Recently, I was faced with a decision to cancel some important organizational events due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The response of several people was, “We should not act out of fear.” I agreed, but also said that this was not a response of fear, but of care.
On March 12, 2020, I flew to Toronto for several meetings. That was the very day things began to really change. It was on my way to the airport that I heard the announcement from the Alberta government that would begin to place restrictions on gatherings such as the ones I was responsible for planning.
The following day I met with leaders from the Kitchener, ON area. While we were meeting, I discovered several of our churches would be cancelling their services that Sunday. I applauded their diligence. No one was forcing them to do so, but out of a sense of social responsibility and care, they decided to err on the side of overabundant caution.
That weekend in Ontario was the longest weekend of my life as I witnessed our entire society go from relatively normal operation to wide-ranging shut-downs. I was away from my family, unable to accomplish many of the things I set out to do during my visit. Although I was in good company, staying at the home of a colleague, I was lonely and homesick.
The following week we officially cancelled our events. Most of our churches cancelled their services. Some leaders balked at those decisions, saying we are acting out of fear: “The church should never be afraid of harm coming to us!” True. But that is not why we are cancelling our gatherings.
The Church is the Eternal Assembly of Jesus’ Followers
The church (ecclesia or “assembly”) of Jesus will never cease to exist. It is the only structure that will exist forever. A pandemic cannot hurt it. However, while the Church ultimately can never be harmed by a pandemic, we can do harm if we are not wise and compassionate.
The pandemic is a crisis not because millions of people are dying or sick from the Covid-19 virus. It is a crisis because it has the potential to kill millions and destroy our global economy, causing countless people to suffer. The church has a responsibility to extend the compassionate love of Jesus to the world in a time like this. And, although there may come a time for the church to step in and take front-line action, the best way to care currently is to stay home.
Staying home does not mean church is cancelled. Remember, the church is not a place or an event. The church is the eternal assembly of Jesus’ followers. All throughout history, the church has faced times of dispersion. It was during these times God caused growth and further dependence on Him.
What do we do?
Use this time to know God better, to pray and to discover who you are in Him. Find some good worship music, listen to the Bible (the Dwell app is my favourite), and find one or two others to join you in this process.
As you do this, resist the common temptation to try and “apply” scripture to your life. The Bible is not meant to be applied, but to transform. You study, learn, and grow from Scripture not by “figuring it out,” but by allowing it to transform your mind, your heart and your attitude.
Scripture reveals what is otherwise unseen. Many will see the Covid-19 pandemic as something to fear, reject, deny or be skeptical about. But, God’s Word will reveal to you that a pandemic is an opportunity to love, to help and to pray.
We are forgetful people, which is why we need reminders daily, multiple times per day. God told His people to write His Word on their doorposts and tie them their clothes so that they would remember His promises and commands.
Maybe this is what we need to do: write God’s Word on our mirrors, our fridges, and as wallpapers on our devices, so that we are constantly reminded of God’s Word and allow it to transform our fears into compassionate care for others.