As many countries implement various measures to tackle the spread of Coronavirus, I couldn’t help but think of the role that the Church should be playing at this critical time.
A few days ago, I was sharing with my wife my thoughts on the effect of the coronavirus lockdown on many churches which meant they could not open their doors to the public. It dawned on me that it didn’t matter whether the church building was a small community hall sitting 20 people or a mega church sitting 50,000 - they were all empty.
One fact emerges from this thought, the Church is not made of buildings. No matter how wonderful and lovely they are, how big or small they are, how organised or structured they are, at this time in history, they have become unusable. Does this mean that the Church can therefore not be effective without the buildings? No, the Church is not made of bricks and stones - these are man-made. The Church is made up of people who have surrendered their lives to Jesus and who carry in them the Spirit of God for the purpose of carrying the mission that God have to it, which is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and God's love for mankind. This is the reason why many Churches are still holding today, just not in their designated places of worship.
As an IT professional, I have been involved in advocating and promoting online ministry because I see the internet as a huge community of people who need to be reached with the gospel of Christ. Many Churches who had the same idea were able to quickly move their services online at this time so that they can continue to minister to the people, thereby expanding their ministry beyond the four walls of their Church buildings. Others who did not have such facilities were able to leverage on the kind support of platforms like Church Platform Online who offer a free tool to help such Churches, enabling such them to stream their services online.
This reminds me of the story of Esther in the Bible. When Vashti was queen at the Citadel of Susa, all the young girls like Esther much have looked at her with admiration without giving much thought to aspiring to be in her position one day. When the unexpected happened, Esther suddenly found herself in the palace having been chosen to be a queen from among probably hundreds of other young girls.
We don’t know the duration of time between when Esther became queen and when Mordecai was targeted by Harman a royal official, who made the king sign an edict to annihilate the Jews. However, when Mordecai heard of the edict, he informed Esther and instructed her to seek audience with the king. This request was problematic for one reason, if Esther went into the presence of the King and he did not point his sceptre towards her, she was as good as dead. Esther replied to Mordecai explaining why it would be dangerous to follow his instruction,
“All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.” (Esther 4: 11)
One would have expected that Mordecai would have back-pedalled on his request for fear that his niece might be killed but he sent a message back;
“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4: 12-14)
Esther did as she was told, only requesting that the people pray and fast along with her for 3 days. She seeks audience with the king and makes her request. Harman ends up being killed along with members of his family and the king gives a directive empowering the Jews with the right to defend themselves.
I believe that the Church has a role to play at such a time like this. We may not be able to meet in our places of worship but we can continue to shine the light of Christ with the tools we have in our hands. The news is full of gloom and doom but we can punctuate it with the light of hope in Christ Jesus. We can call our neighbours and offer help to them especially those who are old, sick and vulnerable.
We have a huge opportunity to shine our light in the darkness that has manifested through the Coronavirus pandemic.
More importantly, we can pray. This is what we are called to do especially at such a time like this.