I think we were all shocked when our state government ordered all gatherings greater than ten people to be shut down. Our public worship services were canceled for the first time since the Spanish Flu of 1918. It has now been six weeks. This has raised many questions: how can we be the church if we are not able to gather? How can we make disciples of Jesus when we can’t bring people to church?
This crisis has forced us to re-think some of the foundational issues of what it means for us to be the church. Is church a building? Is church a Sunday morning worship service? What if I told you that the fastest growing church in the world has neither buildings nor large Sunday morning worship services? The church in Iran is the fastest growing church in the world and they meet in their homes with groups no larger than eight people, lest they attract the attention of the authorities. Why? Because they recognize that the church is simply a community of people who are committed to following Jesus and helping others follow him. And God has blessed these churches. The Gospel has spread in Iran like Coronavirus.
So how can we invite others to follow Jesus while our church buildings are shut? I’d like you to consider the fact that God is not surprised by this pandemic. He has placed us in this situation. He has determined the time and place for each of us to live. Stop and think about where you live and the people that are in your life. That is no accident. God meant for that to happen.
Imagine for a moment a tic-tac-toe board. Put your home in the center square. Now, put your neighbors’ names in the outer squares. This is New England, however, so you might not know your neighbors’ names. If that is the case, write down something that identifies them. For example, “the young couple that lives across the street.”
Now, look at your tic-tac-toe board. God has put these people on your board for a reason. It is time now to start paying attention. See if you can learn their names. Find out if they have any needs that you can meet. Finally, commit to praying for them daily.
Here is how you can pray for them, using the Lord’s Prayer:
- Pray that God will bless them and supply their daily needs.
- Pray that God will protect them from external threats like the coronavirus and internal threats like temptation.
- Pray that God will work through the circumstances of their lives so that they are open to following Jesus. Pray also that you will have opportunities to invite them to follow Jesus with you.
In other words: Pay attention to the people God has placed in your life. Pray for them daily. Watch for signs that God is at work in their lives and participate in what God is doing.