How quickly things have changed! It seems like only a minute ago I was walking around our auditorium greeting folks, shaking hands and giving out hugs, and now I’m livestreaming from an empty room with 10 people strategically placed two meters apart from each other social distancing!
Alcohol gel and hand washing has become more habitual than prayer for some, and even the worst churchgoer is quoting scripture as the world is shaken! We are in a pandemic and, even with all the resources we have, no one knows for how long.
The world seems to be in ‘limp mode’. Some countries have closed airports and schools, and banned social gatherings. Restaurants are being shut and many people are losing their jobs. Shelves are being emptied as people panic buy and it seems like we are on the brink of an apocalypse major.
As ministers of the Gospel, we’ve never pastored in a pandemic before. There are no how- to’s out there. I find myself like a televangelist — albeit a poor one! — preaching the Word to a camera as my team interact with people online during the message. Church as we know it has changed, but the Gospel remains the same. We’ve been forced into this situation and we must do the best with what we have.
This is not a time to fear, but to rise up in faith. The church has suffered many things since Christ’s accession at the beginning of the book of Acts, yet the Bride of Christ still stands. I’ve been guiding our church with these words: ‘He is the Master Builder!’ Words from Scripture have been echoing in my spirit: ‘I will build my church’ (Matthew 16) and ‘Unless the Lord builds the house’ (Psalm 127). This pandemic has taught me that, now more than ever, everything is in His hands. We have to give it all to Him — we have no choice! Intellectually, all of us know this, but it has become reality as fear and panic have gripped our world.
My wife has adapted to become a home schooler, as many mums and dads have been forced to. I’ve started playing the guitar again in our own isolation worship band. This is what God does: He strips off the titles and easy do-ism of Christianity and drives us back to basics. Globally we are all being herded back to Jesus, though for a while it will be church at home.
One day it will all be passed. We will look back at this event and marvel, ‘How did we manage?’ Our church doors will re-open and folks will gather again to worship together with one voice. But I’ve got a feeling that perhaps there will be far fewer in our services than we had before the pandemic.
The Bible tells us, ‘all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain.’ (Hebrews 12:27, NLT). Christ is shaking the church and I’m convinced we are living in the last of the last days.
‘And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.’ (Matthew 24:10-12, NLT)
‘There will be great earthquakes, and there will be famines and plagues in many lands, and there will be terrifying things and great miraculous signs from heaven.’ (Luke 21:11, NLT)
Well, you get my point! Eternity is a reality and many Christians have lost sight of it and become carnal and worldly.
We may see a great purge of the church globally with the religious, double-minded people being removed and replaced by those who have a genuine desire and a real hunger and thirst for God.
The church has endured her share of epidemics in the form of rebellion, deception, persecution, famine, and even murder, yet she has prevailed. It’s the love of Jesus that cements us together and keeps us close to Him. Paul wrote:
‘And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow— not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.’ (Romans 8:38, NLT)
Practical things for your church to do during isolation:
- Phone call campaign. Depending on the size of your church, divide it into smaller groups and let your leaders phone around to keep connection alive.
- Stock up on food essentials to distribute to members and those in need in the community.
- Support frontline workers. Show your doctors and nurses that you care about them by offering prayer and supplies.
- Look after the elderly in your congregation.
- Set up streaming facilities to connect with your church at your regular service times. It’s a good way to get your young people involved as often they are more tech savvy.
- As the pastor, be prepared to stream from your home if there’s a total lockdown.
- Use social media to your advantage. Post regular video updates of encouraging words, thoughts and Scriptures. Keep it short and sharp: five minutes or under.
- Remember the kids! Provide links to resources for parents to use and encourage them to have Junior Church at home.
We’ve also put a lot of our resources online via our website, Amazon and other platforms, making them accessible for people to do Church at Home. There are Essentials studies on Salvation, Prayer, Fasting, and the Holy Spirit, prayer cards on the Fruits of the Spirit, Hope, and Battle for the Mind, plus many more to help believers equip themselves at home during this time.
Now is the time for the church to come alive. Preach Jesus and His crucifixion. Share your food, goods and other essentials with your neighbours. Tell everyone there is hope in Jesus.
Jesus is still the answer for the world today, pandemic or no pandemic. For me, to live is Christ! Even if we all survive the pandemic, one day we will die and face the Lord. It’s time to ‘turn your eyes upon Jesus’ like the old church hymn says. It’s time to come back to Jesus, to surrender all to Him.
No one really cares about flashy websites, cool logos, skinny jeans, and coffee bars in churches anymore. The world is hungry for an answer. It’s time for us to pastor the world through this pandemic. In the words of the evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, let’s ‘plunder hell and populate heaven’ for Jesus!