A few months ago, one of the pastors on our staff and I were talking about the church culture in America. He said, “I think too many times we look at the church as one of multiple options we can engage in on any given Sunday morning. There are plenty of other things people could be doing during that time. Often, we operate as though “the church will always be there,” so we can falsely think that we can occupy that time with other things, knowing that, if we ever have a “real need” to go to church, it’s still there.”
“But what if, one day, it’s not?” I asked. “What if the day arises that we cannot freely come to church? That will be the real test of how deeply we have developed a personal heart of worship.”
At the time I was thinking more along the lines of persecution and how it would affect us meeting together. But no one is carting us off to prison because we have a Bible. No one is stopping our online sermons because we are preaching the hope found only in Jesus. We are not being forced at gunpoint to renounce Christianity. We are gathering online and worshiping. Modern American Christians sometimes equate contending with trolls on social media with facing lions in the Colosseum. There are Christians around the world who have never known what it is like to gather in a group over 10 people because they must worship in the underground church, and even then, they meet under the constant threat of death, imprisonment or torture.
To say, as some misguided pastors have, that to be asked to have online services out of safety for the community is “persecution of the church” is a slap in the already-bruised faces of the members of the global church who are indeed being persecuted. Christians, having church online or limiting the numbers of those meeting for the sake of health is not persecution. Precautionary, yes. Inconvenient, certainly. Disruptive of schedules, sure.
But it is not persecution.
If the church in America cannot adapt during a pandemic, it certainly won’t be able to endure during persecution.
Let’s pray for the worldwide church today, including the American church. Let’s be sure to seek personal repentance before we cry out for national repentance. Let’s ask God to help us, not so we can do “the best that we can” to get through this, but that we will emerge from this time far better than we have been. And let’s remember that even in this crisis, there are brothers and sisters who are dealing with not only COVID-19, but also those who would attempt to silence their prayers and worship.
Each follower of Christ will seek God’s holiness through vigilant repentance. – Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
We will rejoice in faith how God will use this season to make us more like Jesus. – 1 Peter 1:6-7 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
We would be bold in our witness, and the other followers of Christ around the world would be bold as well, relying upon the power of God, even in the face of great persecution, danger and struggles. – Ephesians 6:18-20 Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.