Last year, I wrote a post called: Coronavirus versus the Church. It was dated March 14, 2020. The shelter-in-place order had not yet been announced but I remember that my church decided to cancel services and watch a recorded sermon. I remember that the sermon was filmed the pastor’s back patio or home office. The production value was zero but the message was fine. I have to be honest because my tone then sounded a little naïve in retrospect.
Back in March 2020, the world had never seen a pandemic like this in recent years. In fact, the last major outbreak was in 1918-20 – the Spanish flu following World War 1. There was no one around that could tell this generation of doctors and leaders what to do because they were all long gone. No one knew how long this would last – 2 weeks? Two months? Two years? The pessimists (or realists) said 2 years is more likely based on the same 2 years or so before the Spanish flu passed. Whatever you think of Trump, Biden, WHO, or China, is pretty irrelevant because everyone was hoping for the best and trying preparing for the worst. Playing the blame game in March 2020 or even October 2021 is wasted energy.
Did the Coronavirus knock out the church? Far from it. In fact, even as some might have lost their faith – de-convert, I hear that just as many have become Christians. I suspect that one reason is the sudden feeling of uncertainty: that many of the “sure” things we had counted on were gone. It could have been a job; or a loved one, or even something as organized sports and even the vices – gambling, pride, and sloth. I suspect when we humans face issues of death and suffering, it can shake us up and thus we seek the real answers and deal with the real pain.
What I have noticed over the past 16 months of the pandemic is actually an invitation to a deeper relationship with God and others.
These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.The Crisis, by Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine wrote those words in December 1776 when the American Revolution was at one of the lowest points. Many of the men who had been fighting had enlisted for only a short duration. They wanted to go home and not be on the battlefield and all the dangers of being in an army. Those words hold true today in 2020 and 2021. There are some Christians who are the summer believers but when something like Covid-19 hits, they fade away during the autumn and winter. For those who persevere, the Bible teaches that Jesus will reward them richly. I am not sure what that reward will look like, but it will be worth it.
Individuals were not the only ones invited to go deeper with God. Churches and other Christian organizations got the same invitation.
During this pandemic, instead of shutting down, a lot of churches got busier than ever. Those that thrived participated in food drive; they talked to their neighbors and offered prayers and services. Wycliffe Associates, the organization that has been spearheading Bible translations, remained busy. Although they could not send tech teams out (like the one I served on in 2016) at the height of the pandemic, the local (national) teams were just as busy. Some were even more ambitious – trying to finish the entire New Testament in the local sign language.
What will the church look like post-Covid? One, the numbers might change. It could be bigger or smaller. Two, the people will change; some people leave the faith while others join it. Three, the work will change; there might be ministries that have to be discontinued while others doubled. But most importantly, it will exist long after the pandemic.
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