In an earlier article I talked about how we respond to the frustration and disappointment of having at least another six months of lockdown measures. I focused on the big picture from Scripture, our hope in the Gospel and in Christ’s return.
Here, I want to talk through some more detailed and practical application for how we as church family can face the days ahead. To start with, we need to be realistic. This means that we need to be alert to the facts, know the risks, understand why measures are taken even if we don’t always agree with them. It also means being willing to listen to the hard truths. I know we want to be optimistic, I know that saying “it could be a long, long time before things get anywhere close to back to normal” is going to sound pessimistic. But rather than saying “It will be over Easter” I think we need to be ready for it to be into the summer next year before our churches are anywhere close to what we were used to before COVID in terms of activity and attendance. If it’s sooner then that will be a pleasant surprise. However, this means that we probably have got to get through the next year not just the next six months.
Now here are some further thoughts
First of all, we need to treat this is a spiritual battle. I don’t mean that COVID-10 is demonic and nor do I mean that God is using this to punish us. However, what I do mean is that the primary priority for us as believers is how we get through the whole pandemic not just surviving it but thriving in holiness and fruitfulness. The devil wants to use this time to tempt us and to knock us to the ground. God intends this time for good, to discipline us, to refine us and to teach us to cling onto him. So, how are we going to get through this spiritually intact? Well, we are going to need to give time to prayer and to God’s word together.
Secondly, we need to see the Gospel opportunities. If I face this as something to endure, something unpleasant I simply want to survive then I will miss the way in which God is at work in other people’s lives awakening them to their need for him. People have been faced with their own mortality, they have been given space to stop and think about the meaning of life. Are we going to use that opportunity to tell them about Jesus, the one who gives meaning to life and has defeated death?
Thirdly, we will need each other. Now, at the start of COVID-19, people got stuck in with phone calls and video chats. Then when we were allowed to get out and about we started to take walks together and when we had a brief period of time where we could get together in homes and gardens, we started visits and BBQs and things. I have been encouraged by the way that has been sustained in my local church. We are going to need to keep going. The only thing is that nights will be darker, the weather colder and wetter. It is going to be harder to keep those things going. So, we will need to proactively plan things. That means putting in your calendar that you will phone an older member at such a time each week. It means agreeing up front to go for an Autumn walk and kick the leaves with someone. It means knowing when someone is struggling and might need help with shopping or fuel bills. We will need to watch out for each other.
Fourthly we will need joy. I want to emphasise this for two reasons. First of all, I remember some people suggesting that this was an act f divine judgement at the start and that therefore we should be in mourning and spiritual fasting, refusing for example the Lord’s supper. Yet as we saw when we looked at scripture back then, this is not supported theologically. Therefore, our chief duty remains the same, to glorify God and enjoy him forever. There should be opportunities to express thankfulness and joy. We should find ways to celebrate Harvest, Christmas, New Year and Easter.
In practical terms, I think this means we need to ensure that one way or other we should prioritise including music in our online services and meetings, even if we cannot sing yet.
Fifthly, I think we will need those things that we sometimes refer to as the means of grace. Not that these save us but that they help us to know and remember God’s grace to us. We will need to make sure we are sharing communion together. We will need to baptise new believers, we will need to accept people into membership (and sadly sometimes discipline them out), we will need to gather for the public teaching of God’s Word.
How will we get through? We will get through as church together and with Christ at the centre.