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Ministers are talking to each other about what their church will be like when the COVID-19 restrictions have ended, and when even the most worried person will venture back out into the world – including coming back to church. One minister friend said that we have already lost people at both ends of the spectrum responding to the media narrative and government policies regarding COVID-19. Another believes that many people have drifted away from the faith and will not return. Another friend responded to that comment, by saying the Lord is purifying His church, and that that is a good thing.

One comment by a minister friend stands out, leading me to think and pray. He shared what Robbie Symons of Hope Bible Church said to him, “Far more important than who is standing with us when all this is over, is where we are standing now, and will be standing, when all this is over.” I am paraphrasing what he said, which was far more pithy!

The following are five Bible passages which I hope describe where we at the Church of the Messiah (my church) have sought to stand each day since mid-March 2020, and desire by the grace and mercy of the Triune God to continue to stand in the days, months and years ahead.

Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

What does it profit a person to have the right view on masks and lockdowns and forfeit their soul?

What does it profit a person to have the right view on masks and lockdowns and forfeit their soul?

I have struggled to limit my views on these matters for the sake of the lost, and the sake of the unity of the church. I confess that I often think about the churches that were silent when Hitler was rising to power and then when he was in power. I think of churches supportive or silent during apartheid in South Africa and slaveholding in North America.

These historical examples bear witness that a commitment to evangelism and the Great Commission should not make the gospel-shaped church completely silent in the face of social, cultural, and political evil. Just as John the Baptist confronted Herod, sometimes we should confront the social, cultural, and political powers. The church today needs to speak about abortion and euthanasia.

The Great Commission should not silence and “depoliticize” the church, but it should caution the church about drifting into more and more political matters. We need to remember the important distinction between “the church gathered” and “the church scattered.” The church gathered is the congregation’s times of worship, its mission and work as the church. But this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what the church does.

The church scattered is what all of the members do in their particular vocations and ministries. This is the greater ministry and witness. Much that needs to be done in regard to COVID-19 should really be done by the “church scattered.”

Doctors, nurses, scientists, writers, mathematicians, economists, etc. – all should seek the truth in their work and speak the truth in the public square and/or their sphere of influence – knowing that they have a supportive church community who will stand with them, supporting them in prayer. So, I hope we stand on the priority of proclaiming the Gospel to the saints and to the lost, to our city, and to every people group, even to the ends of the earth.

Second Corinthians 4:5-6

Note, you should read from verse 1 to verse 6, but verses 5-6 get to the momentous point, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God who said, “Let light shine in the darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Thinking about what the church can do to attract non-Christians, or make it easier for them to come to your church is a good habit, but a bad rule, and a terrible master. When it becomes a rule or your master, the normal sinful human temptation to avoid the hard truths of the whole counsel of God is empowered and easily grows.

I know of one evangelical church that no longer speaks about matters pertaining to sexuality – and the reason given is that they want to reach the lost. They have drifted into believing that their work converts. We need to remember that only the Lord can convert, and He asks you and your church to proclaim that He is Lord of every square inch of you, of every person, and of the whole universe.

By the way, to proclaim that Jesus is Lord has obvious implications if the State and/or cultural powers seek to increase more and more. I want us to stand for being sensitive about removing non-essential barriers to the church, all the while proclaiming with inviting clarity, that Jesus Christ is Lord – trusting Him to do the miracle of conversion.

Pray that we will be like Paul, who said to the elders of the church in Ephesus, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). I want us to stand on the truth that Jesus is Lord, and the proclamation that Jesus is Lord.

John 3:30

He must increase, but I must decrease.

These words were spoken by John the Baptist. Jesus calls him the greatest prophet (Matthew 11:7-11). In the world there is a famous “pride” month. My hope and prayer is that we have a “He must increase and I must decrease” year – year after year – with ever greater depth. In the midst of the turmoil, division, yelling, accusations, fear and isolation, I pray we walk on the path that He must increase, and we must decrease.

Matthew 12:20 

…a bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench, until He brings justice to victory.

This is part of a larger text, verses 12-15, where Matthew quotes Isaiah 42 to indicate the type of Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is. Are those in favour of all the government policies and the whole media narrative the “bruised reed”?

Are those who are highly skeptical of the government policies and the whole media narrative the “bruised reed”? I pray we will stand in His spirit of love, gentleness, and hope towards those in our midst who seem lost, confused, suspicious, and struggling – and those who just disagree with us.

Matthew 16:18

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

As the old hymn puts it, Satan tempts us to despair. Churches and leaders are easily tempted to despair. In fact, we easily deceive ourselves and interpret our despair as prophetic wisdom and faithfulness. We think: the culture and the state are powerful. They are growing. The church is dying. We will hold fast to the faith each day in circled wagons, even while we slowly get picked off, and there is no one left – but we will die faithful!

That is despair masquerading as wisdom.

Of course, we should not be triumphalistic, self-assured of our unrelenting success and growth. We need to be reminded of the gospel week in and week out. As the gospel grips us, we need to be content to faithfully teach and preach the gospel in the context of the whole counsel of God, and the whole counsel of God in the context of the gospel.

We need to do the ordinary things that are the life of the local church – gather for worship, help those who need help, teach children, be in a small group, support world missions, be financially generous, pray for one another, I could go on, but you get the point.

It is His job to grow the church, and He has promised that he has been growing His true church, is growing His true church, and will grow His true church until He returns. I pray we stand on this blessed hope!