A Challenge for The Church in Challenging Times

There have been many challenges for the Church in our current situation in the world. Many questions are being asked within the Church as a whole and in our nation. When is it “safe” to get back together as local church bodies? How do we transition? How do we somehow remain connected? How do we care for the hurting or grieving? What risks should we being taking? How should we present ourselves to the world around us? These are all important questions. Many of these questions are being addressed and by the time this is published, I am sure we will understand more.

Many have been yearning for the time we can be together again in person and be encouraged by one another. Paul speaks of the Church as a “family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). So, when we are separated from one another, it is natural to miss each other, just as your own biological family members.

Yet, I have been convicted about a bigger and broader mission of the Church throughout the ages. Think about the purposes that we have had in our country. First, mitigate the virus, and second, get people back to work and some kind of “normalcy” so our economy doesn’t totally flop. The bigger question will be, “What have we learned and what has God been teaching us in the midst of this historic time?” If all that changes during this time are social patterns and learning how to better prevent the spread of disease, then we have lost an epic opportunity that God has placed in front of us.

Just maybe God is challenging the very fiber and depth of our Christianity. Do we just “go” to church, a place to see friends and get a spiritual “fix” for the week and think, “that was good, I needed that?” Then we go on to the rest of our week without even thinking much about Jesus or praying, or seeking His call on our lives or what it means to expand His Kingdom and make disciples of all nations? Do we seek to be salt and light to others around us? Do we say a word about Jesus during the week? Do we treat Jesus as our mascot—like He is there when we need Him and He helps us feel more comfortable? Do we obey Him because we really love Him and desire to glorify Him?

America has been a “save yourself” society. I recently read an article by Ralph Winter who spoke of underdeveloped countries that have suffered from a set of diseases for a long time: tuberculosis, malnutrition, parasites, typhoid, cholera, etc. Affluent America has come up with a whole other set of diseases: obesity, heart disease, strokes, venereal diseases, drug and alcohol addictions, battered children and domestic violence, suicide, murder, and multiple mental illnesses and disorders. It is the brokenness of our society. Maybe you have been hit hard by it yourself. It is not that other places in this world don’t have these things. They all come from our fallen world separated from God. But there is hope and healing through our Savior, Jesus. He does want to bring us freedom so we can shine the light of Jesus around us and understand His true joy and presence.

Yet, even now, we may have forgotten our purpose as Jesus followers: that we live and share the Gospel of Jesus to others rather than saving ourselves and making ourselves comfortable. As long as we think that we are the “chosen ones” like the Hebrews and think that God’s sole concern is the blessing of our nation; as long as we think that the Great Commission of “making disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) is not possible; then we will continue to think that we are just okay Christians, using our one-way ticket on our “Okay Christian Train” to heaven with no concern about the billions of people in this world who are still waiting to hear the Gospel.
Again, the church is the only fellowship on earth that exists for its non-members. Just maybe God is teaching us that in order to be the Church in this world, and we will have to look at a radically different kind of Church in order to see disciples made of all nations. It begins here and now. How will we prepare now to see a movement of new believers come into the Kingdom? How will we look outside of our own comfort zone to take bold risks to advance the gospel? I am not talking about being unwise but taking the steps that may include the right risks.

How are we fundamentally thinking about the church? It is about worship, prayer, hearing God’s Word, and fellowship, but it is also about equipping disciples who will also make disciples in our community and the world. It is about serving others with the loving acts of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. It is what the world will need to see more of as we begin to pick up the pieces of our shattered world of loss of health, work, and broken lives. We have the hope of the world in Jesus. Let us seize the hour. (Ephesians 1)

Rev. Mark Anderson, Pastor of Evangelism & Outreach, Chisholm Baptist Church
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Mark Anderson