But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. 1 Corinthians 16.8, 9
Signs of hope
A Wall Street Journal article today points to signs of hope that the world may be starting to emerge – or at least preparing to emerge – from the corona virus pandemic. South Koreans held elections today. Germany has decided to begin re-opening the nation’s economy on April 20. US governors are developing plans for lifting quarantines and re-starting their economies, and President Trump says he stands ready to help as needed. The rate of new COVID-19 cases is down, and so also are the numbers of deaths.
All this may be but a glimmer, but that glimmer could be the first light at the end of the tunnel.
Does the lifting of pandemic restrictions represent a door of opportunity for local churches?
That was the focus of a lively discussion on Monday among Brothers and Board Members of The Fellowship of Ailbe. We rejoiced at the ways pastors and church leaders are working to keep their congregations together in worship and prayer, as well as in times of fellowship and instruction, using online platforms and other creative means. We praised the Lord for moving in the hearts of shepherds and people alike to do the hard work, in difficult times, of maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4.3).
Then the discussion turned to the question of whether the churches should see the end of this pandemic for what it might truly be: a wide door of opportunity for the Gospel.
We can expect a new raft of problems and opportunities to be before us as a society, once social-distancing restrictions begin to lift. Will the churches be ready to respond?
A few questions
We didn’t have any answers, but here are some of the questions we raised, and committed to the Lord for His people to consider in getting ready for the end of one crisis and the beginning of the next:
Are churches preparing now to meet the material needs of church members and their neighbors? These will surely be more, and more long-lasting, than before the pandemic. What can we do to anticipate and get ready for being at the forefront of neighbor-love at this time? A pastor friend in Hawaii is urging his church council to devote half of its building funds to meeting the food and housing needs of members and neighbors. What else can we do?
Will we be ready to welcome the influx of new people to our churches, who found their way to us online? Several pastors I’ve checked with have reported that the number devices recorded at their online services is greater than the number of church members. How can we prepare now to make those newcomers feel welcome?
Will church members open their homes in hospitality to people who have been shut-in throughout the quarantine? People are becoming increasingly eager for a return to social life. Perhaps this will be an opportunity for believers to practice that quintessential gesture of God’s Spirit – welcoming others into their homes.
What can believers do to initiate conversations about the Gospel, once social distancing restrictions are lifted? We should have plenty of opportunities to talk about how Christ sustained and encouraged us during the pandemic. Will we be ready? Are we preparing for these opportunities even now?
What have we learned – about powerful online platforms and their use in the church – that, carrying over after the pandemic can help to keep our churches growing? Many pastors have shared with me that their church members are spending more time in prayer together using platforms such as Zoom. Will we find a way to keep that going?
What have we learned through this quarantine about what we should be doing as churches, and what we can simply let go? This might be an opportunity for us to assess the degree of our captivity to inherited forms and practices, and to rediscover more Biblical and effective approaches to worship, making disciples, and carrying out the mission of the church.
What about the next disaster? What should we be doing to make sure our churches are ready to reach out when the next crisis hits our community? Church members throughout the South are reaching out to care for their neighbors after the deadly tornado outbreak of Easter and Easter Monday. How will our churches respond to a local crisis – whether small-scale or large?
Send us your ideas
Send us your thoughts and plans about these questions, and any other questions you’d like to raise. How can we go through this door of opportunity in such a way as to glorify Jesus Christ and show His love to the watching world?
We’ll post your thoughts and ideas at the Shepherds’ Resource Page on our website and share them each week via the Pastor to Pastor newsletter. Let’s put our brains together and help one another come through this wide door of opportunity stronger and more excited about Christ and His Kingdom than before the pandemic challenged our way of doing church.
Let’s help one another make the most of this opportunity. Perhaps the Lord will use this open door as a catalyst for revival, renewal, and awakening.
Let’s continue redeeming this time of pandemic and recovery, and work to help one another make sure the devil doesn’t gain any ground through this crisis, but that the light of the Gospel shines brighter than ever.
It was precisely because the opportunities were so great that Paul had so many adversaries. The devil is always active when he risks losing his booty.
- John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians 43.5
T. M. Moore
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, quotes from Church fathers are from The Ancient Christian Commentary Series (InterVarsity Press).