With global resources stretched, this is the time to draw on our Baptist values of locally-led, activist communities. Asia Pacific Baptist Aid (APBAid) has developed a toolkit as a resource to support conventions, unions and churches seeking to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The possible practical actions provided in this toolkit can be replicated and adapted for local church responses to the outbreak of COVID-19 in their respective regions.
This toolkit aligns with the global Baptist COVID-19 response plan to “Strengthen, Lead, Respond, Defend, and Advance.”
These five dimensions clearly merge with the three United Nations (UN) strategies and activity outputs of Containment, Reducing Deterioration and Protecting, and Assisting and Advocating for the most vulnerable. It is designed with the understanding that churches, communities, and families are key in this response. In aligning ourselves with these global priorities, we also meet global standards and present ourselves as a good model of best practices in such a time as this. To conform to global humanitarian standards, the overarching framework of response is based upon the UN’s Global Humanitarian Response Plan (Global HRP) 1 and articulates three strategic priorities:
Contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and decrease morbidity and mortality.
Decrease the deterioration of human assets and rights, social cohesion, and livelihoods.
Protect, assist, and advocate for refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), migrants, and host communities particularly vulnerable to the pandemic.
USING THE TOOLKIT
This resource toolkit (accessible at http://bit.ly/APBAidToolkit) is intended to provide churches and conventions with a pool of resources and ideas of responses and best practices drawn from around the region that may be replicated and utilized. The responses are presented as a “menu” that each implementing body can choose according to context, need, and capacity – serving as a guide to formulate their individual responses within their nations.
It then provides a segmentation of activity output phases for each priority according to Prevention, Emergency, and Recovery as pictured in the table below. It includes both psychosocial wellbeing tools, in addition to a section of resources for theological reflection and a guide for online worship as well as a wide variety of program resources. The toolkit is collated under three main sections of Church, Family, and Community responses and program ideas for each UN priority. All the above resources are uploaded on an accessible drive (see link below) in three folders named:
The matrix below captures how the above framework has been arranged as well as provides a few examples. This framework is an example of how you as a church or convention may align your activities with the global priorities. The activities are broadly categorized as Prevention, Emergency, and Recovery. An example is given under each section. It is also presented as a framework to design a plan of action that would include either one or more of the UN Global Humanitarian priorities, be focused on particular activity outputs or multiple outputs, and address needs by targeting church action, families, or community.
We suggest that as you look at your program of activities, ensure it is carried out by:
To make the most of this toolkit, we recommend that you look through it all and then return for specific resources as you develop your overall response. The toolkit brings together resources from around the world to provide ideas, guidelines, and reflections on the new reality we find ourselves in.
NOTE: The resources may be adapted to each local context as appropriate. Please give due credit and acknowledgment to sources when translating.
All of the resources, over 150 of them, are available online in a separate drive. To guide you to what is available, two indices are linked below and available for download:
It was just like any other day – humid and sweaty but the traffic was quiet, and the usually crowded and noisy place looked weary and deserted. The city I live in was on total lockdown due to the pandemic. Vehicle movements were restricted, and business timings were very limited. But as one in social ministry, I got the permit from the authority to extend support and help to those in need. On this particular day, I wanted to go and check out how my friends in the booze joints in the red-light areas were doing. As I walked down the small dark alley which is seldom noticed or used by many people, I saw one woman I know with a broken leg seated in this small joint overcrowded by men. There was no social distance, no masks, and it looked like these people were not bothered by the pandemic.
The woman I met usually worked as an entertainer/server there. But I hadn’t seen her for quite some months, so when I asked where she had been and how she was, she told me how she had broken her leg and had to go back to her family for help. We continued our conversation, and I could feel all eyes staring at me. Some stopped drinking and others kept smoking. The smell of the smoke, the booze, the sweat, as well as the smell from the drainage just outside was so strong that it was making me feel sick. I saw this look of “get out fast” in the eyes of the joint owner and the playful looks in the eyes of men. No one asked me to sit and the room was so small and packed that I was literally standing just by the door. My head told me to get out from the place as quickly as possible, but my heart told me something else. In my heart I felt strongly I needed to pray for this friend. I saw that need, that longing, and that desperation for prayer, love, and acceptance in her eyes. It was then I chose to listen to my heart.
