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We are in a season to share Christ like few we will ever experience.In the early days of the crisis of the Revolutionary War, Thomas Paine wrote a series of pamphlets entitled The American Crisis. He opened the series with these now-famous words: “These are the times that try men’s souls.”War has a way of doing that.And, so do pandemics.The global crisis we currently face has disrupted lives in dramatic and often horrific ways. Over ten million Americans applied for unemployment in March. We see the strain on healthcare workers. Every cough makes us worry about the virus; many of us now know someone who has been touched by it. Wealthy and poor, politician and shift worker, famous actor and homeless person, the virus is relentless in its spread.Disasters do something more than disrupt the normal flow of life, however. They actually have a way of making people more receptive to change or innovation. Pastors are suddenly far more receptive to online streaming of their services. Small groups are receptive to video chat meetings. Parents are more receptive to some version of home schooling.An Urgency to Gospel Sharing This WeekTimes like these do try our souls. They also call believers to share Christ with urgency. One of the effects of this moment is that unchurched people are more receptive to the gospel. Let me give you some research on this and then offer some practical helps for this critical time for our witness. (I shared these on a Facebook live yesterday as well.)A LifeWay Research study discovered that the top four circumstances (drawn from a larger list) when people are more open to spiritual conversations. After a natural disaster – 34 percent After a major national crisis – 38 percent During Easter season – 38 percent During Christmas season – 47 percentContinue reading...
Church leaders are navigating new digital waters, with some hilarious results.Megan Castellan has been livestreaming morning prayer from home every day through the coronavirus pandemic for her parishioners at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ithaca, New York.But Thursday’s prayer (March 26) was an “epic disaster,” Castellan told her followers on Twitter.Both the rector’s dog and cat decided to participate in the Facebook Live video, hovering over her shoulders on the couch.Offscreen, her husband, forgetting Castellan was on camera, made a loud phone call, then motioned to her that he was going to go get tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.Castellan, also briefly forgetting she was on camera, responded by miming sticking a swab up her nose, part of the testing process.Then a “mysterious loud noise” sent her dog leaping off the couch to investigate, returning in time to lick the rector’s hand enthusiastically through the final prayer.Castellan briefly considered recording the video over again, she told Religion News Service, but then she realized that as lives have been upended by the pandemic, maybe somebody else needed to hear that everything was awful this morning and that everything that could go wrong, did."We don't want to fail in public, but I also think that one of the things that has restrained the church in doing online things is we don't want to seem ridiculous and we don't want to fail,” she said."The truth is, if you look at a lot of what we do, it is inherently ridiculous, especially to an outsider. And so we just need to sort of lean into that and let it go a little bit."Clergy across the globe are learning similar lessons as they turn to the internet to offer encouragement to congregants ...Continue reading...
The world is reeling from the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, our entire way of life has been upended by a novel virus that health experts say presents a particular risk to our elderly and immunocompromised friends and neighbors.As Christians, we know that one of our greatest spiritual weapons is prayer (Eph. 6:18). But what exactly should Christians pray about amidst these trying times? FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, recently released nine prayer points to guide us in prayer. Each point provides a specific way for Christians to pray during the ongoing crisis.As Americans continue working from home and abiding by the government’s request for social distancing, churches around the country are coming up with creative ways to serve their congregations and communities. These include hosting “drive-in” worship services; live-streaming services and church gatherings through Facebook Live, Zoom, YouTube Live, or other services; sending short videos and devotionals to church members; and using their facilities and parking lots as staging areas for food distribution.These ideas, and others, can be found on FRC’s new resource page for churches: FRC.org/church As the work of the church continues, Christians need to pray for their pastors and church leaders. Specifically, we should pray for wisdom as these leaders continue to evaluate best practices for caring for their members during these anxious times. Pray that they will have the discernment to faithfully shepherd the congregations under their care, even if they are unable to physically gather for the foreseeable future (1 Peter 5:2). Pray also for creativity, as pastors and church leaders think of innovative ways to engage and serve their members.For many churches, the interruption in weekly gatherings has impacted giving. While most medium and large churches already utilize online platforms to facilitate tithing, many smaller churches have not used this technology before, or their members are unfamiliar with it. Therefore, pray for the financial well-being of churches and sacrificial giving among Christians. A national crisis presents many opportunities for the church to engage in mercy ministry, but the church cannot do this work without enough financial support.Christians should also pray for the physical health and safety of their pastors. Many pastors are working around the clock to care for their members. Whether visiting them in-person (while following CDC social distancing guidelines), calling them on the phone, or using other means of communication, church leaders are working hard to stay connected to their members. Pray for their strength and stamina. And pray for their families who are making tremendous sacrifices during this time as well.Also, pray for clear gospel proclamation. As many churches turn to digital media to broadcast their worship services, pray that preachers will faithfully teach God’s Word and that many will hear and respond to the gospel. Amid the busyness of caring for their members and the changes in their routine, pray that pastors will have enough time in their week to study Scripture and prepare faithful sermons. Pray that these sermons will be the means God uses to save sinners. Finally, the coronavirus outbreak has forced churches to hold services in new, creative ways. This interruption in our routine should remind us that the persecuted church around the world is regularly forced to gather in unconventional ways. As we pray for our local pastors and church leaders, let us also remember persecuted Christians and their leaders around the world.
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