Great tragedy often precedes great innovation.
That which brings devastation can also give birth to new ideas, inventions and cures. It can lead to new solutions that we never before dreamed possible. World War II brought us medical penicillin, submarines and radar. Newton developed his theory of gravity while in home quarantine during the Great Plague of the 17th century. C S Lewis spent months isolated at home with his brother during the tuberculosis outbreaks of the early 20th century. Lewis’s love of story was honed in those years of boyhood games: we have all the wonder of Narnia because a mum chose to protect her boys, all while allowing them to be bored enough to be creative.
What have these things got in common with where we find ourselves today in the midst of the global crisis of COVID-19? Simply … change. Overnight, we—and the churches we belong to—face changes to our work, home and social spaces. For many, our lives have slowed down dramatically. For others on the front of this war against the virus, there are not enough hours in the day and, of those hours, time spent with family is in deficit. We are all being forced into new ways of engaging and living, far outside of our comfort zones.
Yet, with the change, we are beginning to see innovation. Churches have responded rapidly, switching from face-to-face gatherings to “online church”. We are seeing churches and individuals reach out to their communities in innovative gospel ways. A Perth resident who, for the past few years, has reached out to the community with a large chalkboard sign inviting answers to challenging questions about who Jesus is, recently added toilet rolls to the overhanging tree, free for the picking. Anglican Churches Springwood in NSW have also used the gift of the loo roll to pass on a flyer that offers practical help to those self-isolating. There is a momentum in gospel-focused living that is thrilling to watch and to be a part of.
Anglican Churches Springwood in NSW have used the gift of the loo roll to pass on a flyer that offers practical help to those self-isolating.
Sometimes, though, momentum can stall. We find a new comfort zone and settle down for the long haul. Yet God calls us to live lives that are not geared towards our comfort, but rather towards his glory. The book of James is an expansive guide to doing just that. 1Peter 2 calls us to live purposefully. Now, as much as ever, is the time to keep the momentum going.
Change has come. Let’s use that change to rethink how we live for Christ—at home and within the wider community
- Starting at home, take some time to think how forced practical changes can facilitate new spiritual habits for you and those in your home. Have you found your evening suddenly cleared of kids’ extracurricular activities? Then why not consider using the gift of regular evening mealtimes to establish family Bible time. At any time of day, gather the family together to read aloud good literature with gospel themes or inspiring biographies.
- Dads and leaders: lead your families. Take stock of your own heart. Reach out to other dads to brainstorm helpful ways to do this. Even if you are FIFO and far from home, technology makes it possible to show your kids that the gospel is important and worth making an important part of our daily lives.
- Mums, whether you’re married or single, consider the enormous privilege you have of sharing the gospel with your children. Show them, teach them, talk to them, pray with them. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or all-consuming, especially if you’re juggling the work-at-home-while-trying-this-new-thing-called-homeschooling gig. It needs just be prayerfully intentional. Yet, if you can, consider ways in which you can help your kids learn. Perhaps begin by finding resources to help them absorb the enormity of Jesus’ death on the cross this Easter time.
- Kids, so many youth groups are trying to move online, but nowhere is it written that you can’t show initiative! Ask your youth leaders how you can help. Consider using your online chat groups to read the Bible together with a few friends. Brainstorm ways to talk to your school friends about Jesus. Think how you can help your parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents weather this new normal and act on it. Everything is different and new now: there is more room than ever to step up and forge new ways.
- Churches: let’s think outside of the box. I’ve seen many online church formats in these past days, and it brings my heart joy to see God at work as the gospel message spills into online spaces like never before. Let’s not stop there. Church at home can be so many more things than a digital copy of the version we are familiar with. The nature of at home or online church provides us with opportunities to facilitate growth in unprecedented ways.
- Pastors, dare I suggest that this is a time where sharing sermons is possibly prudent? Allow yourselves time to focus on prayer and connecting with groups of congregants in innovative ways during this difficult time. Perhaps have your next Zoom church meeting be focused on helping your congregants learn how to tackle a Bible passage on their own. Spend time connecting deeply – albeit electronically – with leaders in your church. Equip them with the tools needed to facilitate online group Bible studies and prayer groups. Help them to connect, encourage and spur others on. Direct your congregants towards helpful resources they can use in their own homes. Set up support networks for those without Internet access or understanding. Phone calls and support services for the elderly are more needed than ever before. Ask for help even as you lead.
The opportunities for gospel work, care for those in need, and personal spiritual growth are boundless. Every one of us, whether single, married, young or old, employed or not, stands at a threshold of gospel opportunity. Let’s share our ideas and spur one another on toward love and good deeds in the spirit of Hebrews 10: 24-25. And, yes, let us not give up meeting together, albeit through our phones, keyboards and computer screens.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10: 24-25)