Crisis Church

Once upon a time, something terrible happened that scattered all the Christians in a society.  Public worship services were outlawed, and even small gatherings were discouraged.  All the normal operations of church were overturned, and people no longer had access to the leaders and programs they were accustomed to depending on.  This was a very trying time for the Church, which tested their commitment and resolve to continue being the people of God; even though everything they were used to was stripped away.  Some fell away from faith during this time, discouraged and unable to adjust to a lifestyle devoid of religious structures; but others flourished in their faith, embracing the rhythms that emphasize personal-worship and fellowship-of-the-few as the most basic unit of Church.
Times of crisis always bring us back to our foundations.  What’s really important to me?  Who are my people?  What’s worth sacrificing for?  
You might be thinking that I’m talking about today, March 2020, with all of the unprecedented closures and precautions we’re experiencing due to the Coronavirus.  Indeed I am, but I’m also referring to another time in history when something similar happened in the life of the Church….and I think that we should learn from their example.
During the period of time in the First Century that followed the day of Pentecost – 50-days after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – The Church began in Jerusalem.  It was a massive megachurch of thousands of people instantly, probably tens of thousands within a few months.  We don’t have many details about how they organized themselves, took care of money, or trained leadership; but we do know that they met continually in small home groups, congregated somehow in the open courts of the temple, and had a system for using donations to supply aid and food to those who had need.  It was as organized as it needed to be, but was essentially a network of small communities who functioned as individual churches. The impetus for knowing God, living in community, and doing His mission was always being pushed-out and exported like “spiritual DNA” to the individuals and small groups of the Church….which is why they not only survived, but thrived, when catastrophe hit:

“A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria [an area about the size of Connecticut]…  But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went.” (Acts 8:1-4)

The circumstances which caused that massive disturbance were obviously very different than what we’re experiencing today, but the lasting impact on the heart of America’s Christians will be tested in a similar way.  
  • How are you responding to the news that you can’t go to church for the next month…or possibly longer?  Will you just put your spiritual life on-hold, or use this opportunity to grow in a new way?  
  • What will you do with all this time in societal quarantine?  Will you just resign yourself to two weeks in your jammies on the couch with Netflix & beer, or will you include activities that stimulate healthy gains in body, mind, and spirit? 
  • How will this impact your intimacy with your Heavenly Father?  How will this challenge your identity as part of the Body of Christ?  How will you continue to take initiative with the Holy Spirit in the world?  

When we take responsibility for our own spiritual lives…even if we get confined to our homes, we realize that we always have everything we need to experience God through WORSHIP, COMMUNITY, and MISSION.  Individuals in the early Church understood that God was always with them; and they lived like they were always with Him and for Him no matter what happened.  So what can you do during this crazy time to stay engaged with God, His people, and His mission?  This is where our experience of Jesus’ promised “abundant life” is tested…It’s up to us.  Here are some ideas:
  • Read your Bible – at least a few chapters a day
  • Pray a lot – for yourself, for others
  • Watch/listen to online services from your church, or sermons/podcasts
  • Read a book that will stimulate your relationship with God

  • Call/text/video with people about what you’re learning or struggling with
  • Pray together on the phone or computer
  • Get together with 1-2 people for prayer, even if you don’t touch
  • Start a virtual group to discuss a Christian book or movie 

  • Post encouragements on social media about trusting God
  • Look for ways to show Jesus’ compassion to others
  • Look for ways to share Jesus’ truth with others
  • Continue giving to your churches/non-profits

There’s a wonderful little book I would recommend with highest praise, which is all about these simple principles for experiencing Church the way they did in the First Century.  It’s called “Microchurches” by Brian Sanders.  Brian and a bunch of other leaders started the Underground Network in Tampa, Florida, in around 2004 with these basic principles in mind.  I really enjoyed reading the book, and have been learning a lot from the Underground team in recent years. 
Blessings to you and yours, stay safe, and keep looking up!

“Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”(Jesus, in Matthew 18:20)

“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home….“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”(John 16:32-33)

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:35-39