The Church in a Pandemic

03/16/2020 , David K. Bernard
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The Church in a Pandemic
How should the church act in a pandemic?
1. Trust God and Pray. Move from fear to faith, from panic to peace. Replace worry with prayer. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7, NKJV). Ask God to protect, to heal, and to supply both individual and church needs. In time of plague, pray for the salvation and healing of the nation (II Chronicles 7:13–14). Pray for the peace of the city (Jeremiah 29:7). Pray for civic leaders, that God will grant them wisdom to make good decisions for peace, security, and advancement of the gospel (I Timothy 2:1–4). One intercessor can make a difference, and a righteous minority can save a city (Genesis 18:17–32).
2. Respect Governmental Authority. (See Romans 13:1–7; I Peter 2:13–17.) Follow instructions of governmental and medical authorities in their areas of responsibility. Doing so is for our own benefit, for the benefit of society, and part of our Christian witness.
3. Use Wisdom. (See Colossians 4:5; James 1:5; 3:13.) Protect ourselves and our fellow citizens by following recommended practices for hygiene, health, and safety. Don’t test God by unnecessarily putting ourselves or others in harm’s way. (See Matthew 4:5–7; Mark 16:18.) Unfortunately, a large church in Korea caused much of the initial outbreak of coronavirus there, for which its leader apologized publicly.
4. Continue the Church’s Mission and Function. Preach, teach, worship together, have fellowship, and support the church financially. (See Acts 2:42–47.) However, don’t confuse the mission of the church with traditions and methods. Be creative and innovative in responding to current needs and circumstances. The early church held both large and small meetings. (See Acts 2:41, 46.) In our day, church buildings have been effective tools for evangelism and discipleship, but the first-century church didn’t own buildings and typically met in homes. Because of persecution in certain countries, some of our churches meet in small groups and some of our believers receive most of their preaching via the Internet.
In the current pandemic, many governments have limited large meetings. If this situation continues for an extended time, churches should explore alternatives, such as small groups, online interactive meetings, and online services. Large churches may be able to schedule multiple services to facilitate smaller groups and provide more space for “social distancing.” While the devil wants to use this crisis to attack the church, God can use it for good. In times of distress, the church has a great opportunity to bear witness to God’s grace and lead people to salvation. Regardless of the circumstances, God will enable us to continue the work of evangelism and discipleship.
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