Throughout the centuries the Church has been through calamities, pandemics, plagues, and persecutions. Nero blamed Christians for the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64. This resulted in severe persecution and martyrdom. In AD 254 Decius created an imperial edict that all people must sacrifice to the pagan gods, resulting in massive persecution to Christians. This was followed by the Plague of Cyprian where over 5,000 people died daily in Rome alone! During that time, by the way, Christians were the ones who stayed, helped, prayed, and cared for the sick.
Domitian, Diocletian, and Trajan were all emperors determined to destroy the Church in their lifetime. Persecutions were sometimes localized, or sometimes in a national scale. Many epidemics in the past hit Christians harder than most because of the desire to care, the value we put on human life, and, sometimes, the rejection of government/social support to believers. Eusebius wrote of loving responses Christians had during great plagues. Yet, during those times the growth of Christianity accelerated.
What’s the point? The Church is indestructible. Period.
The Church is resilient through persecutions, plagues, destruction, and politics. It has stood through pastoral failures and financial woes. Through public policy shifts and economic downturns. It is actually a miraculous consideration to think about all the Church has been through and, yet, it continues to thrive. In spite of the devastating conditions brought on by sinful man, satanic attacks, and a broken world—Christ’s bride continues on.
Whatever the difficulty your church faces, Christ will take care of the Church.
I am not a senior pastor, so I cannot speak to the burdens one feels through a time like this. I am on full time staff, however, and I have had to answer some questions in my own heart and mind. I thought I would share them.
Is my hope in the church or in the God of the Church?
The Church is not resilient because Christians, necessarily, are. The Church is not resilient because we have some corner on the financial or social aspects of our community. We, the Church, are resilient because Christ told us it would be (Matt 16:18). And, most importantly, because God made the Church and the Church is His creation. Church was not man’s idea, so my hope is in the God of the Church.
Is my fear for the church or myself?
My fears are not as noble as I want to think they are. My fears are an evidence of waffling faith. If the Church is Christ’s, and it is, and if the Church is the called-out assembly of believers, and it is, then God is going to take care of it. It is His! My fear is actually a revelation of my own life. It can be pretty easy to impose my personal fears on the Church and God. (2 Tim 1:7)
Is the mission of the Church being impeded?
The Church is resilient because the mission, given by the faithful Father, is resilient. Our mission is to glorify God and love and reach the lost. Neither of these are impeded by our current situation. In fact, I think I could make a pretty good case that they are growing! (Matt 28:19-20, Eph 1:11-12).
God did not create the Church to be fragile. God created the Church to be durable in it’s mission, it’s adaptation, and it’s battles. Pastor, church leader, church member—stand fast in Jesus. He is going to work all this out. Whether I have a job or not, whether our church building is still standing, whether the quarantine lasts a week or a year, the Church is not the issue.
The real question I should be asking right now? Is my faith in Christ durable? Am I ok with him testing it? Where is my dependence through this? Is it my paycheck? My disciplines? My positivity? My position? Whatever it might be, this quarantine will probably expose it.
So let’s keep giving and praying, sharing Christ and discipling believers. Keep moving forward in faith. God’s got this. The church will be ok. Stay faithful to Jesus, keep your eyes on Him, and trust his leading about what to do and when to do it!