Over the last few months several colleagues in mission organizations and seminaries around the world have asked me, ‘How has the pandemic impacted the future of human migration and mission?’ Here are three initial reflections, from the macro level down to the micro.
First, from a macro-level and long-term perspective, the pandemic has caused a demographic shrink. Untimely deaths, return migration, deurbanization, and economic restructuring will produce massive population shifts and its full impact will be seen in thirty to forty years from now. Some products, services, and industries will become obsolete, while several new markets will emerge. The new modes of work, workplaces, and workers along with the resulting socioeconomic crises will displace multitudes away from their homes and across many borders.
Secondly, from a meso-level and mid-term perspective, the pandemic-related lockdown has forced us to stay put, but we are now more connected to more people than before. Unable to travel, we devised new ways to transact the old business and invent new ones. Though there are many positives to this new way of work, the speeding up of digital transformation is also resulting in increased confusion, conflicts, and psychological problems at home, work, and community. The boundaries of life, work, leisure, family, and church are now overlapping and remain out of sync.
The increased flow of information, ideas, money, products, and services across borders will result in increased migration in the future. We will travel to more places more frequently at a cheaper rate than ever before. More people will end up in new places within their country, continent, and across the globe. We are entering an age of hyperconnectivity and hypermobility, all of which will produce increased cross-cultural interactions and greater hybridization.
Thirdly, from a micro-level and short-term perspective, we will be forced to adapt blended forms of work, life, and even church. The church is not something we do in a particular place or time anymore. It has been liberated from its captivity to place, time, structure, and leadership. It is beyond the current predicaments of going digital or reworking physical meetings—it is a blend of scattering (diaspora) and gathering (ekklesia), as all of God’s people are unleashed into the mission of God, not just a few full-time religious professionals with specialized training.
Home or micro church models are here to stay and will gain greater significance, while communal gatherings provide more resources for believers to flourish and bear witness to the gospel of Jesus locally in person and globally through their networks. The mission is now by all Christ-followers anywhere to everyone everywhere.
The COVID pandemic has surely disrupted our ways of life. How we work, play, shop, interact, relate and rest have dramatically altered over the last year or so. Our lives, ministries, and the world seem to have come to a grinding halt and it will never be the same again. Though some long to return to familiar ways of the past, others are pivoting to a new future. In short, we are at a major crossroads and seismic shifts are ahead of us.
What does all this mean for us as believers, and how will it affect the Great Commission? One thing is sure: further conversations with church and mission leaders, scholars, practitioners, and students from around the world are critically needed during this time. As always before in times of change and crisis, the body of Christ must come together.
Join Sam George and other leaders from around the world on 25 August 2021 for the annual Lausanne Diaspora Summit. This year’s gathering, Pandemic, Migration and Mission: Navigation Implications for Christian Witness, will include stimulating conversation, exchange of ideas, networking, and access to some of the latest resources on diaspora mission. Capacity is limited and discounts are available for leaders from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Find more details and register at lausanne.org/gatherings/Lausanne-diaspora-summit-2021.