I silently prayed to God for courage and then asked all the people in this packed tiny room if it was okay to pray together. I then saw this “What?” look in the eyes of some, but many said in unison, “Okay, we are very happy.” Then, all of a sudden, this tiny dark room environment changed. Some took off their hats. Some pushed their glasses aside getting ready for prayer. Some threw away their cigar. Some took out the tobacco they were chewing, and in a few minutes, everyone was ready to pray. The lady who is the owner of the booze joint, to my surprise, stopped what she was doing and happily said yes for prayer. It was magical as we prayed together. Prayers were heard in different languages loud and clear. We all forgot we were in one dark room in one of the darkest areas of the city at a very difficult time. Many of the prayers I didn’t understand, but I heard many mentioning COVID-19. I knew it was from their heart. I was tempted to open my eyes and see them and I did. I had never seen anything like it. A few security staff on patrol stopped to see what was happening for prayers from a place as this is never expected. These same men will start drinking, smoking, gambling, speaking abusively, looking at women lustfully and so on, but I saw one thing in common in each of them – their desperate need for God.
It was so evident that the people in the room needed Jesus as much as I do. After the prayer, it was amazing to see each of them trying to get out from their tight corners and shake hands just to say, “Thank you.”I didn’t ask them anything. The only thing they asked me was why I was there. I told them that I work with people in the red-light areas and in the streets, and I just came to check if they were okay and hand over some basic essentials. To my surprise, each of them took out some money and placed it on the table and gave it to me, asking me to help a family really in need. I knew they would be disappointed if I refused. So I humbly accepted and also asked them if they wanted to assist me in the distribution. Two of them agreed to help me. I handed a mask to each of them and walked out. I could see a grateful look in their eyes saying, “Thank you for not being judgmental, not preaching at or teaching, but being accepting and loving them as they were and considering them worthy to pray together for a friend in need of prayer.” All this happened just standing at the door.
As I walked out, I was asking myself, did that really happen? What a delight to be his light! I may never get to meet those men again, but I know well in my heart that for many the meaningful fellowship we had in that tiny room will remain one beautiful memory. My heart also tells me that out of the many men there, one or two will remember that day as their last one there as they have seen, understood, and accepted the need for Jesus in their lives.
All through the lockdown as I go out to serve and see and meet different people, I am always overwhelmed by the great need and how limited we make ourselves because of fear. This pandemic has taught me all the more that as the Church, we cannot just wait for people to come to us. It is even more evident today that we need to take the Church out to the world – to those dark alleys and tiny rooms. The Church has done much, is doing much, but there’s a pressing need to do more.
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. So, ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” Amen.
For Reflection and Discussion:
How is God calling you to meet people where they are?
Who can you pray for today?
What is an example of a time when God gave you courage?
“… then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” Philippians 2:2 (NIV)
There is unquestionable strength in numbers, but that strength becomes supernatural when people align around a common mission. In a world that all too frequently seeks to show what divides us, the last year has also revealed what can happen when we allow love to unite us.
Unity in Action
On March 6, 2020, I boarded a flight in Washington, D.C. It would be my last for the year. A week later, the United States government declared a national emergency, and sobering reports of the rapid spread of the coronavirus began to pour in from Baptist sisters and brothers around the world. Our team at the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) scrambled to respond to the crisis, but it was unlike any we had witnessed in our lifetime. For a ministry whose mission is to network Baptists to impact the world for Christ, how could we effectively do so at a time when the world was forcibly isolated?
When the best step to take is unclear, the best choice to make is draw near.
Physical distance mandates had separated humanity, but there was no need to socially distance from our Savior. The best choice was to pray. Our team got to work planning a global prayer call that would feature brief interview segments with ministry leaders from an array of institutions ranging from healthcare to higher education. The call would serve as a kickoff to a 24-hour prayer marathon with an invitation for people to intercede in one-hour time slots. More than 600 people from 44 countries joined the initiative, which led to the formation of a global prayer team and intercession for thousands of prayer requests in the months that followed.
