God always has good work for his people to do. We are to be a blessing to the nations (Genesis 12:2-3). We are to take the good news of Jesus everywhere we go—from Brisbane to Manning Valley and to the ends of the earth (Mark 16:15). In fact, God himself has prepared good work for us to do during COVID-19 (Ephesians 2:10). So, what have God’s people been up to? This week, there’s good news to report. A church grows in love. Another church is planted. And, Colin Buchanan is reminding Christian families just how big our God is.
Colin Buchanan’s COVID-19 job
God is always working through his people. COVID-19 hasn’t changed that—but for some of us, it has changed what this looks like. That is certainly the case for Colin Buchanan. We asked him about his COVID-19 experience:
In the space of about six days, a Tassie tour, a UK tour and my 24th annual Koorong tour evaporated. The virus has hit the performing arts hard. During this, my red Gospel Coalition Australia bat-phone started ringing. It was Chairman Millar chirpy Irish lilt, saying something like, ‘I tink yah shud mayke a vid-ee-oh far Auss-eee Crease-chan farm-lees’.
I think I’ve played for way more people in the last five weeks than I would have performed for for the rest of 2020!
Of course, as always, it took a while to work out what he was saying, but it was basically a friendly boot in the rump to do some Facebook Live videos with the support of TGCA. I did my first @HomeWithColin Facebook Live broadcast a week or so after my chat with TGCA began—and I’ve been doing them at 5pm on Wednesdays (AEST) each week since. It’s basically Colin walking around his house and yard with a tripod mounted phone singing Colin song favourites and requests!
But here’s the thing: I think I’ve played for way more people in the last five weeks than I would have performed for for the rest of 2020! The response has been quite remarkable, the gratitude and encouragement has been incredible. It seems like 30 years of singing bible songs is excellent preparation for a live video during a pandemic. In COVID-19, we’ve all had our part to play. It turns out my job, in part, has to been to sing “My God is so BIG!” with a yellow puppet on my hand!
I have loved seeing the way a crazy cocktail of truth, music, laughter, play and community have landed so delightfully into homes and lives. I love the power and depth of truth—the Bible—shaken, stirred, pondered and then crafted into books, songs, sermons, paintings, plays, long chats, theses RC Sproul was one of the most serious, academically formidable bible teachers I’ve ever heard. But, you just can’t help feeling like he’s having fun doing all that stuff. I mean, if I wasn’t enjoying creating fun moments around God’s Word, using music and drama and humour and play—I’d be a pretty miserable sort of character indeed.
Humour is a great defuser, a pressure valve, a relief. The truth is sobering, this season is seriously sinister. The security of being in the care of our sovereign Saviour can bring a comfort which bubbles up into laughter that has the ring of hope and a joyful eternity in it. It doesn’t always have to have a verse attached, and it isn’t spoiled by a smiling, eyes-open prayer of thanks. They actually go together rather well.
So I’d say, paint a picture, write a play, make up a song, do some dancing, pretend to sail your bed to the moon, turn the lights off and get Dad to read a book by torch light, start a leaf collection, camp in the lounge-room, cook blue spaghetti . . . If the happy saints can’t do all that stuff, you wonder who can?
The security of being in the care of our sovereign Saviour can bring a comfort which bubbles up into laughter that has the ring of hope and a joyful eternity in it.
I pray that Christians would do what we always do. Is there a day when we wouldn’t want to look to Jesus, remember his life and death and resurrection? Is there a day when we think we could find our way without his word to guide and comfort, strengthen and correct us? Is there a time when we could retreat into spiritual isolation and ignore the community of believers? Is there a time when love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness, gentleness and self-control become optional? (I should say I’m not a big fan of hypothetical questions in sermons, they usually seem designed to just make everyone feel guilty!)
I pray that we’d meet the COVID-19 season with an added desire to treasure Christ, feed on his word, delight in God’s love, walk in his Spirit, sing with gratitude, gather (ie text/zoom/email/call/walk 1.5 metres apart/encourage/pray) with our beloved fellow believers, deal tenderly and patiently with the ones we live with, speak humbly and willingly of our hope. God has his ‘business as usual’ sign up.
Church is planted on the week of COVID-19 outbreak
Manning Valley, NSW
Joel Hill, Pastor of Manning Bible Church, had spent years imagining what his church’s launch would look like. Funnily enough, he didn’t see COVID-19 coming. On the 15th of March, this new church celebrated its first service. The very next day, the Government announced restrictions on gatherings over 100 people.
In the middle of this pandemic, God planted a church in the Manning Valley. He is using this family of believers to spread the Good News of Jesus—despite and through COVID-19.
And yet, God’s kindness to Manning Bible Church has been obvious. The church has grown, phenomenally. ‘I’m confident that some people who have joined us wouldn’t have come along if it weren’t for COVID’, says Joel. More than a hundred people are tuning in to Manning Bible Church’s livestream each week. There are people becoming members of the church who Joel has never actually met in person. ‘It’ll be a great day when we finally get to meet!’, he laughs.
Joel says that he thinks Manning Bible Church might be the most fortunate church in Australia, ‘When COVID hit, we didn’t have to adjust what we were doing. This is just the way we’ve always done it’. Given how much our lives have changed in recent months, it would be easy to think that God’s work in the world has changed too. But, it hasn’t. God hasn’t stopped calling people to himself. In the middle of this pandemic, God planted a church in the Manning Valley. He is using this family of believers to spread the Good News of Jesus—despite and through COVID-19.
God is increasing our affection
For one church in the suburbs of Brisbane, COVID-19 has offered the chance to practice the art of hopeful lament. Geoff Tacon, the minister of Moorooka Presbyterian Church, has seen God work as his church family longs to be back together again. Each Sunday, Geoff and a few others run a live-streamed podcast, breakfast radio style. The church family listens in, hearing from God’s Word and participating in a live Q&A. Non-Christians have been drawn in too. The Gospel is being proclaimed. And yet, Geoff is clear that this podcast is not a replacement for church—and intentionally so.
Moorooka Presbyterian Church wants to be real about the fact that they can’t be together. They want to acknowledge the sadness of this. They want to give one another permission to lament and grow in affection for one another as they long to be reunited. There is something beautiful about this. There is something biblical about this. ‘I’d never realised the the ‘socially distant’ nature of 1 Thessalonians’, Geoff says, ‘Paul, Silas and Timothy had an intense longing to see the Thessalonian church. They tried to come but couldn’t. The separation provokes Paul to pour out his heart about how dear to him are the Thessalonians and their faith’.
The Holy Spirit is stirring up affection within God’s people, in Brisbane and across the world.
God has chosen for himself a people, the Body of Christ. It is good for us to long for one another. It is good for us to persevere—finding creative solutions like Geoff’s podcast—and yet remember that the real thing is better. Being together is better. The Holy Spirit is stirring up affection within God’s people, in Brisbane and across the world. Let us lament with hope, knowing who is the Head of our Body.