(Original post at https://www.karengan.blog/mull-stones/coronavirus-and-the-church)
A tiny virus is sending shockwaves throughout the entire world. At the time of my writing, the worldometer of reported and detected coronavirus cases has gone past 620,000 in a matter of months from day 0. And the USA has topped the charts, overtaking China as the place with the most number of Coronavirus cases. Furthermore, these numbers do not include those that have gone undetected or are asymptomatic.
In Singapore, stay-home is encouraged and social distancing measures like not sitting on marked out chairs in hawker centres, failing which you can get slapped with a hefty fine of $10,000 and/or jail term of 6 months. Social distancing is pretty hard for a densely populated nation of approx. 6 million in 278.6 mi² (721.5 sq. km), with a population density in Singapore of 8358 per sq. Km (21,646 people per sq. mi).
Over in neighbouring Malaysia the lockdown is such that only the heads of households are allowed out to buy necessities. And the shutting of borders between Singapore and Malaysia has displaced 300,000 Malaysians who work in Singapore. This triggered another round of panic buying.
While governments are scurrying around in an attempt to flatten the virus’ curve, the consequence is that it has flattened almost everything non-essential to life. In Australia, measures are even more drastic, such as the closure of gyms, restaurants, eateries, spas, nail salons, churches and anything non-essential to life. Only supermarkets are opened and there are no dine-ins at restaurants at all, only take-outs and deliveries are allowed. (As of 30 Mar 2020: In Australia, only 2 persons are allowed in a public gathering.)
Even private birthday celebrations, weddings and funerals, are limited to a maximum of 10 persons (this number might be updated again depending on the situation!). Church events, mass gatherings and services are now suspended or cancelled in most countries.
I hope in the midst of this craziness and seemingly dark time, you have seen more light or perhaps the COVID19 situation; of country lockdowns, border closures, social distancing measures, panic buying, quarantines, stay-home notices, public events cancelled, church services becoming epidemic spreading clusters (thought about the message this sends to non-believers?), church services closed, jobs lost, over-taxed healthcare systems, inevitable bankruptcies, the race to produce test kits and vaccines, closure of cinemas, shops, tuition centres, businesses, schools closed and going online etc, has awakened you to reality and shed more light on your life and purpose for God’s kingdom.
The reality of what has been happening in the church is this. We have been asleep. And we have been lulled into a deep sleep. God is awakening those who have been in this slumber.
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.” (Eph 5:14, Isa 26:19)
However in the midst of all the bad news, there is good coming out of it all.
I understand that there is sickness and death happening with countries like Italy and China suffering the most casualties. There is lots of emotional fear and widespread confusion and panic everywhere, but I also really see a lot of good coming out of it. The good that has come out of this coronavirus pandemic is: It puts humanity all on the same page. No one whether kings or presidents, young or old, rich or poor is shielded from this virus.
I also see it as a great equaliser in some areas of disparity. In one particular area, for eg. no more tuition and enrichment centres in Singapore can go on. And this means those who cannot afford to have tuition will be placed on the same page as those who can. (But then as I am writing, the tuition centers are responding with e-learning and online classes to keep their customer base (i.e. the parents) happy.
Churches Fighting Fires
The churches are scrambling to get their act together and react to this outbreak by hosting their services online and even continuing to ask for tithes and offerings through online payment, for believers to stay home to watch the service or rather their performance called “church”, and to sustain their operations, staff salaries and for some, huge mortgages for the building they use a few hours in a week which is now empty and shut. While most “churches” are fighting fires, where is the real church, His body?
How Can the Church, the Body of Christ Respond to This Virus
1) “When you are outside, put on protective gear to prevent infection”
We all know that in many Asian cultures, they wear masks when they are out in the streets. And in hospitals they even put on a protective suit, surgical masks, and face shield when coming into contact with infected patients.
