Like it or loathe it the ‘new normal’ is here. In the Lord’s providence, he has permitted Covid-19 to turn upside down that which we thought was normal and fixed. For all of us, the situation has been at the least inconvenient, but for some it has been serious as they see their business stalling or are out of work or furloughed. For some the situation has become disturbing, as their workplace has become somewhere with a new hidden and silent danger. Sadly, for some it has become a fatal situation, with all the ensuing trauma for their families. We may not all have been infected, but none of us has been unaffected by Covid-19. The church is no exception.
Central to the health of a church is the preaching of Scripture and the pastoring of God’s people. It is what we pray for and ask God to bless. But the current and necessary government restrictions have challenged the way we do this so that we can’t meet together or visit one another. It’s all different now but with challenges come opportunities.
Change has been forced on us and conservative Christians don’t always do change well. We may quickly feel threatened by change because it’s easy to find security in the cosy feel of the regular and familiar. But now our normal has gone and change is all around us. It has been moving to see church leaders struggling to rapidly master streaming and Zoom, as well as embracing the weariness and frustration that comes with new and unfamiliar technology. Just as the early church utilised the new technology of Roman roads and Luther the printing press, it is all because of the need of the hour, their love of Christ and of people. It’s really not been easy, but it is wonderful to see this dive into the deep end.
Focus has been forced upon us. Like the disorientating blur of concussion, we have had to work out which way is up. We’ve had to think through the biblical priorities of what really matters. Covid-19 has quickly burned away the dross of so much that we now see was unnecessary and of no consequence. For sure it’s thrown up new questions. Should we have online communion or not? One service or two? But it’s made us think again about the real priorities of Scripture.
Opportunity too has been forced upon us and it is opportunity for the gospel. Don’t let anyone think that preaching now is just preaching to a camera lens, it’s preaching to the world in a way we did not think possible. There are millions of potential real people on the other side of that lens. It’s getting hard to find anyone who is streaming their preaching, who has not had new people listening to the gospel.
It’s not perfect and the numbers may not be massive but it is wonderful and the potential for development is massive. Facebook has an estimated 2.89 billion users and 1.9 billion logged on to YouTube last year. Into this swirling mass of often nonsense and godless pointless talk, the gospel is getting out like never before. Covid-19 has possibly done more to incline the weekly preaching in the local church in the direction of evangelism than we can imagine.
Unity has been forced upon us. Maybe that is a strange one as God’s people are called to unity, but now we really are all in this together. The consequences of Covid-19 are affecting us all regardless of who we are, as it rips through the usual social boundaries that society builds. In church it seems to have taken us back to the heart of what we are about; proclaiming Christ and building one another up in the Lord through prayer and care, together.
Our Sunday evening streaming failed one evening a few weeks ago. I was alone in the church building and it was grim. Then my phone began to light up with a shower of texts from the church family in Llanelli saying they were praying. We fixed it together. We are all in this together and we know we are.
Kindness has been forced on us as we discover we need others like never before. We all need those NHS workers, the care home workers, the shop workers, the utility workers, the farmers, the internet guys and the rest more than we ever have. More than anything though, we need our brothers and sisters in Christ. Through this adversity and our own vulnerability, we are learning to appreciate each other in a new way that is so good. We are grateful for every call or email, and so thankful we belong to an active community of God’s people. We feel we have each other’s back and we are ‘Team Church’. It’s making us a kinder people, to the glory of God.
So who has done this? Who has forced all this upon us? The answer is clear: God has! This is utterly mysterious, but it is no mistake. He is not asleep at the wheel and he is not indifferent. He is with us and he has raised us up ‘for such a time as this’ (Esther 4:14). God doesn’t make mistakes. He could have planted us in the middle of the eighteenth century and the Great Awakening, but instead he has chosen to put us here in the middle of this apparent mess and has given us the gifts for the opportunities of the day.
Don’t bemoan the change and don’t resent the change as this is ultimately God’s doing, and it is for his glory. Play your part. Pray, support, encourage and use the gifts he has given you to carry out the work of the gospel and serving others. Do it with all the might you have and to the glory of God alone.