The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world altogether. The situation we have gotten into was sudden, of unprecedented magnitude, and has caught us unprepared in spite of all our medical advancements and technological progress. Although we now know more compared to a year ago about the microscopic enemy we are warring against, the battle still rages; we are certainly still in the dark as new variants and mutations of this virus emerge across the world. How do we fathom this new normal that we have unwittingly plunged ourselves into? What hope does the whole of humanity have in the wake of new diseases and globally accelerated death rates? What hope do we have as Christians? And what should the church continue to do, or do differently, as the world around us evolves at breathtaking speed. These are unprecedented times and call for a radical response.
The church continues to be God’s instrument of grace, hope, love and peace for a lost, rebellious and dying world without Christ. The church’s role has always been to stand strong in spite of turmoil and calamity, and to offer a beacon of hope in the midst of trials and sufferings. The local church is not a physical building or a religious or social organization with noble ideals and lofty morals. Rather, it is the gathered body of Jesus Christ visibly present in the midst of the rot and decay of society, seeking to proclaim and spread a message of hope, love and reconciliation with God and with each other. So, while we as Christians find ourselves in the midst of challenging circumstances just like everyone else in the world, we should remind ourselves of the purpose for which we as the church exist and seek to fulfill that purpose with God’s help and enabling.
The church should point people to the lasting hope and new life we find in Jesus alone.
This is the perpetual undying message for which the church exists—that forgiveness for sins and hope for a new life come through faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone (Colossians 1:14). The church exists not for any other purpose but to lead those who don’t believe in Jesus to trust in him and to lead those who do place their faith in Him into greater spiritual maturity. Ultimately the work of conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit: the church’s role is to prepare the ground through the task of faithful and fruitful Gospel ministry by proclaiming boldly the Word that alone brings transformation in the hearer.
The church should unite beyond differences and seek to proclaim the Gospel to the unreached.
The waiting and watching world is closely observing the church to see whether we are consistent with the testimony we are vocally proclaiming. So these are not times for petty squabbles or differences in opinions or traditions. We, the church, should rise over and above those issues that threaten to divide us. As the global church, we should unite and work together to be an instrument of God’s love and hope to the unreached. We need to present a consistent witness to the world, preaching and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus and showing it through our love, attitudes and behaviors.
The church should offer comfort and solace to the suffering, dying and the lost.
The present times have brought in an enormous amount of pain, suffering, loss and despair. Many have lost their loved ones, leading to inconsolable grief and loss on a massive scale. There are also those who have been affected by depression, anxiety and despair. The church can bring consolation and comfort to those who are suffering and grieving at this time. The church exists to bring the radical message of hope to those who have not heard—forgiveness from sin, life beyond death, hope for resurrection and eternal life for those in Jesus Christ. We have a crucial role to play, spreading the message of love, hope and comfort, both to those who are suffering and those plagued with discouragement and despair.
The church should proactively engage with the local community to support those in need.
The church, which is comprised of believers who place their faith in Christ, cannot isolate itself from the needs of the local communities. The church has always been called to be outward focused. We are called to collectively be the salt and light of the world so that our good works bring glory to our Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:13–16). So, our involvement and engagement in the local community while supporting those in need, is relevant and much needed at this hour. It is through getting our hands dirty that we can truly present a ready witness to the world. By supporting those in need in our local communities, we are better able to build friendships and trust and thereby present the life-giving and life-transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The church should urge all towards more sincere prayer and dependence on God for healing and restoration.
These difficult times call for concerted and ongoing prayer. We stand in the gap interceding for those who are in pain and struggling with all of life’s challenges. We plead with the God of mercy to show His favour and benevolence on those who are far away from Him yet need His loving touch and grace. Churches should unite in constant and incessant prayer, imploring the Lord to turn away His righteous anger from us, and seeking His forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings. We turn to Him in total surrender and dependence upon Him. As 2 Chronicles 7:13b–14 says, when God sends pestilences among us, if we as God’s people humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways, then He will hear from heaven, forgive our sins and heal our land.
Ultimately, the church is but a mere instrument in God’s hands. It lacks the power in and of itself apart from God to make a real difference in the world. Therefore, the church should not be complacent, neither should it be irresponsible, nor should it throw up its hands in despair and despondency when facing the dire challenges the pandemic has brought us. The church should in humble dependence on God and faithfulness to its purpose for being in the world, strive with utmost sincerity to proclaim the message of hope, goodwill and love to all who can hear, and be a beacon of hope, reconciliation, justice and comfort to those who need it.
We go forth in confidence—leaning on the promise from our Lord Jesus himself—that nothing can come against the church (Matthew 16:18), not the gates of Hades, nor any pestilence, nor any plague or pandemic. The Sovereign Lord who has established the church and is building it continues to do so with all His power, might and strength. We trust Him, depend on Him, and surrender our lives to Him totally for He will surely accomplish His redemptive plans and purposes for the world. All glory and honour belong to Him alone.