Similarly in the spirit, we make sure we have our protective spiritual gear on when we are up and about daily for His kingdom purposes. Put on prayer, put on the whole armour of God. However if you stay indoors, safe from everybody else, then you have not much to protect yourself from. The Church of Jesus Christ is not made for staying indoors, and she is not made to insulate herself from the world. Though we are not of the world, we are in this world. And we are called to be salt and light (Mt 5) in this world and overcomers in Christ as He overcame the world (John 16:33). Sadly we have mostly shut our doors to the world and are “locked-up” in the sacred-secular divide of religion way even before COVID-19 came about.
2) “Build Up your Immunity”
One way to fight any virus, is to build up your body’s immunity. Your gut health is important for your immunity.
As the COVID-19 virus is sweeping across nations, the supplement industry is booming as people sweep the shelves of pharmacies and supermarkets clean.
Our body in the natural and the Body of Christ, i.e. the Church, is designed by God to have strong immunity provided we have good gut health. If there are no output of toxins and wastes from the body, you are constipated and poor gut health will compromise your immune system’s ability to withstand any virus.
Similarly, the body of Christ’s immune system has been compromised for the longest time because of toxic nonsense and “highly processed canned food” we call “sermons, which we have been feeding ourselves with.
We have not been eating real whole foods. Nutritionists’ advice that the very foods hoarded by panic buyers of instant noodles, pasta, pasta sauces and canned food, is not helpful. These things contain high sodium and it will deplete your gut from the necessary good bacteria in your gut.
We need to start eating real whole foods to stay healthy and develop strong immunity.
Start feeding yourself by reading whole letters/books of the bible and not just watch youtube sermons, which is basically processed food pre-digested by someone else. If you are His sheep and have a real relationship with God, you can hear the voice of God. Learning to reading scriptures on your own is essential. No one, after being a follower of Christ for donkey years, should still need to be bottle-fed milk (i.e. a sermon).
Sadly, this is the state of the church today and people have become addicted to drinking milk once a week on a Sunday. No wonder they don’t have the strength to do great exploits for God in this world! Start reading His word on your own, and discerning God’s voice in life circumstances, because doing that trains your spirit man to know God’s voice for yourself and find application through hearing His voice.
3) “Get Some Exercise and Ample Rest”
We all know these 2 are important components to a healthy body.
Without exercise, even the right eating habits will cause obesity and a compromised immunity and health. Are you exercising your spiritual and natural gifts and talents in the midst of this crisis regularly? Without output and you doing what you hear from God, you are only deceiving yourselves (James 1:22).
Are you finding your rest in God in the midst of this? Or are you worried, full of fear, and anxiety?
Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”. (Matt 11:28). Jesus continues in Matt 11:29-30 continues, “Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Is the Church finding real rest in God through being carriers of His burden and yoke? Are we carrying HIs purposes or trying to achieve ours only? Are you ploughing in the harvest fields of humanity yoking together with Jesus, the Lord of the harvest? Or are you in your own self-consumed bubble on a Sunday?
What and how can we as the church and body of Christ do to preach and bring God’s kingdom to others in a tumultuous time such as this?
The truth is that whilst church services, church buildings and events are being shut down, the Church, which is God’s people, and His kingdom can’t be shut down! In fact the real church will arise and thrive in this hour. They do not need events, or buildings to function. They are disciples everywhere, in every place where they live, work and play! STOP FIGHTING FIRES and BE THE FIRE!
And the fact that church buildings and events are being shut down, goes to show that we DO NOT NEED IT to live in the first place. Have you thought about that?
I am sure if you are a believer and follower of Christ, you probably already know that church is not a building, nor a service, nor an event, nor a meeting. But wait, why then do we still do that service thing, or try to keep it going even hosting it online during this shut-down? If it can been shut down, then it is NON-ESSENTIAL to you and to your life!
God has not designed his Church and kingdom to be bound or to be shut down by a virus and government regulatory measures. We are a unique organism called the BODY OF CHRIST. Christ’s body is not divided up. He has only 1 body although many functions. The Church of Jesus Christ is ONE living organism with Christ as ONE head, and has not been designed by God to shut! In fact, God wills that we His church, His body wherever we might be, arise with greater glory in times of greater darkness! In crisis, we thrive! And we need to be riding on this wave and this curve! Because once this curve flattens, human nature is such that we will go back to BUSINESS AS USUAL.
