This article was written by Dr. Don Moore, a retired Executive Director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. He continues to lift up the name of Jesus and encourage other senior adults to do the same. He serves on the ABSC Task Force on Prayer, Revival and Spiritual Awakening as well as being available to speak in churches. He is trained in Intentional Interim Ministry.
For the Church
It would not be a stretch to say that the effect of COVID-19 has been hideous. Nothing about our lives has been unaffected by this pandemic. Disorder, unpredictability, helplessness, and general chaos are a few words used to describe the impact. Being the believer that I am in a Sovereign God who “makes all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose,” I have to believe He has plans to bring out the good. Perhaps the most blessed attribute of the Living God is His grace. His grace will be extended to all who will receive it during these trying times. As He told Paul, “My grace will be sufficient. “Exceeding, abounding” grace are words to describe His grace.
Since all things were “made by Him and For Him,” He knows how to make all things converge, or come together to bring glory to Him. If we could see as He sees, we would know how and why He has allowed these conditions and we would give Him praise, because we would rejoice in the glory that will come to Him as a result of what He does in and through the conditions we are facing.
Now, I want to share things that I believe will happen in and through His Church that will result in grace, glory and good.
I. The church will become more dependent upon God for all that she needs.
For many years, conditions have been favorable to the work of the church. Even during the Depression and WWII the church was looked to, relied upon and given respect by society in general.
The years of economic prosperity diverted many hearts away from the spiritual, but the church was still held in high regard.
The turbulent years of societal upheaval found mainline churches suffering severe losses while evangelicals still maintained basic stability and, in many cases, continued growth.
Things have changed
- Loss of numbers, loss of respect, and loss of influence has the church in an unfavorable position to survive and progress by usual means.
2. Adaptation of church life to corporate models, the use of promotional schemes, and methodologies that rely upon manipulation and/or emotional motivations will not be found sufficient for the new era of Kingdom challenge.
The Church will be driven back to the ancient truth, “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.” Basic spiritual integrity will experience great benefits in as much as there will be no other viable option. The life of the Word, prayer, faith and fellowship will be more real for a greater percentage of the Church than it has been for some time.
3. The stress from living in a world system so contrary to a Biblical worldview should cause us to enjoy, appreciate, anticipate and be more genuine in our devotion to the Church. Since current generations struggle with institutional loyalties, this will be a big challenge. If culture around them is negative or hostile to their faith, this will pose an added influence to be overcome.
4. As a general rule, stewardship of finances has not been systematically emphasized in more recent years. The generation that has carried the load financially for the church and Christian institutions has quickly moved from producers to users. The older generation’s passing may leave the church in a fiscal crisis. This will most likely impact the size of church staffs and building indebtedness.
II. The measure of effectiveness of churches and leaders will move away from numerical gauges.
Typically, when looking to evaluate a prospective pastor’s effectiveness, a search committee will look to the “numbers” such as baptisms, buildings, and budgets. Since most ministries have been affected negatively in these areas there will be a short term move away from these more temporal measurements to an effort to evaluate a person on the basis of the sustainability and maintenance of basic structures.
Since spiritual gauges do not lend themselves to normal tabulations, a more intentional effort will have to be made to be successful in evangelism and discipleship. Conditions and circumstances around believers do not alleviate the Christian’s responsibility in these areas. The New Testament example of a flourishing church (Acts) in the midst of a secular hostile society in which the Roman Emperor was viewed as God, removes all excuses we may make for our shortcomings.
Spiritual creativity, pioneering, and innovation should give rise to ministries adapted to each church setting. The pattern of copying and reproducing what has worked in one church should give way to spending time before God to find His idea about what approach should be taken in any given setting.
The spiritual wellbeing of the individual will influence much of our preaching and teaching. Recognized needs will be so significant that “one on one” sharing of the Gospel in the context of personal relationships will likely carry the day in evangelism. Earning the right to be trusted by family and friends is not easy or quick. Any ministry that cannot be seen for how it will help the individual in their survival and growth will receive little support and have little benefit.
Since it seems that in many cases we have done little to prepare the next generation to suffer for the sake of Christ, a great “falling away” may take place. Peter’s attempt to do this is a good model. It is reflected in II Peter 3:1-14. Biblical orientation and personal consecration to Jesus Christ will be foundational to the survival of the next generation.
III. The traits characterizing the early church may once again surface in the post-pandemic church.
Should God see fit, in His mercy, to give us another day in which to declare His grace as the Body of Christ, it is likely the same evidences of life will be seen in the new church as in the old (NT) church. We should not be afraid of these, nor should we try to improvise these in our natural capacities. They are the result of the Spirit of God working in His obedient people.
1. The supernatural commanded the attention of society and authenticated the early church. The offer in the Gospel was not an alternate lifestyle or a tweaked ancient philosophy. It was life, real life, an unexplained life working in ordinary people. Whether it was a visiting angel, the silencing of the demonic, worms eating an egomaniac, or shaking down a jail, everyone knew these were not of human origin. Acts 2:43 (NIV) “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.”
2. The contagious spirit of joy and confidence were so winsome that keepers of the jail knew that something inward had so filled the prisoners that they desired to know what they had. Sour faced, cranky religious moral police were replaced with many people who were inebriated with a “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” How attractive, how unusual, how amazing were these people! Bond and free, magistrates and masters, the doubters and skeptics could not escape.
3. The boldness of New Testament believers was so convincing. It could not be denied. From the highest-ranking officers to slave girls, the message was like a trumpet blast in their ears. Repeated imprisonment, executions, and daily threats did not quiet the voice of those who were heralding the Good News of Jesus.
4. The engagement of believers found the early apostles engaging the rankest pagan culture, the most hostile intellectual element and crusading in the darkest political world. Frightened seamen, erudite scholars, and even religious zealots would not escape the penetrating message of the risen Christ alive and active in the hearts of people at that time.
5. Concern and compassion flowed from the heart of the new creatures in Christ Jesus. From earliest days they were known for how “they loved one another” as recorded in Acts 2:44-45 and 4:34-35. The telling statement, Acts 2:44-45 (NIV) “44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.”
Acts 4:34-35 (NIV): There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.