As the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been recognized in my city, many are becoming restless and anxious. There’s an ominous feeling floating around. What’s going to happen? How far will this spread? How many already have it? Will I get it? My social media sites are inundated with everything virus related. Not to mention the conspiracy theories are growing like weeds after a spring rain. So what is the response of the church and Christians?
William Faulkner once said, “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” I’m speaking to the church here. For many in the church, this could be analogous to you coming of age and asked to contribute to society, or simply to get a job. “Oh look at my baby! They’re growing up. Now it’s time for them to leave.” For a temporary period, the church (all Christians) is being forced to live and worship like it never has before (at least in the free countries where we’ve had it made). We’re figuring this out as we go. The first week is down (maybe for others the second week) of live streaming. You’re either more confident now going into the next week of online church, or you’re regretting not having taken technology more seriously! This is step one. Some of us have only been thinking about this stage.
Again, what should we now do? I have been getting multiple messages from people I both know and have never met who are now wrestling with spiritual questions that they may have not previously given much attention to. When something shakes up our lives, stops everything from it’s normal path, and has no clear end in sight, it inevitably draws us to deeper questions. Why is this happening? Is there a God? If there is a God, why would He allow this? Then, of course, there are others that don’t need convincing of God’s existence. They are just reminded that they need to follow Him, or start following Him more sincerely.
While the forced spread of Christianity in the early church is not identical to our situation we are living in, there is some semblance. As we read the historical account of the church in Acts, we come to chapter eight and see that persecution broke out in the church; and it forced the church to expand! In the middle of the persecution it must have been ridiculously impossible to see what was happening as a good thing. It’s like a small child seeing the Pediatrician sticking them with a needle. All they know is this hurts and I don’t trust this person. They don’t understand the help that the medicine can provide them. The same can be said for the church today. “This is an incredibly difficult time to be doing church. We can’t even meet in the same building together. How can we be effective, let alone grow!?”
Maybe it’s a perspective change we need. I was massively encouraged when I saw how many people were online “attending” church! Yeah it’s not ideal. Of course we want to be meeting in person and we’ll get there. But, I personally know of some people who worshipped online with us who had not been to our church and others who hadn’t been to a church in quite a while.
Crises and uncertain times draw people together. It makes people prioritize their lives. It inescapably forces us to consider what is most important. I submit to you church, that rather than this being a time for us to pause and wait for an opportune time to “have church”, we see this more as a “the fields are ripe” time. The people cannot come to our church buildings, but they most certainly are open to spiritual topics. So what are you doing about that? Let’s not waste this time talking with each other about how crazy this is, or when we think it will be over. Let’s strike while the iron is hot, so to say. Don’t spend all your time trying to figure out the full-proof plan that will take weeks and months to incorporate. Respond now!
James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” I picture that as the fuse at the end of the church. I want to put an exclamation point at the end of that and light it into action! Love God! Love others! And tell everyone about Him! So how do we do those two greatest commandments? We love God taking His word serious. We put Him above everything (Matt. 22:37). We obey His commands (Jn. 14:15). Over and over He tells us not to fear, but to trust Him (2 Tim. 1:7). We trust Him even in times such as these.
The world is in chaos, but God is not. The world is searching for answers, while Jesus claimed to be the answer. Our orders are simple: Love God (trust and obey Him) and love others (be a servant to all and point them to Jesus).