We live in a fast- paced consumerist culture that has in many ways suddenly been brought to a halt. Over the last few months to a large extent much of our working and life routines have been disrupted. Church services with gatherings in buildings have stopped. The premiership has been put on hold. Public houses are off limits. There are concerns regarding staying healthy and there is vigilance concerning social distancing. People are now having conversations over the fence when they may not have spoken for years previously. With all this in view time has been granted to rethink and reorder our priorities. Has God pressed the pause button and caused us to have time to reflect?
So often we see disaster updates on the news at various locations around the world. Very few of those have direct implications for us or even our small Island. When we hear about famines or plagues it is easy to think of those phenomena as tragic yet third world phenomena. Though the current rate of people suffering is nowhere near that of the Spanish flu, this is both a first world problem and a worldwide issue.
Zoom is no longer a brightly coloured ice lolly from the eighties, but is now one of our primary means of group communication. There has been an encouraging response in that many people have accessed church services by zoom for whom this is a new entity or those who rarely attend. Sometimes people are reluctant to invite others to services, but an email invite with the link is not going to put someone on the spot and they can simply choose whether they would like to engage. Zoom can bring people together who may be otherwise geographically remote. There is not the trepidation some people encounter when going to a church for the first time ever, or for the first time in recent years, and if they really feel uncomfortable, they can simply exit the meeting.
Prior to the lockdown people have used the internet as a method anyway, but the point is, some have more time and are increasingly able to respond to email messages and could be more open to consider the gospel. These messages can take the form of dialogues and include sharing videos, sermons, podcasts or a website. Also the recipient has time to read and consider the message which might have taken a different form if it happened within the usual practise of face to face or group discussion. This type of communication gives people the opportunity to consider matters that they may be shy of discussing in public.
Other means include using the phone more often, but why mention this when we could do this anyway? The dynamic of how people are living has changed, dramatically for some, and we need to respond to that. Some are self-isolating meaning many are more appreciative of calls than usual. Some evangelists are used to the concept of a Bible study over the phone if they are at a long distance from someone they have previously spoken with.
Consider how pleasing it is to receive a Bible, a Christian book, or a letter from a friend, particularly if is hand-written which further personalises it. Letters have that rare combination of the personal touch that can also be combined with matters of grave importance. Many letters are recorded in Scripture which were so influential that they altered the treatment and the preservation of the Lord’s people. People are more likely to retain and re-read a letter than an email. A timely letter could affect the course of a person’s life for the better.
Bible boxes have proved effective being left at the entrance on a driveway, on a wall of a property or outside a church building. There has been a good uptake of Bibles, gospels and evangelistic booklets received. The method and means are simple yet effective. Obtain a storage box then print and tape a sign offering free Bibles and literature and put Bibles and booklets inside.
Devotional time and Fellowship
Considering that we will spend the rest of eternity with the Lord and other believers, does it not make sense to prioritise the reading of the Scriptures, meditate upon God’s word and draw close to Him in prayer? Often a habit can be ingrained after six weeks and if we have struggled in this area it is now a golden opportunity to designate a time and to seek the Lord. What we value most will inevitably consume our thoughts and aspirations. What we miss the most may well reveal that.
The fact that we miss fellowship with others in some ways is not a bad thing. It reminds us that we were created to be in fellowship with God and to meet regularly where possible with others. There have for a while now been those on the periphery who have watched services online and feel that by doing that, they are obtaining their spiritual quotient for the week but since when has attending services been about us as a consumer? How can we possibly encourage others or interact meaningfully or bless others merely by being committed only to viewing habits?
How we respond to lockdown also reflects our actual worldview. God is sovereign and we know that His timing is perfect, and all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Every epoch, geographic location, and culture has its unique challenges though the gospel has the power to penetrate and transform lives. Like the children of Israel we are on a journey and for some this may feel like the wilderness. Will we respond with complaining and grumbling which is abhorrent to the lord or will we say, “As for me and my house, I will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15)?”