From CCCNZ Ambassador, Mark Grace
There is no sugar coating Philippians chapter 1: Paul is in chains, it is a struggle, and he is suffering. The work of the gospel is being opposed in frightening ways. In the same way, we need to be realistic about recent outbreaks of COVID-19. As public health officials have stated, we need to be alert not alarmed. We need to prepare rather than panic. At this stage, we need to be washing our hands and not touching our faces.
However, caring for people looks like more than just washing our hands in this time of unease and global uncertainty.
Pastorally, as leaders, being realistic involves our preparation to shepherd people in the current phase, and future phases—if and when they arrive. This will involve having a crisis management plan in place, as well as actively praying, thinking and discussing how to care for our people if schools close, and public events and gatherings—such as church services—are cancelled. We’ve prepared some questions, and a sample plan, in consultation with Dr Richard Hoskins, Medical Health Officer from Waikato DHB. This is available for you to download and use.
A deeper reality
At the same time as having a realistic view of his circumstances, Paul demonstrates that he has a deeper understanding of reality.
The death and resurrection of Jesus is not merely an intellectual idea for Paul, but a historical event that reshapes his identity, refocuses his heart and reanimates the foundation and focus of his life.
Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, Paul experiences the reality of the Spirit of the Risen Lord Jesus—not as dry, arid learning but as a dynamic, living, breathing person—comforting, challenging and calling him to live in and out of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
In the midst of chains, in the midst of frightening opposition, in the midst of struggle and suffering… it would be easy to lose your footing, lose your bearing, and ultimately lose your way. However, Paul’s internal compass is rooted in God, framed by the gospel, focused on Jesus and fuelled by the Spirit of Jesus.
This Christ-centred, Spirit-fuelled gospel gives Paul a deeper clarity to see the purposes of Christ, even in his chains. Amid his suffering he takes solace in the Spirit of Jesus, and can see opportunities for the gospel to flourish and spread.
Like Paul with his internal compass, we too are invited to deepen our hearts’ trust in God.
We are being invited to find gospel opportunities to serve our church families and wider communities, both as we follow the public health best practice now and prepare for what may follow. We are being invited to rest ourselves in what God has already done for us at the cross, and give ourselves over to the growth of the gospel.
At the very moment you’d expect Paul would pull back he’s looking for ways to advance the gospel. How are we pressing on for the gospel? Are there ways we can be serving the least, the last and the lost in our communities at this time of uncertainty?
We’d love to hear from you—how’re you responding to the recent outbreak of COVID-19? What has your church found helpful? Maybe you’ve heard of, or read something great that you think others would benefit from hearing/reading? Perhaps there is a way CCCNZ churches or the CCCNZ staff team can be supporting you at this time?
Email Communications Officer Sophia Sinclair: firstname.lastname@example.org