Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash
“Ready or not, here I come!” Hearing those words as a child triggered one of two emotions in me: (1) confidence, if I indeed was ready in my hiding spot, or (2) panic, if I was not!
As I look back on those countless games of Hide & Seek, the primary factor in determining whether I was ready or not was how long I was given to find a good hiding spot. If I had 10 seconds to find a spot, I probably wasn’t going to be ready. If I had 2 minutes to hide, good luck finding me!
The coronavirus pandemic caught many of us by surprise. Most churches didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for the transition to online services and social distancing. But, I have found that many churches are adapting quickly to the new normal.
But, many are asking the question, where does the church go from here? If we can’t meet face to face, what can we do? I believe we find the answer in God’s Word.
Jesus’ Ministry of Words & Works
In Matthew 4:23 and again in Matthew 9:35, we read a summary of Jesus’ earthly ministry: “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” These verses show that Jesus had a two-pronged approach to ministry: He focused on meeting both spiritual needs (teaching & proclaiming the gospel) and physical needs (healing). Or to put it another way, He had a ministry of words and works.
Multiplying the Ministry
But there’s a significant detail in Matthew 9 that often gets overlooked. Notice that when Matthew summarizes Jesus’ ministry, it was only Jesus’ ministry. He was the only one preaching and teaching and the only one healing. His disciples were just spectators at this point. But that all changed at the end of Matthew 9. When Jesus saw the crowds and the needs all around Him, He had compassion on them. So He tells His disciples at the end of the chapter: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38)
Jesus essentially tells His disciples that He needs others to go out and join in the work of the harvest. He then immediately chooses His twelve apostles and commissions them to join in His ministry of words and works (Matthew 10:1-8). And that ministry has been passed down to every generation of the church from the first century until now.
The Church’s Incredible Opportunity
We may have not planned to be in our present situation, but I truly believe the church today has an incredible opportunity to continue Jesus’ ministry. To be His hands and feet to a hurting world in this crisis moment. The world needs us to minister to both the physical and spiritual needs now more than ever. In God’s providence, He has chosen us to be His ambassadors for such a time as this.
We can’t gather inside the church building right now, but we can go outside and be the church!
And the good news is that the church is already rising to the challenge. I have seen churches delivering care packages to the elderly, providing drive thru prayer stations, preparing and delivering fun bags with games and Bible lessons for neighborhood children, sanitizing shopping carts at local grocery stores, offering online worship services, and so much more! It’s amazing to see the church creatively meet both the urgent physical and spiritual needs in their communities.
If this pandemic continues for an extended period of time (as predicted), the church will have more time to strategize how to creatively love our neighbors. While we certainly pray this pandemic ends sooner rather than later, I look forward to learning about all the ways the church will be the hands and feet of Jesus during these difficult days.
To all of our hurting neighbors, I can confidently say: Ready or not, here comes the church!