Last night, I was reading the intro to my book “Are We Still Making Disciples”. The opening line of the book is: “We’re at a critical time in the church today”. It was true when I wrote it and it’s even more true today. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic and when such moments come about, the church is brought to forefront for various reasons.
Being faith-based, it would make sense that people would look to the church in uncertain times. We’re looked to in order to provide comfort and encouragement during a difficult time, and in many ways, we’ve answered the call. However, we’re also looked at during this time because some of the people that have been attending our services regularly seem to be unsure. And while at some moments we “questioned” their faith, one could argue that they have about as much faith as they’ve been encouraged to have.
What I mean is in some cases, the object of their faith is what we’ve been pushing. In some cases, we haven’t pointed them to God as often as we should have, and now, in the midst of extreme uncertainty, they don’t know where to turn. So then, the question becomes, what have we really been telling our people?
We’ve spent the better part of the last 25 to 30 years telling people about God’s stimulus plan and how we’re all gonna be worldly rich, often ignoring the fact that not only is what we have here on earth of no consequence when we die, but none of it will be of any benefit when we’re face to face with God. In a moment when the government is issuing out money to it’s citizens in the name of survival, its all being given to people that should be staying inside for their own safety.
It’s in situations like this when cliches and catchphrases fade away and people begin to wonder if God is listening to their prayers because people are still dying in the face of this disease. The person that’s praying that God replaces their next breath isn’t concerned about material things, 401k’s, their cars, their “breakthrough”, or even how God is gonna make their haters their motivators. They’re concerned with their lives. They’re concerned with their souls.
They need to be able to draw on a reassuring word and not one based solely on what happens on this side of their current Jordan river situation. It’s during these times when people don’t need a superficial and fluffed up word. They need a true and sustaining word. During these moments, people need to know about a saving Savior.
One of the great challenges to the church during this time is to examine what our message has been to our people. Some of us in the preaching ministry have spent so many years trying to move people emotionally that we’ve failed to move them spiritually. There are people that have listened to us that are so disillusioned and uniformed about God that they don’t even believe that a plague would come by His hands and not necessarily the devil’s. This is one of the pitfalls of us serving itching ears as opposed to addressing lives that have yet to be transformed according to Romans 12:1-2.
A “prosperity” word is hardly the life preserver our people need when both rich and poor can be killed by the same virus. A “God’s gonna make you rich” word isn’t what people need when we don’t have enough ventilators to go around in order to help people breathe. In this moment, people don’t need to be reminded about how they’ll overcome the hater next door, they need to know that God will deliver them from the illness outside their door. In this moment, people need to know that God is still in charge, even though people are dying.
While we share Scriptures of doom and gloom and an angry God, we must also share the hope of Jesus Christ. People need to know that God is still a healer, even though people are still at risk and getting sick. They need to know that even if God doesn’t answer their prayers in the fashion that they prayed it, He still able!
Some time ago, I did a series on my radio broadcast called “A Church In Love WIth Itself”. The purpose of that series, just as it was with “Are We Still Making Disciples”, was to refocus the church on what we’re supposed to be about and who we’re supposed to be. I’m just convinced that there are times when God will either cause something to happen or allow something to happen that should refocus us.
As it pertains to the church, I believe that this season is a season in which the truth of God’s Word needs to go forth. We’re in a season where God has leveled the playing field and the haves and the have nots are in the same boat, facing the same danger, faced with same mortality. Because, quite honestly, that’s where we’ve always been. For this reason, in this season, and for this cause, we need a word. And this time, the church must deliver.