A clip was circulating throughout social media over the last few days of a church congregation gathered singing within a local Wal Mart. Unable to attend their own services in person due to Covid restrictions, they gathered (socially distanced) within a (notably legally) open Wal Mart and proclaimed the goodness of God with passion and fervency right in the hearing of all the other Wal Mart visitors. The clip was encouraging for two reasons:
1. It’s a reminder that the church will prevail no matter what restrictions are placed on it. Just as it did in the early days of Christianity despite the torments inflicted upon them by Nero and just as it continued to do for thousands of years despite tortures, imprisonments, and much more.
And 2. The church is being shaken out of its comfort zone and being forced out into the streets.
Church members are meeting in parks, backyards, open fields, wherever they can really.
In some places still, stores like Wal Mart and Home Depot can be open for business while the local church cannot which to be sure, is a cause to be fought for. In any case, the church has long been growing sluggish and while I personally have been fortunate enough to belong to a church that places great emphasis on outreach and evangelism, I see that that is not often the case nor a trend in today’s church.
The church was birthed on the streets…through the means of an impromptu sermon street preached by Peter. One of the first African converts was met out on the open road and baptized soon thereafter by Philip. Peter and John saw great miracles as they passed common people in the streets of Jerusalem. This is the church’s roots but years of comfort and lack of oppression in North America has driven the Christian church to often stay cloistered cozily within its own four walls. Sermons are preached on being your best self and caring for your well being; mental health workshops are put on, and intimate coffee small groups gather to discuss wholesome, comforting topics. These have replaced the thrust of urgency (not to mention discomfort) that comes through direct and deliberate street evangelism. Now none of those things mentioned are inherently wrong, but they are not to ever dethrone the weighty and glorious calling, commission and priority we have to “Go into all the world and make disciples”.
By the way, while we are on the subject of pandemics, let’s bring up the chief of them all: the infamous Black Plague. The plague hit Europe within the mid 1300’s and with it, brought one of the most important socio-economic shifts in all of history. The common person in those days typically lived a short, and unremarkable life as a serf (a step just above a slave) to a feudal “lord”. Commoners had little to no chance of ever advancing themselves, gaining education or traveling beyond the small parcel of land that they worked. The Catholic church had grown opulent and self centred, only serving the elite and taking the word of God out of the grasp of the common man by only using Latin for mass and readings as well as only being available through remote churches or once in awhile, a traveling priest. When the Black Plague hit; it hit hard. It annihilated much of the European population and the feudal system along with it. Suddenly, the tables turned, the social and economic everyday ways of living were obliterated and replaced with well…nothing. For the first time, lower class citizens had increasing freedom and the ability to choose a life for themselves. Roads opened, people travelled seeking work and new opportunities and within less than 200 years, Martin Luther nailed his famous thesis to the doors of the local Catholic Church demanding reformation. Religion, and particularly Christianity as people knew it, would forever be changed. The gospel would become available once again to the common man. It took a pandemic for this to happen.
Some people wonder how God in His loving kindness could allow such horrors as the Black Plague or even Corona virus to happen. And though we may not understand His master plan; when considering God’s infinite wisdom, we must know that He will often ultimately allow for that which will impact the eternal harvest and destination of SOULS rather than NOT allowing these things just to satisfy OUR immediate earthly needs. We usually reject this concept because our lives and our immediate circumstances often take precedence over any thought of eternity and the intangible. And this thought process of preserving self and family makes complete sense…unless of course you are a believer and know with certainty that we are actually just passing through here, we are pilgrims of sorts. This earth is not our home, nor are its beauties and treasures lasting. And your health? It is of course important to God, but not as important as your soul’s ultimate destination. The human soul is, after all, the most valuable thing in all of the world. The church’s mission of reaching souls will always be more important than anything we physically possess, be it health, wealth, or anything in between.
Make no mistake, God is using this pandemic to shake the social and economic structures of the nations. He is also allowing the church to be shaken and tested and ultimately turned out into the streets. But that’s where we should have been the whole time. Because if we aren’t reaching the lost, then what are we really doing anyways?
An opinion piece by Kristin Small