Background: In light of everything going on in the country, I previously made a case that we need to gather people together and pray and fast. Since that post, things have continued along the same course. It’s time to become more intentional about moving forward. Please join us for a three day, virtual solemn assembly next week.
Here are the details:
When: We are holding a solemn assembly, virtually and in small groups, starting on Tuesday, April 7th at 7:00 PM Central Standard Time. The goal will be prayer meetings on Wednesday (4/8) and Thursday (4/9) as well.
How: We will gather virtually to start each meeting with the help of Zoom. People gathering are encouraged to fast for the three days of solemn assembly.
Where: To be determined. We want to gather in various places across our city in groups smaller than ten, government permitting, for those that are able and want to meet together. (More on where below.)
Who: If you are a believer in Jesus, we encourage you to join us.
Leaders: While the names of people who are leading isn’t important, we are looking for people who will join us in opening their homes for small gatherings. If you are interested in opening up your home for a group of ten or less to pray, please join us on a call to talk about the details of the upcoming solemn assembly. This call will be accessible using the following Zoom details:
Time: Mar 31, 2020 07:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 571 011 773
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It’s a little bit of an understatement to say we are living in the midst of a crisis. Unlike anything I’ve seen in my lifetime, COVID-19 has single-handedly brought everything in the country to a near standstill. Nothing, not terrible natural disasters, not mass shootings, not even the terror attacks on September 11th have touched this country, it seems, in the way that this virus has.
Regardless of how serious you feel the virus is itself, the crisis we find ourselves in is real. As of this writing 15,219 people are infected and 201 people have died in the United States in a very short period of time. Beyond just the physical impact to bodies, a pandemic of fear has gripped the country and measures taken to slow the spread of the virus have shut down large parts of our economy.
This is a crisis. Which is why I’m concerned.
The Church Should Lead in Times of Crisis
The church has a particular responsibility in the midst of crisis to respond with leadership and the mandate of heaven for the hour that we’re living in. So far, most of what I’ve seen has been the church following the guidance of the CDC.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to undermine or underestimate the importance of cleanliness or not touching your face, but much of the church is operating as if the only answers they have are the answers of the secular government. We should honor and respect the leadership God has given the government, but there is always more the church can do.
This is the problem. God has an answer for crisis and it’s not only sitting in front of your television in an effort not to spread disease. So much of the body of Christ has been divided into two camps: A group that is content to resemble the world, stay home, and watch Netflix or a second group that has been obsessed with trying as best as we can in a COVID-19 world to re-establish business as usual in the church. The first group acts as if this is a giant vacation. The second group has busied themselves with live streams to replace the church and online giving platforms to keep the money coming in. Both fall short of God’s plan for the church in times of crisis.
God’s Strategy for Crisis
What is God’s plan for crisis? And how do we respond? Briefly let me introduce to you to the book of Joel. It is written by a prophet caught in a crisis. Locusts have devastated Israel’s agricultural economy by eating everything. Joel, asks questions that feel so appropriate, even now:
Hear this, O elders,
And listen, all inhabitants of the land.
Has anything like this happened in your days?Joel 1:2, New American Standard Bible
Not only is there a crisis, but it’s going to get worse. Joel comes with a message from the Lord to awaken his people like a trumpet (Joel 2:1). He calls the people to gather together and consecrate a fast (Joel 1:14). The goal of the fast is a full turning back to the Lord (Joel 2:15). We’ll talk more about that in a future post, but I can’t over-emphasize a small point that you could miss. Here’s what Joel says to a people in the midst of crisis:
Blow a trumpet in Zion,Joel 2:15-15, New American Standard Bible
Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly,
Gather the people, sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders,
Gather the children and the nursing infants.
Let the bridegroom come out of his room
And the bride out of her bridal chamber.
It’s No Longer Business As Usual
Part of God’s solution in the midst of crisis is to suspend normal activity. We can’t act as if everything is normal if it’s not. It’s almost as if God is trying to shake Israel (and us) out of their spiritual sleep. Here they were in the midst of crisis and people were still separated, still taking care of the kids, still marrying and being given in marriage. And Joel, like a trumpet, says, “Stop. Quit trying to act like everything is normal. It’s not normal. This is a crisis and it demands a response from the people of God not like every day activities! Gather the people. Call a spontaneous fast. Bring together the all the people that are difficult to gather. Even stop the weddings. It’s time to respond to the Lord.”
Friends, this is the day we’re in. We are in a crisis. We cannot only respond like the rest of the world. We can’t only be concerned with keeping people in the church entertained and engaged and giving. It’s time for the church to respond with the strategy of the Lord in this hour.
We’ll talk a little bit more about what I think that looks like soon.
Those of you who have been around for awhile may know that I have a deep love for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and Nazi resistor who ultimately gave his life trying to stop Hitler and the Nazis. Bonhoeffer was a more than just a resistor, though. He understood the centrality of Christ and His Church in a way that few did in his day.
Right now I’m taking a deep dive into Bonhoeffer’s life. I think there’s a lot to learn there. Here’s a quote I ran across today:
There is a word that when a Catholic hears it kindles all his feelings of love and bliss; that stirs all the depths of his religious sensibility, from dread and awe of the Last Judgement to the sweetness of God’s presence; and that certainly awakens in him the feeling of home; the feeling that only a child has in relation to its mother, made up of gratitude, reverence and devoted love; the feeling that overcomes one when, after a long absence, one returns to one’s home, the home of one’s childhood.
And there is a word that to Protestants has the sound of something infinitely commonplace, more or less indifferent and superflous, that does not make their heart beat faster; something with which a sense of boredom is so often associated, or which at any rate does not lend wings to our religious feelings–and yet our fate is sealed if we are unable again to attach a new or perhaps very old meaning to it. Woe to us if that word does not become important to us soon again, does not become important in our lives.
Yes, the word to which I am referring is ‘Church’, the meaning of which we have forgotten and the nobility and greatness of which we propose to look at today.Dietrich Bonehoeffer: A Biography by Eberhard Bethge, Page 42
Are we not in the same place today? Do we not need to recover the meaning of the word ‘Church’ and make it central and sacred in our lives?