As of the month of April, globally, the estimated total number of confirmed patients of Covid-19 has exceeded 2 million and the death toll has also exceeded 120,000. And we are expecting additional numbers in the coming few months. This is a real catastrophe! The outbreak of an epidemic is not just a biological issue but it has a global and political impact that shakes the world order politically, socially, and culturally. And it also has a profound spiritual meaning in the cosmic and transcendental realm. Like a great earthquake or a tsunami, it breaks down all fragile systems. It also has exposed the status of the health condition of the people in a country and how strong they are in their levels of immunity. It took less than a month for us to realize that most of the systems we’ve relied on so far can be quickly burned to nothing.
In the history of humanity, we can hardly find a single case of an infectious disease which has spread fast like this to all 210 countries on the planet earth. Now we are seeing the power of disease and death overshadowing the whole world, which is the power of the ‘Pale Horse’ that appears in Revelation chapter 6. The Covid-19 crisis is the prelude of impending revolutionary transformation that is underway in the history of human civilization. The waves of changes are already terrorizing every soul on the planet, humbling all humans and nations who have been so proud in believing that they themselves are the subjects of human civilizations.
All of this is initiated by our absolutely sovereign God. “For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the Lord Almighty is his name”(Isaiah 51:15). This Bible verse tells us that it is God who stirs up the whole world and shakes all nations. We must pay attention to what He is saying to us and to what He is warning us about. What is crucial is that the changes that the Covid-19 crisis will bring are expected to affect every area of our lives with far-reaching consequences. I have summed up 10 things regarding what kind of changes it will bring about. At this point, it is very important that all the Christian ministers and the saints predict what kind of changes are coming their ways so that they can be prepared in advance for those shifts to be made.
First, what is currently taking place to strengthen the disease monitoring system would end up giving legitimacy to a new national surveillance system. As pointed out by professor Harari, a historian of Hebrew University, it can give rise to an opportunity for the return to “Big Brother” totalitarianism and the arrival of a global monolithic system, which can be interpreted as an eschatological phenomenon.
Second, it is the acceleration of the ‘ID 2020 Project’ promoted by the United Nations, the medical information monitoring system strongly supported by Bill Gates and others. The Covid-19 crisis can accelerate the implementation of this project which suggests that the insertion of a digital ID into all human bodies should be accomplished from 2020 to 2030.
Third, it is the structural changes that will occur in the monetary and banking systems. There is a possibility that various present currencies will be converted into one single global currency. It has something to do with the announcement made by the White House 2 weeks ago for the release of 6 trillion dollars (7,500 trillion won) in economic stimulus packages. Its implementation is expected to solve the gap between the rich and the poor which will turn out to be getting wider with and after the Covid-19. On top of that, that was the measure which may result in incurring the global inflation and promote the development of the ‘Block Chain’ technology.
Fourth, it is the changes that it will bring about in the order of international politics: the decline of US-European leadership and the rapid rise of Northeast Asian powers. As mentioned by professor Jin-Ho Jeong of Handong University, not only will it bring a big turnaround to the undervalued view of the Orient (so called “Orientalism”), but also a big chance to Korea – far advanced in IT and medical care – to take on a new role in the international order.
Fifth, it is the acceleration of the digitalization which will bring many revolutionary changes in business and distribution, resulting in triggering the explosive expansion of e-commerce market, delivery business, and health industry as well as the decline of concentrated industry and the fall of huge shopping malls, accompanied by big changes in public transportation systems. On the other hand, new types of self-sufficient economic communities are very likely to emerge.
Sixth, it is the rapid rise of online education and online entertainments, fueled by the acceleration of the digitalization which has been partially prompted in the educational and cultural sectors so far. But now it will spread out rapidly and extensively leaving far-reaching consequences like giving more validity to the alternative education and boosting homeschooling. Localization of culture, such as small concerts in the centers of towns and small exhibitions, will also pick up speed.
Seventh, it is the restoration of the essence of Christianity. The focus of how we are doing church will be shifted from commercialized and materialized religion with big size to small group-based community with increased emphasis on the essence of the spirituality and on its role of light and salt in society. These shifts will trigger bigger range of changes, such as from the clergy-centeredness to lay-centeredness in which what Christians are doing in their daily lives is more important than what they are doing inside the church buildings.