Isa 60:1-3 (NIV)
1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Time to Reflect, Rethink, and Undo
Well, you might be thinking, “but don’t we need one another and community in church meetings?” Oh yes, we absolutely do! But in an authentic expression! What we have mostly today in the modern day society, is merely an artificial construct of “community” with management practices in an organisation or of the world being put into practice to manage people. That is not the authentic expression of a living breathing organism called Christ’s church!
We have the the life of Jesus Christ and the breath of the Holy Spirit flowing through the veins and arteries of Christ’s body, which makes us believers i.e His church and His body alive forevermore! And we have Jesus Christ as our Head who directs the Body of believers anywhere and everywhere worldwide. We all as His sheep, can hear the voice of our Good Shepherd who has laid down His life for us! (John 10) So what is there to stop this living organism from knowing His will and doing His will daily without the interfering human management principles of men? The Holy Spirit who is the best Teacher will guide you and lead you into ALL truth, as Jesus promised. (John14:26)
A Note to “pastors”
As things shut down, “pastors”, release the members of the (not your) “church” who have been “going to church” (going to church is wrong sentence structure altogether. If church is not a place where you can go to, but IS God’s people, then why do we even say “going to church” or ask people to “come to church”)?
By now you should be able to trust the members (not your members, they are Christ’s) to go forth with power to make more disciples. By now, most of them would not even need you to tell them what to do, cos they have an ability to hear and obey God. If they can’t hear and obey God after a real encounter with Christ and after hearing sermons week after week, then what you have been doing is a miserable utter failure.
If what you are concerned about is to keep members in order to keep the tithes and offerings flowing into your organisation, or to keep members in order to prop up an institution, so that you can finance the building, or pay staff or yourself a salary, then mind you, it is high time you realised that you have been serving Mammon/money in the name of God! Who is your God?
What a great time to be reflecting, rethinking and undoing religious practices that we have become unknowingly dependent on or even addicted to other than God and His kingdom working in us and through us!
A Note to Every follower of Christ
Start making disciples wherever you are and with people God sends your way everyday.
You have what you need for your community and your neighbours i.e the ones living or working around you! That is and should be your true community. The ones whom you bump into at the lift lobbies; the ones who throw trash out at the bins, or the ones you wave at and greet when you meet them. The one who sits next to you at your office cubicle. The cleaner aunty who cleans your office. The security guard who works in your estate. Oh wait, I think it should be “the ones you should have”…because now with “stay-home” and “working from home” being encouraged, you don’t see them much anymore.
Think about how you can be the Church being sent out 2 by 2 (Husband and wife is enough, any more, it gets complicated) just like Jesus did with His disciples sending them into the harvest fields. Don’t find someone living far away to pair with you. Find someone whom you are living with, and if not, disciple someone into the kingdom and go with that person. It is not rocket science. There is a reason why Jesus said “where 2 or 3 are gathered together in my name, I am in the midst of you”. He did not say “where 2 or more”, so you really don’t need a big group to start something or a leader to tell you what to do to gather you to get you going.
So have a “Going” mentality even in this lockdown season, and you will find faith and joy in doing His will daily and being about His Kingdom purposes!
– How can we have wisdom while having faith, and not be foolish in trying to be fearless. How is the going forth and what can we do?
– When this pandemic ends, how and what can we be doing better to continue to bring God’s kingdom here on earth? Is online church the answer to the future? What if there is another problem that arises that shuts the church services again? Are you ready?
I leave you with these questions for you to reflect, rethink and undo.
For me the answers are clear. At this time, I am busier than ever before about my Father’s kingdom work. The virus pandemic is a great teacher. Learn from it and let the gospel of the Kingdom and authentic church in your community go viral, for it cannot be hindered.