Rising to the challenge

Gary Gibbs suggests that the current challenge of the coronavirus, which is perhaps the greatest challenge for the Christian church in living memory, could become a great opportunity.

With the spread of the coronavirus, we are living in extraordinary times and I guess that is not the first time you’ve read those words!

At the time of writing this aticle in the middle of March 2020, churches have suspended services and all other gatherings of any size; hospitals are gearing up to deal with an influx of people who will require a great deal of care and medical intervention; the Government have moved away from what would be usual fiscal policy to something far more radical and the UK population is to a greater or lesser degree in the grip of fear and uncertainty.

The 'landscape' across the world has significantly changed and may never simply return to pre-COVID19 days.

So, here is the question: 'When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?' (Psalm 11:3)

How do we, therefore, conduct ourselves both now and in future days? Actually, most of what I am going to write will be things you are already doing. But as the present crisis gives way, let me encourage you to continue in what for some of us is the ‘new normal’.

1. Give ourselves to prayer

Sometimes, if we’re honest, we are not sure if God hears us or answers when we call on him. Often it’s because things don’t work out as we imagined they would. But the Lord is the one who sees the end from the beginning: we stand in a sliver of time, unable to see the big picture, the whole show.

It’s worth contemplating how much worse things could be if we didn’t pray!

So let’s pray, both privately and with others. One of the good things about social media is that you can connect virtually and visually with friends. There are many apps such as Facetime, Skype, Zoom, etc. that enable you to chat, share and pray without risking viral contamination. Just last night, one of our churches held their prayer meeting online and increased their regular attendance fourfold!

2. Love Your Neighbour

Certainly in the early days of this crisis we witnessed the best and the worst of humans. Community groups sprang up to help in a safe manner those who were stuck indoors and unable to access sufficient food or prescriptions, or just needed to have a chat on the telephone. At the other end of the spectrum were the manic ‘panic shoppers’ who emptied the supermarkets of almost anything edible, as well as toilet rolls.

When God decided to put skin on himself in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, he took “…the very nature of a servant…” (Philippians 2:7). The sacrificial example of Jesus, not only in his death, but also in his love for broken, disheartened, hurting, sick people is our model for how we need to continue to love and care for those around us.

3. Share the Gospel

When the nations emerge from this extreme season and we begin to reconnect with friends, work colleagues, family, there will be great opportunity I believe to share our stories of how we thrived and flourished during what was more or less a lockdown situation. A few things spring to mind:

  • The benefits we found from belonging to the community of King Jesus, in particular how it helped us through being more alone than usual
  • The sense of assurance that God was with us through it all
  • Knowing that the fear of death has been dealt a knockout blow through the resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15: 54 -57).

All of the above are evangelistic keys given the loneliness, isolation and fear which many will have or may still be experiencing over employment and finances, as well as concern about the health and provision for their family and friends.

What has been perhaps the greatest challenge for the Christian church in living memory could become our greatest opportunity to demonstrate compassion, love and hope!

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