Eighth, it is the changes that will occur in the sector of healthcare system. The public healthcare system with poor quality will decline and the polarization of health benefits will become more serious. Telemedicine which provides long-distance medical care will become commonplace. The focus of medical care will shift from treatment to diagnosis, from diagnosis to prevention, from prevention to health promotion, which is immune care. In a nutshell, now we are facing a turning point marking the new era of medical service in which the focus of medicine will shift from curing diseases to caring immunity.
Ninth, we are facing a transition to the family-centered society, in which telecommuting would be activated and people will seek nature-friendly lifestyle. Conflicts within family members will be aggravated giving rise to heightened interests in inner healing and relationship healing. It is highly likely that the new form of community will emerge, in which home, workplace, and culture are integrated, incurring increased need for creative spaces where families gather around according to their hobbies.
Tenth, it is the changes that will occur in the system of international migration and overseas travel. It is highly probable that people will migrate to countries with cleaner environments, with less air pollution and well-established healthcare systems. Individual-based tourism will be more favored over group-based tourism. More sophisticated tracking and screening processes will be imposed upon international travelers as something mandatory before they are allowed to be on board like obliging them to check and report their body temperature and medical condition.
Things are slowing down and we have more time and more room in our daily lives. It is the time that we should stay awake, face the reality, and prepare for the future. We should be ready instead of being worried. The following are my three points suggestions regarding how the future mission should be redirected and reshaped:
We must pursue a lifestyle challenged by the eschatological perspective in the awareness that the critical opportunities for world mission are coming our way opening up the new doors of last chances. We must fervently engage in the works of spreading the Gospel both on personal basis and on communal basis, sowing the seeds of love. We must focus on the Gospel of the kingdom of God and the Gospel of “Maranatha” on top of the Gospel of the cross. We must plant the mustard seeds for the future. We must plant the seeds of the word by faith. The present bears the fruits of the seeds sown in the past. Our future depends on the seeds that we are sowing now. I urge you to keep these two Bible verses in your mind: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”(Galatians 6:7) and “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.”(Ecclesiastes 11:6)
All the mission strategies and their implementation should be digitalized. There is no future in mission unless the changes taking place in our environments would bring corresponding changes in our mission works. Recently I had a chance to attend a seminar on “Smart Ministry” in Turkey, to see the several successful cases for Muslim mission which have been making use of social media like Facebook and Youtube as useful tools for mission. The Gospel has been shared to countless Muslim young people who have access to social media and 20,000 copies of the Bible were sent to them. Not only the young people in the Muslim world but also all the young people around the world are thirsty for the truth. Those young people who are indulging in Cyber world are looking for new avenues. We should concentrate all our efforts on paving the ways for non-face-to-face approach of spreading the Gospel as any kinds of crowded life contexts are now being avoided. Of course it is necessary to provide the discipleship platform as a closely-knitted web. We also need to be analytical and sharp in classifying the people with whom we are to share the Gospel into the stages like plowing-sowing-harvesting and to be wise in approaching them accordingly.
We should be quick in re-shaping the structure of our churches into house churches and small group communities. The earthquake-like revolutionary transformation that will hit the Muslim world will be especially notable. In fact, we can hardly find any chance in the history of Islam in which all the mosques were shut down. What this means is that they fear Covid-19 more than Allah. A major shift that will shake the three pillars of all religions – the temple, the clergy, and the ritual – will take place. In other words, as those pillars that have been supporting the existing religions including the Islam are uprooted, the saints who are trained in small group communities must fill that void with the Gospel and the word of God. The Gospel needs to get through to the Catholic, the Greek Orthodox Church as well as to Hinduism and Buddhism. We should change the way of doing church redirecting our focus from building-centeredness to people-centeredness and empowering all the saints to raise them up as ministers, so that they can be scattered to preach the Gospel like in the early churches. The focus of training and empowering needs to be shifted to one to one sharing of Gospel and one to one discipleship. We need to cultivate the way we do worship and give thanks and praises not in the church buildings but before the throne of God wherever we are.
Indeed, a golden opportunity for the world evangelization and the completion of God’s kingdom is under way. I hope that we all take advantage of this situation to use it as an opportunity to fix our eyes on God instead of being daunted by the Coronavirus.
Rev. Dr. Sungjoo Hwang is the former Chairman & current Vice Chairman of KWMA. He is also the founder & owner of Loving Concern International, Loving Care Clinic, Erom Inc., Erom Plus Inc. and Founder & Lead Pastor of Great Vision Church.