There are few things that can unite the people of God more effectively than praying together. This is the basis for our Baptists One in Prayer resource, a weekly email that highlights several countries each week and how to specifically pray for God’s work in those areas. Over the course of the year, recipients have the opportunity to pray for every nation in the world as well as for specific needs that arise when disasters strike or religious freedom is threatened. Using the One in Prayer email as our guide, the BWA team gathers each Wednesday for a strategic time of prayer for the world and for one another.
At a time when international travel is limited, you have the opportunity to bring the world to your people.
Set aside a time for a global prayer focus within your worship services, Sunday School classes, and Bible study gatherings.
Seek out and share firsthand prayers from ministry leaders serving in other parts of the world. The BWA shares such prayers in both video and written formats throughout the year.
Consider placing a map in a prominent place in your home as both a reminder to pray for the world but also as a teaching tool to encourage children / grandchildren to become global prayer warriors.
While we long for the day when Gospel witness can again take place face-to-face, we must make certain we are ready for the doors God will open. We have long prayed for the Spirit to ready the hearts of the lost, but we will have missed the mark if do not seize this time to ready ours. The challenges of this pandemic have prepared the way, softening what was once hard soil into fertile ground awaiting harvest.
Write down the names of five people in your life who are in need of Christ’s love.
Ask God to open doors for you to be a source of encouragement and hope in their lives and for the Spirit to bring Colossians 4:6 (NIV) to bear so that “your conversation [may] be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
I wholeheartedly believe praying people are powerful people. Imagine the revival that might await if believers around the world are united in prayer in the pursuit of our shared mission.
But may we never forget the object of our pursuit is a Person. A post-pandemic world without our ever-present Savior is a sad world indeed, so let us pray together as Moses did: “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Exodus 33:15, NIV). Lead us on, Lord.
For Reflection and Discussion
Why do you think prayer is often perceived as the last resort rather than the first step?
In your spiritual life, has prayer felt more like a passive step or an active one?
What steps can you take to incorporate a global prayer focus into your daily life? Into your community?
What lessons have you learned during this season that you can share as part of your Gospel witness with those seeking answers?
What steps can and will you take in your community to ensure no one loses sight of our shared mission?
Since COVID-19 invaded the world, different people have said different things. While some people believed it is a sign of God’s anger against the world, some believed it is an attack from Satan. Some even believed that it is a sign of the end times. There is another group of people who believe it is scientifically motivated as a conspiracy of man against the world created by God. This implies that different people have different perspectives related to the emergence of COVID-19. At the same time, the church needs to be reminded about the missional purpose of the church.
In his book A Light to the Nations, Michael Goheen speaks about the missional identity of the church from the biblical point of view. He links both the Old and New Testaments together in addressing the missional goal of the church. According to him, the purpose of the church should not only be seen in terms of geographical expansion but also as a role model for the pagan world. The good news of the Gospel should be taken by the church to all corners of the world as commanded by our Lord (Matthew 28:17-19). The question then arises – how should the church relate to the outside world amidst a pandemic? This article is intended to focus on how the church could carry out its purpose of evangelism, discipleship, and integral mission in a time like this.
According to the World Health Organization, “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease. It is a serious respiratory sickness in people associated with a large market in Wuhan, China.” By implication, coronavirus is not necessarily a strange virus in the world, but this particular one was newly discovered and was first discovered in a 55-year-old individual from Hubei province in China on November 17, 2019. In most developing countries of the world, especially Africa, there has been a serious argument about the reality of COVID-19. In December 2020, when Western countries were battling with the second wave of the pandemic, most people in Nigeria thought otherwise. I saw people shaking hands freely and gathering in large numbers without observing social distancing and various other precautions. They felt it was not real. Not until recently did people begin to feel the reality of the disease.
ROLE OF THE CHURCH
The role of the church is to reach out to its community in mission. Since the essence of discipleship is to engage the people around us at home, in the church, and in the world with the love of God, then mission is what every Christian does in the world by relating with people in the consciousness of God and making Christ known to everyone that comes in contact with them. According to Goheen, the purpose and identity of the church is termed “missional,” which means a geographical expansion involving taking the good news of the Gospel and Christ to unreached people groups and neighbors. The challenge for the Church here is to take up its task in the reformation and renewal of all life, rather than becoming another isolated customer center. The Church’s role in teaching, caring for the poor, and providing social connections should be shaped by the biblical story without losing its ecclesial form. Evangelism is the command to go as a reaper and sower of the kingdom of God without considering the circumstances. Evangelism is also to tell sinners of the joy that is in Christ Jesus, warning them against the judgment of God.
