As a follower of Jesus, I want to encourage you in this Covid-19 crisis.
In these days when it seems so normal to feel fear and anxiety,
let’s not beat ourselves up if we have such feelings.
Even when they drive us toward darkness.
And also Jesus has the best answers to the hardest questions!
Recently I came across a government list of thirty-four Covid-19 essential services. The intro paragraph stated:
“…here is a general idea of what may be considered ‘essential,’”
I read the list carefully and discovered one Covid-19 essential service that was left off the list (my assumption, probably covered under “general idea,” which implies there are unlisted others).
Nowhere was the church specifically mentioned…although I see it implied.
Liquor stores and doormen are all prominently listed as Covid-19 essential services.
Since these are spelled out as essential, certainly faith-communities are essential. As followers of Jesus, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is the true Intoxicator. We are the doormen (and women) who partner with the Spirit to usher people into life to the full. And throughout the centuries, the church has been God’s instruments of healing alongside our committed healthcare providers.
Read world history or even US history. In times of crisis, the local church has always risen up to step into the gap, regardless of risk or cost. Until recently, the church has been the center of communities in the US, the place a person knew they would be welcomed and could find help in crisis.
If your local church is not a Covid-19 essential service, what is it?
I’m asking, not judging. Each needs to decide for ourselves.
Now, I am also convinced we need to submit to our governing authorities
without rebelling (Romans 13:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-15).
So, what if there is a conflict between authorities? Along with the Apostle Peter, I also believe that a hierarchy exists among the different realms of authority. If they conflict, we obey the higher authority. He’s my highest authority of all.
Daniel gives a superb example in Daniel 1 as he came up with a creative alternative when the government commanded Daniel and his friends to do what violated his conscience.
The early church provides us with two great examples when they experience conflicts in levels of authority. The motives were different, yet the application remains. In the 1st century, government knew that followers of Jesus were a threat to their power. Today our governments simply overlook that faith-communities as a whole are a Covid-19 essential service in this crisis.
“Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God” (Acts 4:19).
Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!”
I see NO conflict, however,…
…between the current orders of our government and Jesus’ critical ministry call for each faith community since a local faith-community is a Covid-19 essential service…according to His call on our lives.
I encourage followers of Jesus to see this crisis as an opportunity to fulfill, and perhaps to clarify, the horizontal ministry call God has on our lives.
Encourage those in despair.
Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.
Pray for the sick.
Comfort the afflicted.
Feed the poor.
In the last two weeks, it seems that most churches have gone with “virtual” church and “virtual” small groups. Certainly, these have been helpful short-term stopgaps for a couple weeks while we get our spiritual bearings, even as our personal encouragement via social media has been. Keep it up! However, I contend that a “virtual” church does not fulfill Jesus’ vision:
“I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
In the Gospels with Jesus and in the book of Acts with the early church, faith-communities were intensely relational, face-to-face, life-on-life. If we are going to “be the church in our community,” then I believe we need to gather physically in small groups to encourage and strengthen one another. God designed us in Genesis 1 and 2 to be relational, in His image and likeness. Then we need to scatter to “be the church” in our communities wherever we are.
In just these two short weeks, I miss these essential life-connections as our church gatherings have shut down as the President encouraged. Show me, however, where in history that it’s the pattern of the living church to self-quarantine itself in times of crisis. Of course, I mean the remnant within the confessing body, those who live life like Jesus.
The government asks us to leave our home only to buy essential items like food and medicine. What food is more important than God’s Word (referred to as food and bread, milk and honey). Nothing is better medicine than our prayers for one another, especially when there is no known cure for or vaccine against Covid-19. We need to gather together so we can scatter together in mission.
I see NO conflict classifying a local faith-community as a Covid-19 essential service,
…though I want to be wise as a serpent. I promised my adult children I would be cautious. So I intend to keep that promise and be cautious without fear. I add my small voice to what health care specialists have said.
- If you have any symptoms of a cold, flu or Covid-19, stay at home to protect others so they don’t catch this highly contagious virus. We are not a spiritual hero to keep up normal life while dragging Covid-19 with us. Call a local church to help you with your essentials like shopping. Then you stay at home.
- If you have a compromised immune system or lungs, it may be wise for you to stay home to protect yourself. You choose.
- Don’t gravitate towards crowds simply because you like crowds. If you need to be in a crowd for a time, practice “physical-distancing” as appropriate, yet without fear and without “social distancing.” Be sensitive to the comfort zones of others, not just your own since we are here to love and serve others.
- Wash your hands often with plain soap and water, gently scrubbing for 10 seconds, front, back, between your fingers and under your nails.
- Clean high-touch surfaces often, such as doorknobs, light switches, counters, toilets, TV remotes.
- Hold back on that “holy kiss” and give them a big smile instead with an “air kiss.” ♥♥♥
Of course, each of us needs to be responsible adults,…
…not selfishly thinking about ourselves, but thinking of the welfare of others.
And the leadership of each local church as a Covid-19 essential service must decide what this means for their congregation as they serve their neighbors. Some may remain virtual for months. Others may begin to meet physically, although it may look different than before. I have the easy role when the leadership of my church makes these decisions since I have no decision-making role. I simply need to submit to the wisdom of their leadership. Say a big “yes” to their decision and come alongside as a resource. “What can I do to best support and serve this church and its God-given leadership?”
If you DO see a conflict, why?
If you do not see your local church or your ministry as a Covid-19 essential in this crisis:
- if you are a pastor, I challenge each of you to take a fifteen minutes pause from crisis management. List why you believe that Jesus considers your church as a Covid-19 essential service in your community. And believe Him.
- if you are a practicing follower of Jesus, even if you don’t have doubts that you are essential, I encourage you to embrace the same assignment. Then we are better prepared to…
“…always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).
If you don’t know why your church is essential in this crisis, a way God uses a catastrophe that comes from a mutation in our fallen world is to expose where our inner spiritual compass needs re-calibrated. Take significant time to ask God what your life-purpose is in light of Jesus’ life. Rapidly read through the Gospels with that question in the forefront. Jesus is our Commander-in-Chief and has given us our marching orders (Matthew 28:18-20). He is our model, the Second Man, who walked out all that our Creator had for His image-bearers when He created. And Jesus, rightly known, is irresistible!
The three following Realities for followers of Jesus have strengthened me today spiritually as I have chewed on them. A rapid read through the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament will bear out these three big-picture ideas. I want to keep all three center-focus in my time of need (I gathered this from a pastor who is sharper than I am!)
- Because I know I am never alone as my Father’s beloved child,…
- …I am never without a mission to sacrificially love and serve the hurting and broken and needy and poor…
- …as I have prepared myself beforehand with God’s healthy perspective on His people experiencing suffering so I’m not surprised by events as I experience His “with you” presence as my Companion on my God-assignments.
This brings followers of Jesus to a great challenge in this crisis. How do we maintain appropriate, safe physical distancing without undermining our crucial, life-on-life relational/social connection?
As followers of Jesus, look to the Eternal One. “Nothing is as it seems.”
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