Stores emptied of sanitizer, canned food, toilet paper, and water. Fights over the sale of limited supplies of face masks. Anger as congregations continue to gather for worship, prompting accusations of a lack of “social responsibility.” all over Asia, America and the EU
The COVID-19 virus has spread from Asia to Europe and North America rapidly over the past week, bringing with it a level of panic and angst—everywhere from the supermarket to the stock market to the local church—not seen in recent times. The global tally is now more than 125,000 infected and more than 4,600 dead. Here are some lessons for church
Your church’s worship will change. Hold tight to what is sacred—and hold everything else loosely.
Congregations are creatures of habit. Churches are built on traditions, liturgies, and order in worship. Over time, every church’s line between what is fundamental to the faith and what is merely institutionalized response gets blurred.
Does Communion have to be actual wine and unleavened bread to still count as holy? If you don’t actually lay hands on someone, are prayers of healing still effective? Does a church have to gather in the flesh to count as a congregation?
Every church, and every member of your church, will have different views on such often-undiscussed questions. The COVID-19 outbreak presents a needed moment of doctrinal stocktaking.
In practical terms, a church’s response will vary depending on its doctrine, local context, and exposure to suspected cases of COVID-19. There is no correct answer; all are seeking the most appropriate response in extraordinary times.
Be a strong leader. Your members will want guidance.
In moments of crisis, people are looking for leadership, The first responsibility of the leader is to remain calm. Panic causes tunnel vision, which is terrible for decision-making. Strong leadership reminds people that God is in control of every situation and there is never a reason to panic.
Love your neighbor. Good deeds will go a long way with a fearful public.
While much of the secular world’s response to the virus has been inward-looking, driven by fear, the COVID-19 situation presents a God-given chance to shine in the darkness of the moment. However, for that to happen, the church must look beyond its own concerns and awaken to the opportunity.
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