Yes, these are historic times we are living in! While the technological, medical, financial and economic gurus ponder the outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic, the people of God need to consider, first and foremost, what our heavenly Father is saying.
To nations that ignore His Word and direction, God often brings calamity to remind the world of His authority in all things, from the smallest microbe, to the galaxies He has created. Many times God speaks in the Old Testament through His prophets of some imminent calamity or judgment. His pronouncements of trouble are often followed by the statement, “So they will know that I am the Lord”.
In addition to declaring His sovereign Will and unrivaled power over creation, God uses the “fire” of adversity to purify and cleanse His Church. The North American Church has systematically shifted its focus to “fitting in” with the culture around it. While it is good and reasonable to employ the tools afforded by technological advancements (i.e. communication, mobility, medicine, etc.) to the mission of sharing the “Good News,” it is perilous to conform to the moral standards of society. True morality is revealed only by God Himself, whose character does not change.
Increasingly, the modern church model for evangelism in North America has substituted bringing people to Jesus with bringing them to a church building. This is decidedly backward. The Church’s role has historically been to train and equip the saints (all those who profess Christ as Lord) to be a witness for Christ. Essentially, the physical church is to be a classroom for students (disciples) to bring their neighbors to the Truth of Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Our attempts to use the physical buildings of our churches as the central means of bringing people to faith in Christ have resulted in serious and tragic distortions of what it means to share the Gospel and make disciples. Churches that adopt this model are forced to make considerable concessions. This could explain some trends I have seen in my lifetime:
1. To be “attractive” to an audience of people who do not profess Christ as Lord many churches adopt the look, feel, and methods of our contemporary culture which is obsessed with entertainment. These worldly systems are often at odds with Biblical worship and teaching, and over time they are revealed as ineffective in bringing people to real maturity in Christ.
2. Preaching or teaching Biblical truths that contradict the current (and ever changing) cultural norms are often dismissed as “judgmental.” Scriptures that are uncomfortable to “modern” sensibilities are avoided or minimized in order to be more palatable to a broader audience.
3. Evangelism and discipleship is often considered to be the job of the “spiritually elite” (i.e. pastors, missionaries, and other church leaders). “Regular” church members become little more than financial supporters, service volunteers, and consumers.
The current pandemic will root out much of the truth and depth of these concerns. Historically, the Church has grown dramatically in scope and focus during times of significant crisis. Trials have always revealed the reality of man’s frailty. As this pandemic “fire” sweeps our generation, it will inevitably separate things built of “Wood, Hay, and straw” from those of “Gold, Silver and precious stones.” Churches that are built with the precious materials of Gods Truth and His unchanging promises will grow and shine brighter than ever as people recognize true faith from counterfeit. Conversely, churches that have depended on worldly methodology may well suffer loss.
I have not been exempt from loss during this pandemic, yet I am convinced God will use this trial to build His Church! I pray He will begin with me, softening the paradigms and coldness of my heart to be useful in His hands, for my generation.
Chris Dunlap, President