform.com can help you to create an accessible online group forum.
It always looks best when the camera angle is eye-level with the speaker. Angles from below the speaker tend to be unflattering. The speaker should speak directly to the camera to make eye contact with the viewers. Simple lighting like a ring light or small floodlights can go a long way toward enhancing the quality of the video. Most cell phones have good cameras that can be used to make recordings. Production quality cameras with external microphones and other more professional equipment are available. It is a good idea to start slow and grow. Experiment and ask for advice.
Assemblies who already developed a digital presence should continue to enhance this service. Many churches present their Sunday-services and mid-week meetings as live events, assuming that people who want to access it, will be able to do so when it happens. The most successful digital platforms are now providing their products “on demand.” Consider making every in-person Sunday-service available in a way that can be accessed when members and visitors can do so in their own time.
Unless you only use your own written songs, you must take note of organisations like SAMRO (The South African Music Rights Organization) who licenses the use of copyrighted music.
Meetings of Governing Bodies, Committees, Bible Study/Prayer/Small groups can all be done online. It is important to provide the date, time and link of the meeting to everyone involved. Conduct Rules can include that all participants should mute their microphones and make use of the electronic means to raise their hand when they want to speak, vote and or agree. This will contribute to the effectiveness of the meeting. If the meeting is longer than 1.5 hours, it is wise to include breaks.
Social media can be used as an effective tool to facilitate the Great Commission. Most social media platforms are user friendly and enable churches to schedule events and engage with their communities. It is also an effective way to reach out to young members through a channel that is familiar and accessible to them. Millennial Christians (born 1981-1996) look first to online sources (specifically mobile ones) to engage their faith. According to George Barna, nearly 60% of millennial Christians search for spiritual content online, and 70% read Scripture on their cellphones.
Be accessible by speaking the everyday language of people, instead of using high church language that only a few understand. Social media platforms create the opportunity to show up in the lives of people every day, not just on Sundays and should be utilised more effectively by the church.
“Social media platforms create the opportunity to show up in the lives of people every day, not just on Sundays and should be utilised more effectively by the church.”
With acknowledgement to:
- Technologies That Have Changed The Church Throughout History – Steve Perky
- Strategies for Streaming Worship Service Video – Steve Perky
- 3 Ways Technology is Changing Worship – CM Select: The Greater Good Blog
- “How COVID-19 is Shaping The Future of The Church.” – Carey Nieuwhof
- “Moving Forward: Future Church Trends.” – Anthony Hilder
- How to Livestream Your Church Service: A Practical Guide – Phil Thompson
- Planning an Online Worship Service – Back to God Ministries
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Past. Barend Petersen – General Treasurer of the AFM of SA
Today I feel in my spirit to just reach out to encourage and express my heartfelt gratitude and condolences to every Pastor, Co-Pastor, Governing Body, AFM Member and family of our beloved AFM. I write to you being deeply moved as I remember those who fought the good fight and succumbed to this pandemic. Many of us have lost loved ones in the past year and the pain is still fresh in our memory. Finding closure was much more difficult, as we were not able to mourn as we are accustomed to – without the support that ordinarily would have carried us through our time of sorrow and grief.
Whilst the calling of Pastors by the Lord is divine, we minister and live our lives intertwined in the life cycles and experiences of those who we minister to in this broken world. Commitment to our divine calling does not prevent us and our families from experiencing the trials and tribulations of life including loss, pain, suffering, despondency, disappointments, and death. Like all other people, we also experience parental-, marital-, financial-, health- and relational challenges. At times we are at a loss for answers when we are desperately trusting God for a miracle and our faith is met with what appears to be a stony silence from God.
We know that God, by His Spirit comforts us in pain and illness and can bring healing to our souls. Pastors, I am aware that our ministries have been deeply impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. We are not able to gather at capacity for services or prayer meetings in our churches. There are no crusades, open-air conferences, house visitations or fellowship gatherings as we were accustomed to. We notice a rapidly changing world with a shift from what we were used to – a shift to a place of uncertainty. The Covid-19 pandemic and even the attitude of our government, is causing the church to reflect on her influence in society.
I reflected on the prophet Habakkuk who is introduced to us in Chapter 1:1-4 as a prophet with a burden and in despair, doubting God. He is overwhelmed by the circumstances around him, and it seems that God has removed Him from the earthly scene. God is nowhere to be found. His despair is palpable, the pain is real, the doubt is consuming, the future is bleak, and hope has evaporated. In the midst of pain and uncertainty, in the midst of hopelessness and of darkness, Habakkuk encounters God and has a vision of God’s restorative power so vividly proclaimed by David, in Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes from whence cometh my help”.
“He was no longer consumed by what he sees, but by what he believes.”
The prophet is no longer controlled or even anxious about his circumstances, his sight was lifted. He was no longer consumed by what he sees, but by what he believes. He proclaims these immortal words that still ring true today, in Chapter 3:
“17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.”
2020 was one of the most difficult years for all of us and it seems as if this pandemic will continue to torment the world for much longer than ever anticipated. Allow me to share with you that I have experienced the restorative power of God during the most difficult times of my life. During the past four years, I have again experienced it and continue to bear testimony of His unfailing grace. My brothers and sisters, I want you to know that we are in this together. As a family of the AFM of SA, we thank you for your faithfulness and holding firm onto your faith and not letting go.
Today, I pray for Pastors, Pastors’ Spouses and the children of Pastors who are going through tough times and facing intense challenges, battling with the conflict between faith and our lived experiences. I pray that you and your family will experience the presence of God, like Habakkuk, which will lift your hopes beyond what you now experience.
No pandemic can stop the Great Commission! Through the use of available technology, we can grow and enable the mission. Let us not be consumed by what we experience and see around us, but rather by what we believe. I trust that this letter is a timely encouragement and blessing to you. I pray that God will carry us in these trying times when we are all so in need of the presence of Him who called us to His service – and to proclaim His glory.