The Senior Leadership Team of the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) met yesterday, March 17, at World Headquarters in Weldon Spring, MO, USA, to discuss our response to the COVID-19 virus pandemic. In two recent news bulletins and a video, I have issued a call to prayer and offered biblical guidance. This bulletin provides additional resources and discussion. Each UPCI division and ministry is communicating with its team. Several will provide resources and plans to our constituency, which I will also share in a subsequent bulletin. In prayer Monday night, I received great confirmation from the Lord. If we will move forward from fear to faith, God will give us great revival through the current crisis.
SAMPLE PLAN FOR LOCAL CHURCHES
At my request, Pastor Rodney Shaw of New Life Church in Austin, Texas, has provided a plan of action being implemented by their church in response to the pandemic. UPCI ministers can download the plan from upciministers.com.
THE CHURCH IN A PANDEMIC: PART 2
In addition to my previous discussion of the Covid-19 pandemic, I would like to address the operation of the church. The Bible teaches us to obey God rather than humans (Acts 5:29). While we are supposed to obey government, we must continue to proclaim the gospel even when the government forbids it. How does this teaching apply in the current crisis?
The virus poses several challenges: much is unknown, there is no vaccine, there is no cure, it is highly infectious, and the mortality rate is much higher than for similar diseases such as influenza. It is most deadly for the elderly and those with other health problems. However, people at low risk of death can become carriers of the virus with few or no symptoms and then share it unknowingly with vulnerable people. Thus, we must not only take precautions for our own sake but for the sake of others. We must also consider our Christian witness; we don’t want to be responsible for spreading sickness and death in our community. There could be legal liability for doing so. We are our brother’s keeper.
In the short term, we can take all reasonable precautions and follow the directions of our government without harming the mission of the church. If everyone follows the best medical advice, we hope to get through this crisis in a relatively short time. We don’t want to be responsible for prolonging the crisis or thwarting the strategy for defeating it. By following this advice, we are not compromising the Word of God but doing what is best for both the church and the community.
If the crisis is prolonged, then we must consider how to maintain the life and ministry of the church. We must remain committed to Jesus Christ, to the Word of God, and to the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25). But in times of crisis, we can consider creative ways of doing so. For example, we sometimes cancel worship services due to snowstorms, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. Such natural disasters can cause local churches to be closed for months. In various parts of the world today, some United Pentecostal members must meet in secret in small groups or online because of persecution and danger of arrest. Over the years, I have participated in such meetings in various nations, and I have conducted secret baptisms in a hotel bathtub, a river, and a mountain stream. Under these circumstances, our fellow believers are not compromising the faith but doing what is necessary for the church to survive. In many of these situations, the church continues to grow.
We are in unknown territory. The crisis will test the saints to see if we will remain faithful to God and the church under adverse circumstances. At the same time, we have an opportunity to win souls who are seeking for peace, healing, and deliverance. The church must be creative in finding ways to preach, teach, pray, and worship together. If large meetings are not possible, we can use a combination of online services, small group meetings, personal visitation, and various means of communication. We can mobilize mature believers to extend the ministry of the church, leaders can take a more active role in connecting with people, and the church can become stronger as a result.
Let’s continue to pray that God will protect our nation and our church, supply our needs, strengthen the saints, and give our churches unprecedented revival.
RESOURCES FROM THE US GOVERNMENT
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House have issued guidelines for helping stop the transmission of the coronavirus. Additional resources and information are also available at coronavirus.gov, as well as specific instructions for how community and faith-based organizations can help protect the health and well-being of their members.
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