Coronavirus (COVID-19) And The Church
“It is not enough to “go through it”. Let us “grow through it”.”
The whole world has been gripped in the threat of the Coronavirus strain called Covid-19. To date, over one hundred and eighty nations and territories across the globe have been inflicted with this heinous disease with over 1600 deaths and growing. These are frightening statistics and it is frightening as there is no immediate solution that exists for this crisis.
This pandemic has created another more ominous threat that has gripped the hearts and minds of peoples within each nation. That is the pandemic of fear. This reality is demanding just as urgent attention to ensure that the management of the health hazard, is not overwhelmed by the fear of it. If so, long after the natural virus is curbed, the emotional impact of fear will leave us more permanently damaged with a traumatic psychosis.
To whom must we, therefore, look for leadership to remedy this condition? Can governments or scientists or medical experts or media commentators or other service technocrats address this plight? Is there a people equipped with the antidote for fear, which must be applied in order to mitigate with urgency this crisis?
The answer is yes. There are such people. But they are to be found only among those who have an understanding of “fear” and who themselves have mastered it with a built-in antidotal immunity to counter its destructive effects.
There are three types of Fear which must be recognized and addressed.
Natural Fear: This is an instinctive awareness of any overwhelming threat to the life and security of us as human beings. It is a healthy consciousness that makes us cautious in handling real dangers to our physical health, our emotional and psychological wellbeing and our very security in the face of our natural limitations and finitude. But this can and must be mastered by efforts toward self-management along with corporate protective initiatives.
Phobic Fear: This is an irrational fear which has become a kind of psychotic dread which someone has characterized as “the fear of fear itself”. It is anxiety fed by imagined threats that have a little base in reality. However, it is subjectively embraced as a result of a traumatic incident or event in one’s life, which makes one afraid of what the Psalmist calls “the shadow of death” as if it were “death” itself. Again, in biblical parlance it is referred to as “a spirit of fear”, which cripples us, making us self-possessed and fearful of others, and become disoriented, confused and hallucinogenic in mind.
God Fearing: This is commonly referred to as “having the fear of the Lord”. It means having healthy respect, honor, and devotion toward the Divine Potentate. This comes from two conscious realities.
- That God is more powerful, overwhelming and potentially dangerous than any of the other two “Fears”. This means one may very well have a dreaded fear of Him.
- But, this fearful and awesome God does not in fact threaten us. On the contrary, He mitigates our fears.
God is Empowering toward us hence strengthening us against all other dangers; He is Compassionate and Caring toward us hence forgiving us where we have offended Him; and He renews our mind with the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom needed to confront and solve all our problems and manage our environment including all our natural and phobic fears.
Hence we may conclude, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1Jn.4:18)
Who Are These People, Equipped With the Antidote to Fear?
They are the “sons of men” who have become “sons of God”. “As many as believed Him to them He gave the authority to be called “sons of God” (Jn.1:12). In other words, they are who Jesus called the Ekklesia, or as we refer to them today as the Church. Interestingly, the Bible also defines them as “the Church of the firstborn”. It is to this company that the Bible is affirming, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (11Tim.1:7).
All of this has implications for us today in the midst of one of the most fearsome threats to humanity, the global epidemic of the coronavirus, Covid-19. What then is expected of us as Christians in our setting, community, and nation?
Five Things to Avoid as The Church
- Do not be confused by inaccurate information, skeptical criticisms, prejudicial commentaries, and sensational exaggerations. Avoid listening to them. Have knowledge of the facts, with correct data on the What? Where? When? How? of the virus. Examine carefully the plans put in place to address it.
- Do not become self-righteous and religiously presumptuous assuming that you are safe because the Lord will protect His own while the rest of the people are left to suffer.
- Do not become callous and uncaring, separating yourselves from those afflicted or who are otherwise suffering in the midst of the social threats, and the economic fallouts and the psychologically traumatized.
- Do not become careless and insensitive and uncooperative to the general protocol and disciplined procedures instituted by governments and other civic authorities.
- Do not be distracted by public prophetic pronouncements directing judgment against the unsaved especially with the claims that “these are the last days.” In fact, allow me to comment a bit more on this.
