Global Christian Forum

Ministry during COVID-19: John Baxter Brown

John Baxter Brown is CEO of a missions network in the UK called Global Connections.

John Baxter Brown is CEO of a missions network in the UK called Global Connections. 

What is the ministry like in your context right now? 

Ministry right now is complex. In the UK many mission agencies and churches face financial constraints, with some being vulnerable to insolvency or merger. The UK government furlough scheme has been widely used, although “faith missions” have not been able to access it (if workers are self-funding and not employed). There is long term uncertainty based on travel restrictions and ease of access to visas, long term funding, the wider cultural and political context of Brexit and a nationalisitic government. I am unsure of how the Christian churches will respond to the wider world.

Indigenous Christians have shown they can manage well in crisis without Western missionary support (a generalisation, of course, but valid point despite the exceptions).

What relationships or partnerships are being formed across denominations or faith groups? 

There is a growing awareness among mission agencies and churches of diaspora ministries and missions. We’re seeing some positive signs of collaboration between agencies and churches. Two missionary training and theological colleges have merged (All Nations and Redcliffe) and I expect that there will be additional mergers over the next year. However, within the conservative evangelical end of the spectrum, the “boundaries” are being maintained.

What are the lessons you have learned about faith and your people that will outlast this pandemic? 

Again a generalisation, but for many Christians in the UK, we have been forced to rely upon God in a way the majority have not experienced before. We are learning what “normal” feels like to the majority of Christians across the globe – living with uncertainty, unexpected challenges, reduced ability to meet together, and so on. I hope these lessons will remain. We have lost our idols of well-planned strategies, income projections, business models and are discovering ways of being flexible and adaptable to never-changing context. 

What has the COVID-19 pandemic revealed about global realities, particularly for the most vulnerable populations? 

The comfort and privilege of the West—being able to maintain social distancing, isolation when necessary, getting medical help and support, putting food on the table etc.—are privileges much of the world cannot manage. Again we see how the poorest are the worst affected by this pandemic, as by so many other diseases and issues. 

How can we shape the post-pandemic future to look more like God’s kingdom for those people? 

I do not know. I try to raise the question within my circle of influence, trying to envision people to live differently, to read Scripture through different eyes, by changing my own behaviours and so forth. But how to effect and maintain structural change? I do not know how to achieve that. I do know that it’s vitally important that we learn from one another. We need to encourage and support each other especially as we move towards an uncharted future.