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OPEN FOR SPIRITUAL BUSINESS- Could COVID-19 open a window for Spiritual Awakening?

None of us wished for it. But COVID-19 delivers to our doorstep what is, perhaps, the greatest evangelistic opportunity of our lifetime. It is an unusual opportunity in the Twin Cities, North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and around the world. A scared world is open for spiritual business. The masks are off. People are open to hear that there is hope through Jesus Christ. For the church, the times we are in may have changed, due to COVID-19. But the mission we are on has not changed. The need to share the hope Jesus provides is now more urgent than ever. 
Our nation is now the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Severe cases and deaths are mounting from coast to coast. Doctors, general medical workers and other essential service providers continue to do all they can to stave off the pandemic. 3 million Americans have lost their jobs. Children across the nation and worldwide are out of schools. Our economy and other global economies remain on shaky ground. All professional sports scheduled across the country and around the world are suspended. World leaders such as the Prime Minister of Great Britain, sports celebrities, business leaders, movie stars, and several cultural icons report personal infections. Church buildings, mosques, synagogues, shrines, and businesses are closed.
 Fear, anxiety, and the sense of vulnerability permeates humankind from the smallest villages to the heart of New York City.  It looks and feels like the whole world is on edge. It is a normal reaction under the circumstances. Life is changing dramatically for many to adapt. It is impacting all of us and altering our normal routines too quickly. It begs the question: how should we as the church see this moment? How should we respond to the poor, hurting, afflicted, lonely, hungry and dying?
When people are scared and afraid it presents an opportunity for followers of Jesus to provide hope. We are Good News people. The news media, social media platforms and the people around us may be focused on the doom and gloom. But as Jesus people we can share the assurance that Psalms 91, Psalms 23, and similar passages of Scripture teach us. It is time to talk about the hope that comes from the Jesus who was crucified, died, and rose again from the dead. In this moment, the message of Easter is the most relevant message we can bring.
 Secondly, we can help people refocus on ALL of life. We can help people see that life is more than the material world we currently share. Ordinarily, many of us don’t like talking about death and the afterlife. However, the dramatic nature of this moment brings eternity into sharp focus for everyone.  It is the ideal opportunity to speak about eternal life.  
Thirdly, this moment should help the church change both the way we do ministry and our messaging. For the better part of the last half a century in North America, attention on the living God was displaced by the living “me.” In the words of Jim Mackey, Christian messaging was “disproportionately focused on who I am, how do I understand me, what makes me who I am, my rights, my pain, my need, my right to be happy, my plans, my dreams, and my grief. God’s primary concern is to bless me, prosper me, and take care of me.”
 But what happens now when our comforts are rattled? When our portfolio is wiped out in a single day? When we are all swept up by the virus storm that threatens our very survival? When our plans for travel, entertainment, or business are suddenly disrupted? When we have to implement social distancing from friends, neighbors, and family members?
At the least it should cause us to look to the Word of God and relearn one or two things from the early Christians. For them, Christianity was all about God’s glory and honor—it was all about Him. Yes, it changed who they were. But the focus remained on who Jesus Christ was and His gospel. As Paul reminded the Ephesians, “Whatever happens conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27).  
 In recent years, as gross darkness has multiplied in our nation and around the world, there has been a sharp and increased desire to see revival happen. Within pockets of the church across denominations, there is a dissatisfaction with average and compromised Christianity. At SHINE we believe this moment that has altered normal church is a moment for Jesus followers to hit the reset button. A moment to find Jesus and to invite the nations to Him. Could it be that this pandemic is the shaking that precedes such a move of God?
 I am by no means saying God is causing this. But I do know that God never wastes opportunity to get the attention of man. The sudden silencing of all political, cultural, and idolatrous distractions feels very loud to me. As followers of Jesus it is time for us to step forward and boldly proclaim Him as Lord.  The fields are ripe for harvest. 
The world is looking to us to point them to the solution for their dilemma. If you are reading or listening to news, you can hear the yearning for God. The pretenses and human pride are shaved back. On March 24th, 2020 there was a Wall Street Journal article titled China’s Progress Against Coronavirus Used Draconian Tactics Not Deployed in the West, the author quotes Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh as saying, “Absent of divine intervention, I don’t think there is any other way out of it…” Whether knowingly or not, the world is giving us clues that they are ready to hear and listen to the voice of God through us. The masks are off. They are no longer enamored by their own wisdom. They want to hear words of comfort. They want to see a face that they can trust. They want to feel the compassion of a truly caring church and a loving God.
Church historian Eusebius describes a fourth century epidemic that swept through the Roman Empire. He records that “all day long [Christians] tended to the dying and to the burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gathered together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them all.” As a result, Eusebius concludes, “[the Christians’] deeds were on everyone's lips, and they glorified the God of the Christians.” The epidemic opened doors for revival. 
Could COVID-19 be the door opener for a 21st century awakening in the Twin Cities, around America, and the rest of the world? On September 12, 2020, the Twin Cities community will gather at Allianz Field for Merge Twin Cities, to proclaim that Jesus is in fact the Comforter, Healer and Savior we all need. We pray that these moments of anxiety will soon give way to repentance, hope and joy through Jesus Christ. That they birth a new wave of the grace of God through His church against which the gates of hell cannot prevail. Let us be the church! 
Sammy Wanyonyi
Evangelist SHINE/Visionary Merge Twin Cities
This Article was first published on March 30 on the Merge Twin Cities website


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