God is not surprised by this crisis. But we may be surprised by how He will use it. God will work through this pandemic as part of His sovereign plan to redeem the world. As His followers we must avoid the temptation to give in to fear. We cannot forget “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28 NIV)
What is His purpose? We often quote verse 28 without looking at verse 29, which tells us God’s main purpose in working for good is that we become “conformed to the image of his Son…”
What are some ways God might use this crisis for conforming us to Jesus’ image and expanding His kingdom?
Stronger prayer—Around the world we are seeing God draw many individuals and groups into deeper and stronger times of listening, confession (2 Chr. 7:14) and intercession. A recent global Esther Fast before Easter involved tens of thousands of churches in many languages and countries.
Relying on God to work—As our human efforts are blocked or ineffective, we may well cooperate more with God as He works. As Hudson Taylor stated, “When we work, man works, when we pray God works.”
Increased faith—In times of crisis we realize we are not in control, and that draws us back to God. We are pulled back to “living by faith” (Gal. 2:20) and “walking by faith.” (2 Cor. 5:17) For many people this is a call to let God free them of their reliance on and worship of money.
Family worship and time together—Due to the lockdown in many countries and the closing of large church gatherings, many families are spending more time together and discovering or re-discovering the intimacy of worshipping together.
Church re-defined—Finding their financial structure severely challenged, churches in many parts of the world may be forcibly weaned to a new understanding of church. Rather than defining church as a building or programs, they may be providentially encouraged to return to seeing church as ekklēsia—the family of brothers and sisters called and sent out by Jesus.
Priesthood of the believer—As small groups are forced to meet outside church buildings, a greater number of believers are realizing they must and can study the Scriptures without expert help. Many are being equipped or re-equipped to lead. On a related note, Pope Francis said that “people who cannot get to confession because of the coronavirus lockdown or another serious reason can go to God directly, be specific about their sins, request pardon and experience God’s loving forgiveness.”
Openness from churches—in a recent call, movement leaders from the Americas, Asia and Africa all mentioned that many existing institutional churches previously opposed to Disciple Making Movement approaches are showing a new openness and recognition that they can and should learn from what God is doing in these new/ancient expressions of church.