Written by Jackson Wu, Mission ONE Theologian-in-Residence
Perhaps you are feeling useless and unproductive because you are self-quarantined or keeping your distance from others. After all, you might ask, what can I do while locked up in my home?
This post suggests 6 ways you can make an impact on the world while social distancing. To make it more memorable, I’ve used the acronym “SOCIAL”. I’ll try to condense my comments to pack as many useful ideas as possible in this article.
Spread good news
First of all, we need to maintain the right mindset. Put bluntly… don’t freak out; instead, spread good news. Are we not people who believe in the resurrection? This conviction has fueled the boldness of countless Christians across generations who faced other epidemics.
The resurrection ensures our hope in Christ. For this reason, we can boast in suffering of various types (Romans 4:25–5:5). We are all going to die one day. Whereas the world wants to put that thought behind them, Christ’s followers embrace that reality as a sober reminder that we have the choice to make our lives matter. While the Lord does not call us to recklessness, he never calls us to fear.
I know we have to balance the various risks. Yet, we must also recognize the heavy risk of anxiety and isolation. In 1 Peter 5:6–7, we read
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
If we surrender to fear, what opportunities might we forsake to love others and magnify the Lord’s character?
Here are a few simple proactive tips.
- Don’t complain.
- Have a “pandemic-positive” mentality.
- Spread positive news, especially on social media.
Need help? Check out The Good News Network. It’s one of my favorite sites. In contrast to typical news outlets, they only post good news going on in the world. I’d even urge you to make it your default page on your internet browsers.
… or at least something like that. Some people have put up Christmas lights as a way of sparking hope during this season. Maybe you can think of other better ways that work for you, but do something unusual that puts a smile on faces and/or inspires hope.
Here’s something you can do while social distancing that can dramatically change someone’s day and transform communities: We can spread…
Faith, not fear
Hope, not hatred
Love, not loss
Want some help? Check out the Crossway Podcast interview with Bob Cutillo, MD, author of Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age, where he discusses the current coronavirus pandemic.
Crossway has made his book available for free here.
This sounds generic and maybe even impossible for some people. But there’s probably a lot more than we can do that you might think.
For example, you might have an expertise that others need yet you take for granted. This might include offering financial advice or technical and mechanical know-how. After all, many people will be home reviewing their budgets or taking up projects around the house. Might you be willing to use offer a hand fixing the broken sink, fence, or dryer?
With schools closed, many others have offered their wisdom concerning homeschooling and online learning. Not only could you share your experience and resources, you could also give instruction online to people with such needs.
Offer your time to run errands and go shopping for high-risk persons. We know the elderly are at risk, but others face similar dangers. Younger people and kids with diabetes, cancer, etc. are high-risk. This means that their families also need to limit their own exposure to crowds.
Disseminate correct information on social media and in conversation. Combat disinformation. Contest these forces of chaos. Even tweaking our choice in words can help to stifle conspiracy theories (e.g., not calling COVID19 the “China virus” or a “foreign virus”)
Connect with others
Yes, we can still reach out to people both near and far. For once, we have reason to celebrate social media rather than lament it.
Bonds are made through shared experiences. I’ve noticed that people are willing to talk to strangers even more than in the past. Below are a few of my favorite pictures of people chatting while still social distancing.
Get to know your neighbors. Knock on their door, then step 8 feet back if you need to. Pull out chairs in the front yard or porch and greet everyone that passes. Spark conversations. When I was younger, we became good friends with neighbors only after our house was robbed and we went to them for help. The friendship lasted well beyond the crisis of the moment.
If you know high-risk people in your area, leave a note on their door with your contact information. Offer help and encouragement.
How often do we tell family and friends that we’ve been so busy that we forget to call and catch up on one another’s lives? Take advantage of this period to do that. I know a family that used Google Docs so they and their siblings/cousins could create their own Mad Libs game for each other.
If you are a little shy or feel you can’t have long conversations, use apps like Marco Polo to exchange short video messages.
Think of a dear friend you haven’t talked to in a long time. No really… think about them. What’s their name? What do you love most about them? Text them, right now. Just a quick message of love with no introduction or explanation. Because… well, why not choose love?
What about families at home? Teach your kids to cook. Teach them to change a tire or change the oil. Play games. Clean the garage. Brainstorm with your spouse new or more efficient ways to run your home (whether the laundry process or something else.)
Intercede with prayer
God doesn’t need social distance.
You have a lot more time on your hands. In the past, have you told yourself that you have too little time to pray or engage in various spiritual disciplines (e.g., bible reading)? Guess what? You have a bit more time now. If you’re working at home, you at least have a shorter commute.
Might this be a time to help your kids learn to have a daily devotional time? What about family devotional times? I’m not suggesting you do all these things. This is not meant to be a post to guilt people into doing this or that thing. Just pick one area that you’d like to develop or in which you’d like to grow.
One of my favorite ideas comes from Redemption Tempe Church. They have urged congregants to turn their sink into an altar. While watching your hands you can offer prayers that keep you at the sink for a sufficient amount of time to kill the invisible forces of evil on your hands.
There is no shortage of things to pray for. We need to pray for
- the scientists working on a cure
- medical professions serving patients
- government and business leaders in need of wisdom
- ministries seeking to serve during this ordeal
- and countless other things
We know the coronavirus is taking a toll on industries around the globe. People could easily forget, however, that churches and ministries depend on the faithful giving of supporters. These organizations have resources, expertise, relationships, and access in various places throughout the world.
In my own organization, Mission One, we are now assessing how we can best partner with the global Church in making communities more like the kingdom of God. Amid the current pandemic, people need to hear the gospel. They still need theological training. Refugees require assistance. The list could go on.
The truth is this: Mission One and every other ministry can only do as much as the Body of Christ enables us to do. When one missionary or “full-time worker” serves someone in Sudan or Syria, it is all of us who are engaged in that work.
We continue to feel the impact of the church in Acts. One significant thing that distinguishes them was their willingness to share what they had with one another.
2 Corinthians 8:1–4 never ceases to challenge and encourage me. Paul writes,
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—
While poor, they begged…. but not for money; instead, they begged to give generously.
Paul’s phrase “wealth of generosity” reminds me of an answer Bill Gates once gave to a question, “Is someone richer than you?” (Check out the video below)
Learn empathy (among other things)
What is God doing around the world? Find out.
Even if you are fixated on 24-hour news, use this season as an opportunity to expand your empathy. Find ways to understand how people from other parts of the world are experiencing the coronavirus. How do they feel? What are the strengths of their communities that will help them through this? What are the weaknesses? How have other pandemics affected them in the past?
- Use technology to connect with people living in/ who are from other countries.
- Research what the impact has been from this outbreak/ outbreaks in the past.
- Read articles written by people living in China, India, Iran, Kenya, etc.
Also, use this occasion to equip yourself with education. How might you improve yourself as a person? What skills might you develop? What books could you read to expand your own understanding of Scripture or the work of missions?
As a theologian who focuses on honor, shame, and contextualization, I’ll suggest several recent options for people who want to catch up on the topic.
Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes: Honor and Shame in Paul’s Message and Mission (I know,… shameless plug)
Even while social distancing, we can draw closer to Christ!