Several years ago, Warren Wiersbe and I were talking about what the American church would do in a crisis if, in fact, the church couldn’t gather. He asked me questions that have haunted me. “If you couldn’t meet on Sunday, what would you do? If there was no ability to assemble together, what is your strategy for keeping your people together? How would you communicate with them if all electronics were impacted?” Every church needs a crisis strategy. Every church needs a “what now” team of thinkers and prayer warriors who prepare for the unexpected as best they can.
These are turbulent times. Unfortunately, the church is often unprepared for the crisis. We know we live in a fallen world. Yet, we give little thought and prayer to the worse case scenarios. Now, our members and everyone around them, find themselves dealing with isolation, uncertainty, fear, and doubt. We are living in a unique time in the life of our nation, and the entire planet. It is imperative that believers in Jesus Christ speak with a different tone than the world. We are not like Chicken Little, running around frantically. We are to speak “peace, be still” to those who are panicked in this storm.
Storms are nothing new. Pandemics are nothing new. Disease is nothing new. What is new is that for the first time in a long time, everyone who has trusted in their investments, job, personality, or survival skills are suddenly on a level playing field. Any of us could catch this virus. Families are spending more time together. People are teaching their kids at home. Schools and businesses are being shut down. We are all learning a new normal. We hope it’s a temporary new normal.
Things that mattered a few weeks ago no longer matter – or, they are no longer available. Sports? Nope. Movie Theater? Probably not. I could give a lengthy list, but you know the drill. As much as anything, parents are going to have to take responsibility for teaching their children to trust God. Children need parents to give them a calm assurance that we will get through this. Parents should also strongly consider what it means to be able to explain to your kids how to have a relationship with Christ. They are afraid. Help them. Show them the bigger picture than focusing on things that can be gone in a moment.
Churches are learning a new way of doing ministry. We are live streaming or recording messages for release on a Sunday morning. We are all working diligently to speak words of peace in this storm. Our team at Sherwood has met for countless hours the last few weeks to develop prayerful strategies for the near future. Our age group ministries are sending short videos to students to keep them connected. We’re reading children’s books on our church Facebook page. We are learning to be creative in ways we never before considered.
We’ve encouraged our Connect Group leaders (Bible Study) to have a private Facebook page for their classes where they can share prayer requests and even Bible Study time to minister to one another. Some of our classes have been using Zoom, conference calls, Facebook, and other platforms to teach their classes on Sundays. It’s a way of staying connected! The devil loves to isolate people, speak lies, and cause panic. The church is not ignorant of his devices. We must storm the gates of hell, not just sit around hoping this will all end soon.
The church, prior to the 20th century, often had no warning when a crisis was coming. Storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, epidemics, dust storms, locusts, and wars often came unannounced. There was no 24/7 news cycle. People basically knew what was going on in their immediate area. Now, we know when someone dies 9 time zones away. Add to that social media, fake news, people trying to profit from this time, and we are in an unusual if not unprecedented time.
So what? It is imperative that shepherds speak to the sheep. We must calm the sheep that are prone to wander. We must warn the sheep that can be taken in by wolves. We must use the rod and staff to lovingly bring the sheep back into the fold. Our voice needs to be calm and reassuring. We need the calm voice of Jesus. We need the voice of a fireside chat when a nation is at war. We need pastors to be spiritual leaders, not medical experts.
Shepherds need to make sure they are working to keep their sheep in the fold. We are responsible to the Great Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd. It would be foolish for us to think that we will keep everyone engaged in this season. Some will drop off the map, walk away, and never come back to the local church. The habit of not attending is contagious. Once a person has missed three weeks without any encouragement, contact, and concern, it becomes very easy for them to just drop out. Shepherds and church leaders will have to be very intentional in maintaining community in a time of isolation.
This includes those who teach Bible Studies, Sunday School classes, or home groups. You are leading a micro church inside the bigger church family. It’s imperative that leaders lead. It’s imperative that all leaders speak and not stutter at this time.
Take a deep breath. Seek wisdom from the Lord. Build a network like you’ve never had before. We will get through this, but we can’t do it by adding logs to the fire. We have to be the one calling people to look to Jesus.
Wayne Watson wrote a song a number of years ago that seems appropriate for this season – “Finest Hour.” May our children and churches look back on this moment in time and say, “They rose to the occasion, and they met the crisis head-on. They showed us the heart of God. They spoke words of comfort and assurance. God used them to calm our fears when we thought there was no hope.”
What a moment this is
It is good to be alive
There is still time for changing the world
I believe it can happen
God has given us life
He has given us breath
And the sun is not set
We are not finished yet
And I tell you there must be a reason
This could be your finest hour
This could be your greatest day
This could be your finest hour
Don’t throw it away
‘Cause you just never know
You never know what’s around the next bend
There are answers to prayer
So you just can’t stop caring
This is not the end
It’s not only the young
No not just the fast or the strong
But to the one who is wise
Who will open their eyes
To the spirit of God
To His power
Lord Jesus, use us to speak peace into this old world.