To speak of the church is also to speak of the mission that she herself has. Whoever can speak of her must sense the awe of the weight that the church carries, the record that their life from conversion to where they have lived has shown in deeds – what many times in words is too complex to express … the mission of the church. I have to speak of the mission where I find myself immersed, being part of the very body of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Church. I grew up in a Christian home in a town called Upata in Venezuela, one of those small and colorful towns where I used to see my parents serving the Lord.
I know a lot about the church and its language. I have had the privilege of traveling and learning about other cultures and other churches, and believe me, we are all the body of Christ. I am saying this because I think the mission remains the same wherever you may be. The form may vary, but the essence remains the same.
In 2017, I wanted to leave Venezuela due to its bad situation. I had several options of places to migrate, but wherever the place might be, I had the firm intention of being used by God and his church. We never imagined that it would be in Peru, this beautiful country where the Lord would allow us to migrate for a purpose beyond our own personal interests.
Moving on to the question of faith, in the book of Matthew 28:19 is the Great Commandment. For me, it is not a question of religion but of the faith we have deposited in whom we have believed. This leads me to meditate on the previous verse (v.18b): “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” This command given by God himself has between the lines God’s own power and sovereignty over everything that exists, both in what we see and what we do not see. He himself who has the keys that open and close doors has given the church the privilege of extending this beautiful Gospel with the responsibility and weight of a teacher because we must teach others to keep all those things that God has commanded us. The task of the church is simply to do the mission: the how and where will also be given by God because the work is his in the same way that we are those who love and follow him.
Do we have a Church in the middle of a crisis or a crisis in the middle of a Church? This is a question that could come from a bench or from the platforms that nowadays we utilize to congregate, a question that can challenge us with its answer found in the word of God. Even if the boat (in the ocean) moves with great force, thus scaring the crew, God is still calm. We cannot deny the storm or the crisis because it is real. It might have taken us by surprise, but in the same way as the disciples of our Lord Jesus did, we raised our hands above our heads and called him and he gave us calm in the middle of the crisis. This has given us the strength to move forward.
We are a small three-year-old church that is growing in a sector that many do not speak well of. We have the privilege of sowing this powerful seed of the Gospel of Christ. To do the mission of the church in a context of crisis has been hard and an uphill challenge with the many restrictions in place, such as not being able to hug each other, because we are meant to seek love and give love. How do we tell people that God is still God when circumstances deny Him? In the midst of everything, we have been learning and we have been seeing how the hand of God has sustained us. The small place where we congregated, which was the living room of the house of some brothers, could no longer be used. Due to the pandemic and the quarantine, we could not even leave the house, so the best resource was prayer and waiting for God’s directions.
We began to work with the technological tools we knew and had available while trying to make it simple so that everyone could participate, and we saw how God integrated everyone and even added others. How good is the Lord! We preached the Gospel in the same way, and we created a discipleship group called AES (social spiritual care). These same people later received food weekly for more than three months until they could return to their jobs. We were experiencing the integral Gospel in the community.
Then we began to congregate outdoors in a park. We had to fight against the many distractions of the place, but right there the Lord brought us people interested in His restoration of the family. We call ourselves Grace and Truth Baptist Mission. During these three years, we have seen 12 people get baptized, convinced that Jesus is the Lord and that there is salvation in him.
The local church, the mother church, has to adapt itself when God makes it clear that temples are not necessary. What is necessary is to go out and spread the Gospel because the more people believe, the more heaven rejoices. The way we do discipleship has changed. It has been a challenge to transition from the living room of a house to a hospital, to make a long phone call, or in other cases creating discussions in the workplace about how to know more about the God we adore.
I firmly believe that the church must transform and aim to do the mission in an integral way, that the aspects of daily life are not alien to it. It is customary to work with a broom to clean the streets in the same way you would clean and dry the tears of a heart that needs consolation. These are special times, and we must find a clever way to leverage it as much as possible in order to reach the goal and fulfill the call to make disciples.
How fortunate will our church be when we hear, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (Matthew 25:23)
I end by concluding with the answer to the previous question:
Do we have a Church in the middle of a crisis or a crisis in the middle of a Church?
From my perspective and based on my life experience, my answer is that we have a Church in the middle of a global crisis that has the assistance of God himself who has all the authority both in heaven and on earth. With him and for him, we continue going as God’s church and his body with the mission of doing an integral work in the lives of those around us. God moves in ways that transform, and his sovereignty is above all.
For Reflection and Discussion:
- What obstacles has your church had to overcome in an attempt to be outside the traditional walls of the temple?
- What are practical ways to do mission in an integral way so that they are part of daily life?
- Reflecting on the last year and a half, has your church been a church in the middle of a crisis or have you had a crisis in the middle of your church? What lessons can be learned by honestly evaluating your response to COVID-19?