5 June 2020
Dearest Church Family and Friends
I hope you are standing strong during these challenging times. I am writing to you every week because I wanted to reach out to you. It is meant to provide encouragement, spiritual next steps and biblical grounding for those who are under tension and in need of fellowship, communication and connection. I hope to speak life into your tension, as many people are struggling and need to see that Jesus is with them through it all. Everyone is currently dealing with figuring out what to do when their patterns of life and plans change.
Before we deal with change, we must ask some basic, fundamental, biblical questions. What is God’s perspective in our current crisis? What is His heart toward humanity and will for Christians? I don’t believe grace cancels out suffering or the need of it in this world. From the Old Testament, we learn that when God deals with Israel in history, He sends warnings to His people, so that they can repent and change, before greater judgment.
Suffering has been part of the human condition since the fall of Adam and Eve. The Bible records numerous instances in which God’s faithful people endured all kinds of suffering. Although suffering is a part of the human condition, God is not indifferent to it. When Jesus walked this earth, he had compassion on the suffering crowd (Matthew 9:36). And the Apostle Paul describes how God is full of compassion and offers us comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). Ultimately, Jesus himself suffered to the point of death because of his love for this world. He redeemed the world and provided a way of salvation so that we do not need to suffer forever. Scripture also reminds us that our present suffering is incomparable to the future glory God has prepared for us (Romans 8:18) and that in all things God works for good of those who love Him (Romans 8:18).
In one sense, we have been living in the last days since the time of Jesus. Events described in Luke 21:10 have happened throughout history. COVID-19 is not a defining event, but one that reminds us that the end is near. Jesus clearly said that we would not know when exactly the end times will come (Matthew 24:36). Our task is to “keep watch” and “be ready” (Matthew 24:42, 44).
This involves living as children of light, being imitators of God, and living a life of love (Ephesians 5:1). God calls us to “continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of” (2 Timothy 3:14). This includes the charge to “preach the word, be prepared, correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).
As followers of Jesus, Christians have Jesus as their high priest, interceding for them in heaven. Christians can always approach God boldly with their needs (Hebrews 4:16), including physical health. Both the Old and New Testaments record instances of people of God, such as Paul, who experienced various afflictions. As Paul testified, God’s grace was sufficient for him and God’s power was made perfect in his weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
The gospel story is one where God the Father sent his Son to redeem this world. In turn, Jesus sent his people to the world, to tell of his redemptive power. His people continue to be sent today. They are involved in different levels of the management of this pandemic crisis. For example, they are involved in various acts of mercy done by Christians. This has included the direct medical support to the sick as well as the provision of food and other emergency supplies to those who are in economic need. Christians serve as volunteers in social work. Many of the caregivers and health workers in essential services are Christians.
In addition, the pandemic and subsequent “shutdown” across countries presents itself as a good opportunity to reflect deeper on one’s life. In the Old Testament, Israel repeatedly turned back to God only when crisis situations brought them to their knees. This pandemic is providing many people with an opportunity to realize their need and turn to God. There have been numerous stories of how churches across the globe have united to pray together or to join forces in responding to this crisis. The pandemic requirement to stay home and maintain social distancing has revealed both the better and worse in life. While we hear wonderful stories of families growing closer as they stay home together and do activities together, we also hear stories of domestic violence and tension that distress us. First, we must prepare to cope with transition, change, and uncertainty in the "new normal.” The last few months have been confusing and since the beginning of the circuit breaker we had to move fast to cope. On the horizon is the promise of more uncertainty, chaos and headaches. As Benjamin Franklin once remarked: “Change is the only constant in life”. As a church, we decided to be proactive. One’s ability to adapt to those changes will bring us forward, not backward. We’ve seen the initial impact that COVID-19 has had on people, and we’re just now starting to get a clearer picture of the impact that it will have on the economy, broader culture and the church. Our normal has been disrupted, but ministry and mission are not on hold! Our calling is always about overcoming challenges, not overcome by them.
We are waiting for more easing of restrictions so we can go back to work, play and church. Life will never return to what they used to be. We will have many steps of what I will call “Next Normal” before we reach a “New Normal”. I know that you don't want to keep talking about the "new normal”, like the world. I know that you'd prefer not to hear the word "coronavirus" anymore. But we need to prepare ourselves for change. New patterns of life will emerge. But I also know there are valid questions that the Church needs answers to about where we go from here and how. That's why we want to talk about the challenge and opportunity of rebounding and how we can lead our church to bounce back and move forward.
So, as a church we have to follow new guidelines for broadcast, social distancing, multiple services, private worship and keeping staff and members safe, while they serve and gathers. We are developing a roadmap to recovery.
We are living in a time when we need great leadership as church leaders. It's going to require us to move a little slower than we want and be very strategic in our communication and execution so that we can lead everyone who is part of our church where they need to be. Leadership in this season is not for the faint of heart, but I believe we can lead through this crisis and our church will be stronger because of it.
God bless you and family,
Pastor David Lee, Staff, Board and Church
Maranatha Christian Assembly