How Do We Respond to the Present Crisis as The Church?5
Greetings Redeemer family. Over the last few days, like most people, we have had a lot of decisions to make. These have not been easy decisions. Foregoing opportunities to gather for worship and encouragement during a time when many are fearful and feeling isolated just goes against the grain of any pastor. I know I can speak for each of the elders when I say that now, more than ever, we wish we could just gather you all together and love on you folks.
But then when you stop and think about "what do we say to comfort and exhort God's people during this time?" and still, the answers are not easy.
I have reached out to many different pastors from many different areas of the country. I was supposed to be on a plane on Friday, headed to Colorado, but that was cancelled in light of the insanity going on around us all. Marcie and I were wavering right up until go-time but we ultimately felt it wise not to take the risk and not to risk getting stuck in Colorado for longer than anticipated. The churches that we were scheduled to visit cancelled their Sunday gatherings. So, I communicated with these folks quite a bit and each person that I have reached out to has had a common desire...
They did not want to be seen as alarmists but they also did not want to disregard potential safety concerns and the safety measures being taken by others in their communities.
That's a real tension. No one wants to be the person who says the sky is falling and then it doesn't. No one wants to be the person who puts others at risk by going against the wisdom of our local and national decision makers. Add to that the fact that there are as many different opinions and fears as there are people in our churches- and any pastor worth his salt cares deeply for the fears and anxieties of their people.
So, with that in mind, I wanted to share a few things that seem as if they are just clear and sound wisdom and things that are just scripturally wise to help us to think wisely and empathetically in this hour of need.
My desire is NOT to pontificate on what I think about this virus or how this will unfold. I have no clue and it seems to me that nobody else but our Lord truly does have any clue what's happening, so these are simple scriptural thoughts to turn our eyes to the One who knows the beginning from the end:
1. Pray- You know those silly words that sometimes come out of our mouths, "I feel like the only thing I can do is pray". Every time I catch myself saying that I make a mental note to never say it again, but then I hear it come out of my lips yet again.
Well, I want to strongly encourage you to pray. There will be a time for "doing" as more information becomes available- and by waiting patiently and prayerfully, it helps us to be better prepared "doers" when the time comes.
But let any of our doing come as a result of our praying
Our president just called for a national day of prayer Sunday. Let me repeat that- our president just called for a national day of prayer Sunday.
I know, I know- you can't bring up the president without getting political, right? Wrong. This isn't about politics. We as the church are being asked to join with other churches around our nation to pray. Why on earth would we not oblige? We are literally being asked to wield our most powerful tool and put our God on display for a nation and world who need to see Him.
Some things to pray for:
- That Jesus would make His glorious name known through this misery.
- Pray that which was intended for evil would be used for good (God has been doing this for A LONG TIME)
- Pray for wisdom those who are in the place of decision making- ranging from the highest ranking governing officials to small business owners who are making decisions that could impact their families and the families of their employees. There are a lot of people deciding on a lot of things right now. Let's pray for them.
- Pray that the church my reflect Jesus. We need to see the church be the church on this one. May this be a time where we refuse to add our voices to the division that exists within our nation but may we be agents of reconciliation
- Pray for your pastors- we've never done this before and we want to lead God's people with God's heart and God's wisdom in the power of God's Spirit
- Pray that there would be a manifestation of the working of God's Spirit in our community and beyond that those who witness it would not be able to deny it.
- Pray for those who are without work during this time
- Pray for the ones who have contracted sickness and the families and people who are around them
- Pray for the scientists that they would use those beautiful brains that God gave them to find answers. Pray that God would get the glory!
- Pray for our hospital workers who put themselves in harms way for our safety
I could continue...but that's the point. PRAY!
2. Speak with humility- it seems that in our social media driven world that people have two primary concerns when it comes to disseminating information- being first and being right.
We do not need a bunch of people telling us what this virus is or isn't. Can we all collectively say these words, "I don't know". It's not that difficult. We do not need polarizing stances. We need humble people turning to God to look for answers.
3. Do not judge those who see things differently- I have spoken to people this week who see what is going on in the world as "everything" and some who downplay it to the role of "nothing".
If you are taking a strong stance that causes you to look down upon others who do not share your stance, ask God why it is so important for you to be seen as correct? Is this for your glory or for His?
4. Recognize that people are fearful even if you are not- As a guy who has struggled with anxiety my whole life, I can tell you one of the most frustrating things that people can say to me, "Oh, don't worry about that" or its cousin, "why would you worry about this?"
I'm going to let you in on a little secret- most people who are anxious about things wish that they could merely "stop it". It rarely works out like that. People are fearful and a little empathy goes a long way. A lot of empathy goes even further
5. The church needs to be the church to one another- This is a season where the church needs to care for their Christian family. Are there people who are fearful amongst us? Are there people who are going without essential groceries because of the run on certain products? Are there people who are out of work? Are there people who live with compromised immune systems who have difficulty leaving the house during this season?
What would it look like to be a student of these various needs and to joyfully meet them as bondservants of Christ?
6. The church should look for opportunities to be servants to the community- People are fearful and Jesus is the answer. People are shook by the uncertainty around us. We know the only One who is certain.
Faithful missionaries utilize anxiety to point people to Jesus
Just a brief moment on my testimony but fear and anxiety were used to drive me to Jesus. I am grateful that there were Christians who were there for me when God was doing His work to bring me to Himself.
One easy way to serve our community- find out what needs exist on your street. Find out if coworkers have families who's jobs are on hold, meaning their pay is on hold. Tell these people that you will pray for them. Pray with them if they will allow. If you have extra, share.
These are basic things that can be done immediately. We will be writing more on specific opportunities to serve in our community in its own separate post.
7. Lastly- We should take the posture of learners rather than experts so we can be used by Jesus in the lives of anyone He brings into our paths- People are not looking to the church to make statements right now. They are looking for the church to point people to Jesus. Let us not waste the opportunities that God is putting right in front of us because we feel the need to be right more than we feel the need to be loving.
One last note- if the news has you rattled, shut it off. You can always come back to it later if there is an important development. But don't go down the hole of getting so locked into news and social media that disaster consumes you. If you notice that over exposure to the news is producing bad fruit in you, turn off the TV, put down the cellphone and take a moment to pray. The Kingdom is moved forward more by 10 minutes of praying than 24 hours of bingewatching the news.
Brothers and sisters, we love you and we are praying for you and we long to minister to you in this time with everything that Jesus has given us to minister to His people.