How can the church reach out in this period? The church should not only preach the Gospel but reach to its immediate community by emphasizing the following:
Observing restrictions and various government rules on lockdown, social distancing, wearing masks, minimizing traveling, handwashing, and other protocols
Having faith in Jesus Christ for protection in times like this. Drawing from various Bible passages like Psalms and Romans 8:39
Supporting mental health
Reducing church gatherings and social meetings
Providing online worship service and discipleship
Integral mission means holistic mission. It is a term which describes an understanding of Christian mission that embraces both evangelism and social responsibility. We call it “the 3 or Gospel tripod stand” – a ministry of preaching, teaching, and social healing. It means that the Gospel is not complete if people’s needs are not attended to. The Church at this critical time should set the pace for showing love to the world. There is a wide scope of social concerns, which are considered to be the fourth angle of the Gospel message that the church should not close its eyes against (Deuteronomy 15:11, Luke 4:18). The Church should distribute and show adequate concern for the needy, the poor, and vulnerable people around us. We should not wait until Christmas time and the Easter period to lend support to weak and vulnerable people. The time is now.
COVID-19 AS A SIGN OF THE END TIMES
Jesus told his disciples in Luke 21:8-19 what would happen before the end will come – these are the signs of the end times. Of course, COVID-19 was not specifically mentioned in the passage, but Jesus Christ talked about pestilences. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, pestilences are “contagious or infectious epidemic diseases that are virulent and devastating.” From this definition, it can be inferred that COVID-19 is one of the signs of the end times. Jesus talked about it because of its devastating effect on the entire world. Therefore, the onus is on every Christian to intensify evangelism, discipleship, and mission because these are what must be done in all nations of the world before the second coming of Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14, NIV).
SOCIAL MEDIA AS MEANS FOR EVANGELISM, DISCIPLESHIP, AND MISSION
COVID-19 has brought a new normal for the church. Social media and internet ministry are an effective way to evangelize non-Christians, disciple Christians, and introduce the love of God to our potential audience. The emergence of the pandemic has made us realize that the evolution of the internet is the handiwork of God. In light of the challenges of COVID-19, “The internet and other aspects of information and communication technology are not only about technology, they are means to the gospel, the Great Commission.” Before the outbreak of the pandemic, not many older generation pastors, especially in Africa, appreciated the relevance and importance of social media. But according to Nkem Osuigwe, the pandemic has given a new definition to illiteracy. An illiterate is someone who does not understand how to use information and communications technology (ICT) for life and ministry in the 21st century. Therefore, these are the days when Christians are expected to maximize all social media to tell the world, to teach the world, and to train the world about the love of God through Jesus Christ. The following are examples of technology through which we can evangelize, make disciples, and do mission in the time of the pandemic:
Smartphones / SMS and text
Zoom and Skype
Social networking services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube among others.
According to Nicky Gumbel, “God has a purpose for your life. He is in control of the universe. He is able to take even bad things you have done or have been done to you and turn them for good.” The Bible says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). COVID-19 is definitely a sign of the end times as revealed by the Scripture. Christians must accept it as a challenge we have to face in the world on our Christian pilgrimage and trust God that He will keep us safe and sound from the attack of the pandemic. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV, emphasis added). Meanwhile, social media should be maximized for Christian ministries because it has come to stay. It is indeed a great means for communication in the 21st century mission frontier. Its role in contemporary Christian ministry cannot be overemphasized. Christians should take advantage of social media to fulfill the mandate of the Great Commission.
 Goheen, W. Michael (2011). A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story. Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, MI, USA.
South Morning China Post, accessed on April 22, 2020.
 Merriam-Webster Mobile Phone Dictionary, 2020 version.
 Alabi, A Samuel (2014). Effective Contemporary Shepherding: A Practical Theology for the 21st Century Pastoral Ministry. Nigeria: Simplex Creations, Hamjel Arcade, 47, Alafia Street, Mokola, Ibadan.
 Osuigwe, Nkem (2020). In his speech as the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary Alumni President at the 2020 Minister’s Conference.
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?