The greeting I bring you today is in the midst of some of the most unsettling issues ever facing our world. Nations are shutting their borders, churches and businesses are being ordered to close their facilities, while fear and hoarding are running rampant. But I see the church running to the fray, not from it. I see the church rising up with the wings of the Holy Spirit, guiding itself to deeds of compassion and service.
God is always working, and while it seems the world is flooded with discouraging reports, there are many others to celebrate. We are already seeing that online church gatherings are creating unique opportunities to hear the gospel for those who do not normally attend church. A wife of an unbeliever couldn’t go to church, so she listened online. Her husband doesn’t attend but decided to listen with her because they were home together. His response of interest encouraged her that a seed was planted that day. This is just one example; we know there will be many more stories like this to come!
We’ve seen our churches jump online not only to broadcast Sunday services, but also to keep gatherings going amid the crisis. In fact, for some churches, “attendance” has grown with increasing numbers tuning in! Bible studies and discipleship groups are meeting together in online platforms all over the world. The body of Christ is staying connected. Even though we may physically not be able to gather together in the same room, our need for connection and fellowship has not changed.
Social distancing hasn’t stopped our churches from reaching their communities. Places such as The Dream Center in Los Angeles, for example, have been meeting practical needs by delivering care packages and hygiene products to seniors 65+ in age within a 5-mile radius from the Center. Churches such as Freedom Church (San Fernando Valley Freedom Foursquare Church) in Chatsworth, Calif., set up a “grocery program,” with the goal of feeding hundreds of families each week from the surrounding community with groceries. Church, what an amazing time and opportunity it is for us to spread hope and compassion to a world that is experiencing so much uncertainty and fear. You are amazing!
While President-Elect Randy Remington and I walk together through this transition, we are leading together through this crisis. We are engaging the supervisors, cabinet, board and you, so that we can respond with hope and compassion to a hurting world. As I stated earlier, many of our churches are already becoming salt and light to their communities. Most are engaging in a renewed prayer focus. Don’t wait to act. Respond to the leading of the Spirit.
Many of our churches are already becoming salt and light to their communities. Most are engaging in a renewed prayer focus. Don’t wait to act. Respond to the leading of the Spirit.
Ted Vail presented a compelling devotional at our recent cabinet meeting. In 2002, during the sniper shootings around the D.C. area, Christians offered to pump gas for strangers paralyzed by fear. These extraordinary acts of valor and courage opened doors for sharing the gospel during an incredibly fearful time. Today, as so many around us are struggling with fear and uncertainty, let us lead through generous acts of kindness and by example. While we are complying to the directives of national and local leaders, let’s continue to reach out and respond as we are able to the needs around us.
In the days ahead, there will be invitations to join other Christian movements for resourcing, prayer and partnerships. It’s in our DNA—we are a movement comfortable with, and committed to, working with others toward effective global evangelization and compassion. We are ushering in the last days.
Last month, we launched the Tips for Healthy Churches (COVID-19 Safety) Facebook group as a place to communicate and to share resources and ideas with one another. Randy and I continue to press in together to hear from the Lord with the elders of our national and global family.
With the closing of so many churches, pastor and author Eugene Cho tweeted an important message reminding us of why closing has been necessary. He wrote: “When churches cancel their in-person services and go online, it’s not an act of fear or panic. Rather, it’s an act of care—both for the church and for others. For the healthcare system, for neighbors, for the vulnerable. This is what it means to be for the common good.”
I was moved to visit the two times in Scripture where Jesus told His disciples to “watch and pray” (Luke 21:36; Matt. 26:41). Also, Nehemiah instructed the workers to have a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other hand (Neh. 4:15-17). We continue to build while we are battling spiritual forces. My charge to us all is that we be a people of “both/and.” Be watchful and pray. Be ready to help and wage war. Do good and hold fast to your faith.
Centuries ago, Martin Luther wrote a letter to a friend during an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague describing the posture he was taking in response to the fears of exposure at that time. It was a “both/and” posture of action and trust, as relevant to us today as it was then. God is sovereign and we have a part to play, too.
Luther wrote: “Therefore, I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, He will surely find me, and I have done what He has expected of me, and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
Foursquare Church, let’s continue to pray and labor together. Pray against the spread of the virus. Pray for the divine healing of those affected. Pray for the church to find its voice in the midst of chaos and confusion. Pray for extraordinary finances and generosity during this crisis. Pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to empower witnesses throughout the world to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Let’s work till the day is done. There is coming a nightfall, when no one can work. The world needs us.
Kingdom Citizenship by Ted Vail
Read the transcript of the devotional that Ted Vail shared at cabinet, which will bring you encouragement during this time of fear and uncertainty.
Visit foursquare.tools to stay up to date with the latest COVID-19 resources, including legal and tax help.
COVID-19 Safety Facebook Group
Stay connected with other Foursquare leaders, get resourced and share how your church is navigating this historic moment.