The coronavirus is a bold and unsettling reminder that we are not sovereign over our lives. We want to control our present and dictate our future, but global pandemics have a way of forcing us to acknowledge our limits. Even so, uncertain days shouldn’t produce wavering faith in our churches. Believers can be settled in unsettling times because we’ve submitted our past, present, and future to the rule and reign of King Jesus.
With the threat of coronavirus looming, followers of Christ should be aware without being alarmed. We should take precautions while resisting the urge to panic. Our proximity to those who are afraid—or infected—is not an accident. Jesus has providentially positioned us in this moment of history to advance his cause by previewing his kingdom to the world through our actions.
Especially our actions in times of crisis.
Settled in Unsettling Times
First, we should be good citizens and neighbors by following CDC guidelines for limiting the probability of virus transmission.
Second, we should be prepared to meet the needs of those around us if supply chains are interrupted. We shouldn’t be hoarding supplies. We shouldn’t be reselling hand sanitizer at inflated prices. We should meet the needs of our neighbors as Christ has met our needs. This is keeping with his teaching when he describes the kind of others-centered love that marks the lives of believers (Matt. 25:34–40).
Believers can be settled in unsettling times because we’ve submitted our past, present, and future to the rule and reign of King Jesus.
As I say in my book Jesus Wins: The Good News of the End Times:
In Christ we feed the hungry, because Jesus has given us the bread of life. In Christ we meet the needs of the thirsty, because Jesus has given us living water. . . . Very simply: because Jesus has fed you the bread of life, given you living water, welcomed you into his kingdom, clothed you in righteousness, healed you from sin, and freed you from bondage, you and I do the very things for others that Jesus did for us.
By caring for our neighbors, we’re previewing a day when nobody will be sick, and no one’s needs will go unmet. We’re previewing the kingdom of Christ, on earth, through the ministry of the local church.
Third, we must take steps to ensure that our churches are prepared for an outbreak of coronavirus in our city.
Actions Steps for Preparation
Sunday mornings: Should we gather on Sunday mornings? I would encourage everyone to follow the increasingly restrictive guidelines provided by the CDC and local and state authorities. If they recommend not gathering, then be prepared by establishing some livestreaming options so people can still hear the preaching of the Word. For minimal cost, you can purchase an encoder that allows you to stream a sermon, or a full service, through Facebook.
If you’re still one of the small or remote churches meeting on Sunday mornings, avoid passing offering baskets. Place collection boxes somewhere in your facility and highlight online-giving options. This will minimize hand-to-hand contact. Also, provide hand-sanitizing options throughout your facility and encourage everyone to wash their hands as soon as they enter the facility. Ask congregants to not shake hands, hug, or engage in any interaction that could result in viral transmission. Moreover, ask people to sanitize their hands before using child check-in stations.
By caring for our neighbors, we’re previewing a day when nobody will be sick and no one’s needs will go unmet.
Weekdays: The lifeblood of our church is a small-group ministry we call life groups. In moments like the present, the effect of small-group ministry will be big. For the near future, ministry will, by necessity, entirely depend on person-to-person care. If you already have a groups ministry, you’re well situated to handle the kind of individualized care and support that will be needed.
If you don’t have a small-group ministry, be proactive in establishing some kind of care ministry that empowers lay leaders to oversee and monitor the physical and spiritual needs of church members and attenders. This is absolutely vital for the care of our churches and those in the surrounding community.
At the moment of our salvation, we confess our inability to save ourselves. We know that we are small, that we’re not sovereign, that we have little control. And yet our hope is fully invested in the One who is in control: “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). Therefore, we can be settled in these unsettling times. We put the settled posture of our hearts on display by being prepared and by trusting our God.