Note that both man and his environment have been under judgment since Adam because the wages of sin bring death. In any visitation of God, the focus is not so much on the judgment of God but rather on the opportunity for the redemption or deliverance of man. When God sent Moses to confront Pharaoh it was not because God wanted to bring judgment on Egypt, otherwise, He could have done so before. It is rather because the time had come for the liberation of His people in order to fulfill His covenant promise to them. They had begun to cry for help and this was in keeping with the timing of Moses’ preparation for the task. Pharaoh and Egypt were judged because they refused to respond to the prophetic demand, “Let My people go.” Hence the pestilences and plagues etc.
There is a Day coming for the final judgment of all men. But today we must understand that the focus of God is not on judging the world, which we seem to relish doing, but rather on the need for the Church to become His instrument of redemption and liberation for the nations of the world. If the Church does not rise to the challenge they will naturally succumb to the same judgment of God which has been on the world from the beginning.
Hence the Word declares:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already…” (Jn.3:16-18)
Do Not Just Go Through it; Grow Through It
This statement was expressed recently by Pastor Christopher of “GO FOR GOD FAMILY CHURCH” in Kingston Jamaica. It is therefore incumbent on the Church to note the following:
Be prepared to go back to basics. Rediscover the “essentials of Church”. You may need to “cut and prune” in order to bear more fruit. Some members may fall away as they succumb to fear, but whatever you do, remain on the Vine. Do not stray from His Presence.
Develop new Norms if the old ones no longer fit. Remember that traditional customs and ritualistic habits may need to be replaced by new ways of performing them, (eg. baptisms in bathtubs, baby blessings in private settings, and communion at the family dining table)
As you re-organize, bear in mind what you are producing is "New Wine," and this will require creating flexible "new wineskins" to contain the wine and out of which to serve it to people. Therefore be mindful of the following seven initiatives:
Seven Re-organizing Initiatives:
- Increase your potency as a “Spiritual Church” even though you are functioning as a “Virtual Church”.
- Preserve your identity as a “Koinonaic Church” (Fellowshipping Church) rather than being “Technologically Driven”. In other words, let your “modus operandi” serve your “raison d'êtres”.
- Remain “Accountable and Responsive” to the Shepherd of the Flock so you do not become “Detached or Independent Units”.
- Cherish any opportunity to Worship, Pray and Sanctify yourselves even in private so you do not abandon the “Devotional Spirit” of the Church. Remember that before Israel had a central Temple in the City they kept His Presence in the mobile Tabernacle that they carried with them wherever they went in the Wilderness.
- Encourage families to be led by the Head of the home, as parents and children and extended relatives fellowship and study together. No wonder the first century Christians were known as the “Household of Faith”.
- Remember, as the “Church of the Firstborn” you have the responsibility to become witnesses amongst your neighbors and within your communities. Let us seek to fulfill the will of our Father taking care of His other children (who are not yet Christians) and our Father’s property and business within everyman’s world.
- The mandate of the Church must take the saints beyond the Sanctuary and between Sabbaths (Sundays) as exemplified by Christ when He said:
To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk.4:18-19).
Today, the challenge we face in the midst of the pandemic plague is demanding of the Church that we do not succumb to the “spirit of fear” which cripples us, to condemn others and confuse our minds. Nor should we yield to the deceptive sin of pride, isolation, and escapism.
We are being compelled to grow beyond “Church as Usual” to becoming the “Church Essential”. We must assume the responsibility to Disciple the Nation, Evangelize the People, and being Witnesses in every community. We must position ourselves to care for the disabled, the health-afflicted, the vulnerable elderly and the economically disadvantaged. Think of how your church can be effective in these areas and seek to develop programs.
This is a season for engagement not detachment. It is a season for compassion and creativity, not a time to be critical or judgmental. It is the season to mature and “grow through” not just to endure and “go through”. When the dust settles, who we are and what we produce must stand.
Upon reflection, as you seek to address the issues mentioned above in this Paper:
- List some of the practical ways in which you and your Church have sought to adjust?
- How can or will you respond to the demands for organizational and operational change?
- In what ways can you or will you become engaged in your community?
- To what extent can you say you and your Church have or will become agents of change?
- Whatever you do in word and indeed, can you say it is to the glory of God and for the wellbeing of the people?
Remember, “All things work for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” (Rom.8:28)