In the words of a colleague of Jude’s the other day, “Covid is a bit rubbish isn’t it?” He may have used a stronger word……
And it is! Isn’t it? It’s turned many aspects of our lives upside down and then jumbled them around a lot more. For a number of reasons it hasnt been easy to contiue with life as normal. From shopping to being a little nervy meeting friends, many things that we once took for granted have become more difficult. Uncertainty is a killer isn’t it? Yesterday I spent a whole day sorting out flights to Zambia, maybe different airlines were sinply not going to fly despite their schedules. It is in God’s hands what happens there, literally!
What makes all of this worse is crazy thinking! One story I saw yesterday was about the church in South Korea who defied government quarantine orders and decided to meet anyway.
Or how about Grace Community Church in Florida https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/511784-california-megachurch-draws-thousands-at-in-person-services-defying
Let’s remember that many outbreaks of Covid have stemmed from christian gatherings. Another example from Germany https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-germany/germany-tries-to-trace-people-who-attended-church-service-at-which-covid-19-spread-idUSKBN2300KK
There are lots of other examples too! Another leader bemoaned on facebook the other day, “Isn’t it time that churches were allowed to fully reopen” Despite the fact, that in the UK presently, churches are allowed to open albeit with restrictions. You can’t sing and you need to wear a mask whilst giving people distance amongst other rules. For some that is simply not acceptable.
The issue I suspect is not the ‘re-opening’ of the church and meeting together, it is more that we can’t gather in the way we normally do or our understanding of what church is way too static.
I remember a friend of mine Trevor Hutton (you can read his blog ‘Musings Over a Mug here’) emphasing that people’s behaviour and what they get upset about in different situations reflects their inner beliefs about God, the church, people in the wider world and what the wider ‘end’ story is. (Theology, Ecclesiology, Anthropology and Eschatology to coin a few ‘ologies’ there!)
So what is going on here? Why on earth would these leaders sacrifice the safety of people at the altar of simply meeting together in a large group? To help us think about this I’ve tried to categorise different mindsets that different people hold very dear:
The Big ‘Sunday or bust’ mindset This is exactly what it says on the tin! It’s go big on a sunday or go bust. If we are restricted from meeting on a sunday or from doing what we normally do, then somehow we cannot be church. The problem with this, is that biblically whilst yes church is a gathering of people, both biblically and historially there are many different ways of this happening. The Big Sunday or bust mindet, is simply what we are used to at present. As for singing, is that really the only form of worship that exists in the christian church? Absolutely not! It never has been and never will be. This mindset is simply an inflexble church masquearding as a ‘correct’ church. There is nothing to stop multiple much smaller ‘bubble’ gatherings of people. You can have the best of both worlds, online, bubbles and together working in tandem! I’ve only thought about it for 2 mins and I can see a way! However if your theology can’t handle it then you simply won’t do it! Some Christians have been doing great things in the pandemic, lots of people and some churches are really taking the bull by the horns. They have not closed for one second. People are getting the message that they are the church where they are. Those that are inflexible tend to not do this. For goodness sake it’s a pandemic where a virus is spread by close proximity from one to another. Can we really not flex around that and be inventive? Are you dangerously addicted to a large gathering?
Then there is the Devil’s Ploy mindset In this mindset everything that is happening at the moment is to somehow silence the church. If you stop us meeting together then evil grows in the world! Maybe some people are dying and there is a health risk, but this is greatly exxagerated by the authorities that the devil controls. It’s all a big conspiracy man!
The actual issue is an incorrect ecclesiology combined with poor understading of both the Supremacy and Victory of God. If we spent more time being the people of God where we are placed at the present time than we did ‘over-thinking’, seeing demons everywhere then maybe we would actually ‘be’ the church, be the presence of Jesus right where we are and overcome the devils schemes? I’m not understimating the work of the devil and evil, but he doesn’t have the same hang ups about church meetings that we do. He simply wants to neutralise the people of God wherever they are! He wants to ensure people suffer in every way and die of a virus needlessly.
I bring to mind the persecution of the early church and the way the Gospel spread throught the ‘world’ in the book of Acts. When the devil really was trying to kill the church, it simply spread everywhere! Let’s have some faith, get on with the job and stop seeing conspiracy everywhere.
The God will Protect Me mindset. Again, this is exactly what it says. No matter what we do God will protect us. So we will meet and we won’t get sick because the Spirit will heal us. It brings to mind the text in Mark 16:17 “they will take snakes in their hands, they will drink poison and not be hurt, they will lay hands on the sick and make them well.” Except that in this case, snakes are replaced by Covid or some other ailment. The problem with this is that it kind of ignores other passages in the bible about putting God to the test. Do you remember when Jesus was tempted by the devil?
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
Having a blind belief in the Soverieignty of God which says “I’ll do whatever I want and no harm will come” is really putting God to the test. It’s wrong and uses God like a good luck charm (they call that witchcraft in Africa!) You don’t see too many church goers dancing down the fast lane of a motorway do you?? God surely would protect them? God gave you common sense for a reason. Is using it really against the sovereignty of God?
This brings me to the last mindet, which affects all humans everywhere and what is really casuing us so many problems. It’s called the Selfish mindet. The bottom line is that we cannot do what we want to do. Our lives have become about what we want to do, how we want to do it and when we want do it. At the heart of it, that’s why there are churches that flout rules, people have illegal raves and there are protests against mask wearing. It’s the “I’ll do what I want and I’ll fight for the right” mentality.
Contrast this with the song by Graham Kendrick about Jesus
From heaven you came, helpless babe,
Entered our world, your glory veiled;
Not to be served but to serve,
And give your life that we might live.
This is our God, the Servant King,
He calls us now to follow him,
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to the Servant King.
Are we giving our life, our church, our time, wherever we are found so that others may live in every sense of the word?
Three of the most precious traits that God has given us are love, creativity and flexibility. At this time, can we overcome our selfishness and stop holding onto mindsets that don’t help us?
Let’s ditch the crazy thinking…