Pastors from Europe Tell North America: Get Ready Now

Image: Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

European countries have become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, with both Italy and Spain surpassing China in the number of deaths from COVID-19. While we hope and pray they are finally reaching their peak in the rate of new cases per day, it is still too early to tell.

Leaders around the world are now looking to these European countries for lessons on how to effectively respond to the outbreaks happening in their own countries. And if the rate of new cases does not slow down in the United States, experts are telling us we are probably just a few weeks away from experiencing much of what is happening right now in Italy and Spain.

This week, the Send Institute hosted a Zoom call with pastors, church planters, and missionaries in Italy and Spain to show solidarity and to glean from them how to prepare North American churches for the next few weeks.

The resounding theme from the call was: Get ready.

Francis Arjona, who is the Director of European Christian Mission Spain, gave us a sobering assessment of what is happening right now, “To my friends in North America, the whole system here is collapsing. The hospitals have collapsed. The food supply has collapsed. They are overwhelmed and inundated.”

And while the situation in North America is still early and maybe (we hope) not yet as dire, we should prepare ourselves and heed the words our fellow Christians in Europe have for us.

Pastors Should Take Social Distance Seriously

Ron Anderson, Lausanne Catalyst for Church Planting in Europe, has been a missionary to Europe since 1978. He lives in Madrid which is considered ground zero for the virus in Spain. Ron works with pastors and leaders all over Europe and is seeing the detrimental effects of pastors not taking social distance seriously. He shared a story of a pastor who spread the virus while ministering at a funeral and gave an impassioned plea to American pastors, “If I can say anything to you, do not, do not, abuse the fact that you need to be isolated—especially the pastors. We have many of our pastors in the hospital on respirators.”

In North America, while most pastors and church leaders are taking the necessary precautions to ensure health and safety for themselves and their church members, there are still some churches this past weekend who held very large services, some even as large as 1,800 people.

If a pastor can spread the virus while preaching at a funeral in Spain, what are the risks being taken by pastors in America who continue to hold such large meetings?

Beyond the spread of the virus, pastors who do not take social distancing seriously will inevitably communicate the same thing to the people they lead. And churches that are not taking governmental guidelines and restrictions seriously ultimately are not seriously thinking about their neighbor.

Pastors Should Equip People to Spiritually Feed Themselves

The spiritual crisis that church leaders are dealing with right now is not a crisis of streaming weekend services. The crisis that many churches are facing is that they have not adequately equipped men and women to lead the people in their homes and in their neighborhood.

Miguel Castillo, who is a church planting coaching coordinator for M4 Europe, says that “when a crisis shows up, what is inside of you also shows up.” And in its in these times that Miguel realized that we have not really trained people to feed themselves from the Scripture.

Miguel is seeing with some church planting teams where people do not understand the promises of Scriptures in crisis and where they are lacking an intimacy with Christ. His insight for the North American church is, “Now that you have a gap of a week or two, probably not much more, go back and do an ‘express course’ [for people] on how to feed themselves from the Scriptures and how to feed themselves in Christ.”

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Source: Christianity Today