In the last few days, Americans have seen that the coronavirus COVID-19 is serious. And, it will change our way of life, at least for a while. There is no need to panic, but there is a need to plan well and wisely. This is not just the NBA or our school campuses, but also our church, your family, and you.
President Trump has advised, in a national White House press conference, to avoid meeting in groups of 10 people, as of 3:24 p.m. ET, on March 16, 2020. The doctor after him advised staying to groups of under 10 people, even in homes, for the next 15 days. We are going to follow this government advisement for the safety and protection of everyone.
At this time, we will be suspending on-site gatherings — weekend services and any classes or groups that meet at the Philadelphia Street location. We would encourage leaders of groups that meet at home to prayerfully discuss with your attendees about meeting as well. Please follow the 10-or-less advisement from the President.
The church is NOT a building! It is our time to step out, in FAITH and WISDOM, under the lead of Holy Spirit. Community is important. So we will find other ways to congregate and build our faith community during this time. Use free tools like zoom.us for groups, hosting “10-or-less” small worship gatherings and Bible studies in our homes, live streaming, etc. Utilize our CONNECT page to connect with all our different avenues of communication.
Paul gives us a framework for how to seek clarity in crisis. He encourages us to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
Our minds are going to be constantly drawn to the next article, the next video, the next update about where the virus is and what we need to do. There will be an endless parade of content ready to feed that drive in the coming days, and it will be critical for the follower of Jesus to combat this by turning, again and again, to our hope in Christ. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke against this kind of fear:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on…Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matt. 6:25,27)
In the midst of confusion, we should be informed and have a plan. But most critically, we should be regularly in prayer and in God’s Word to refocus our hearts on where our hope, courage, and encouragement come from. This is why Jesus taught that in the face of anxiety and fear we are offered a compelling alternative: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Through epidemics, wars, and famines, the church has responded by offering a compelling hope of a kingdom that is untouched by these dangers. As Christians, we stand on a firm foundation. As our world is confronting their mortality, for some of them the first time, we have the choice to either place our faith in the hope of Christ, or to mirror their fear.
In this context, we want to suggest a few practical ways that we can seek the mission of the Gospel rather than isolate themselves entirely.
First, focus on the vulnerable populations that will be particularly hit by this virus.
This is primarily older men and women and those with underlying health risks. Think through those in your immediate reach in either of these categories and how you can help them. Do they have enough food or medicine? Do they have lines of communication to ask for help? There can be no clearer picture in scripture of how to live out our faith than to care for the widows.
Second, resist the bunker mentality that prioritizes yourself to the exclusion of others.
We need to listen to medical professionals. If you’re showing signs of illness, the best way to love others is to stay away. However, fear can also compel us to hoard what we can, and build walls to keep others out. When everyone is thinking about what “I” have, the Gospel calls us to care for what others have. Reach out to your neighbors. Imagine millions of Christians checking on their neighbors to see how they are prepared. Sometimes even just letting people know you are there and available to help, should they need you, goes a long way.
Third, be ready.
We can’t promise that being missional in the midst of a crisis will not come with a cost. We don’t serve because of an earthly reward. Our hope is secure in heaven. This act of giving is an act of faith, only doable through the power of God’s Spirit working in the life of a believer. Begin to pray, now, that you might be ready to step up and live out your faith when the time comes.
This is Our Time
While frightening, this virus represents a rare window for the church. We have the opportunity to lead the way in serving and caring for others in moments of crisis.
“And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!”John 16:33 TPT