Date:  March 17, 2020

This global “perfect storm” of a coronavirus pandemic and locust plague is placing unprecedented pressures on our world and presents extraordinary challenges for the global Church.

The continuity of local church worship is a symbol of hope for persecuted believers in times of distress. The wake of terrible anti-Christian violence in northern Nigeria, saw brave pastors worshipping together amid the ashes of their burnt-out church building. Their courageous act brought tremendous comfort to their persecution-wracked community and encouragement to Christians worldwide.

We are not called to a spirit of fear but of power, love, a sound mind and the hope in Christ that is the spiritual anchor of all Christians

How to “love our neighbour”?

But, in a time of pandemic, can the corporate gathering of Christians in worship continue to be the courageous and loving response? We are called to love our neighbours as ourselves, but how do we apply the principle of love now? The best expression of this love may be about selflessly protecting others from illness and our country’s resources from being stretched to breaking point. But what to do?

We must remember first of all, we are not called to a spirit of fear but of power, love, a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7) and the hope that is the spiritual anchor of all Christians.

Our hope can only expand in the “storms of life”

Boats have anchors to secure them in sudden squalls and heavy seas, the larger the vessel the greater the anchor required. An enormous 30,000 kg anchor that stays an ocean liner is no more effective than the light steel hook that holds fast a coastal dingy. The greater the load, so the anchor enlarges in proportion to bear it.

Nigerian church elders worshipped together mid the ashes of their burnt out church just two days after a devastating Boko Haram raid

In the same way, God will always expand our hope and comfort in proportion to the burdens we bear. As pressures and sufferings increase, so is our hope, which is in Christ, sweetly magnified within us. In the “storms of life”, we feel ourselves firmly held fast in our Saviour’s hand – the flukes of our anchor grounded deep in His love.

A “virtual” local and global Church can flourish

Even though we may not be able to meet corporately for worship, our commitment to God must not waver! More than ever, we must affirm our Christian faith in prayer and continue to serve our brothers and sisters, near and far, in every way that we can.

We are blessed with technology today not available to the Christians in times of “plague” past. While the physical Church observes the social distancing that many governments are recommending and some now imposing, out of necessity to limit the spread of coronavirus, the “virtual” Church can emerge and continue to thrive.

During quarantine in Wuhan, the first epicentre of the pandemic, churches quickly adapted and became “virtual” with church leaders running their ministries online. Courageous Chinese Christians demonstrated that our Church is not a building but resides in the body of Christ. As Pastor Huang exhorted Wuhan Christians, "In this difficult time we might not be able to leave this city but we can still be close to our God.”

We must pray!

In this time of distress, we can deeply access the sanctuary of the eternal Father in prayer through our soul’s anchor, Jesus Christ. We can firmly grasp His ultimate “assurance of hope” (Hebrews 6:11, KJV) as the tempest rages around us.

It is especially important that we pray – making intercession for countries, governments, church leaders, communities, healthcare and other key workers, our families and neighbours and our Christian brothers and sisters in all lands.

For many persecuted Christians pressure, economic hardship and isolation are not news but relentless reality as they suffer for their faith in Christ day by day. This global emergency will only intensify their suffering, especially in regions where majority religions prioritise their own communities for aid and routinely neglect Christians. They will need our prayers and practical support now more than ever.