Church in lockdown

Fastest growing church has no buildings, no central leadership, and is mostly led by women.

Title of an article by Mark Ellis – God Reports

This article was published in September 2019. It speaks of the truly amazing things God is doing in the most unlikely country of Iran. Thousands are turning to Christ in a disciple-making movement emphasizing radical obedience in the face of very real persecution. One Christian leader is quoted as saying: “When we reach out to people, Jesus has gone faster than us. He has come in their dreams or he’s come miraculously in their lives. When we hear this, we know that Jesus has gone ahead of us.”

In the two-hour documentary about this same revival, Sheep Among Wolves, it is observed that the only church in the book of Revelation not critiqued by Jesus was under persecution and suffering. One Iranian believer asks in the film, “If freedom is such a great thing for the Kingdom, then why is Europe and America in the state they are in?”

In 2019 I was greatly encouraged by the stories coming from Iran. God was at it again! Nothing is too big for Him. He was building His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. The history of the church is filled with thousands of testimonies of Him building His church. It has never been a man or a woman, always God Himself!

When 2020 arrived and a full lockdown was instituted by the government of South Africa, as in many other places, I was worried about a lot of things. But not about God’s church! What is a lockdown or a virus compared to government-driven, legalized persecution or the gates of hell? Surely this will be a time of great revival!

Truth be told, 2020 and the start of 2021 brought forth many great testimonies from churches all over the world. Just for a local church to have survived this time is a miracle but there are many greater stories than of mere survival. God is never absent from His church and He treats us with more grace than what we have for each other. Much, much more!

However, I have been saddened by the many voices from all over the world demonizing every action that brought discomfort to the church and its inward activities. I have heard unwise statements, fake news, conspiracy theories and crying foul for what seems to be selfish reasons. This pandemic has brought hardship to everyone, including the church. When the world cries out in desperation, we should not be crying louder than them. We should be helping!

You see, the history of the church is filled with persecution and hardship right from her infancy. Jesus’ disciples thought He would lead them to political freedom. Instead, He went to the cross and brought them to ultimate freedom. The early church celebrated when an emperor befriended them, and they could live in peace. However, they grew so comfortable that it was only deadly and cruel persecution that forced them from Jerusalem and spread them (and His Kingdom) far and wide.

Wars, pandemics, famines, and times of extreme hardship have historically been times of great advances for the Kingdom of God. My church history professor used to say that the greatest lesson from church history is that the church does not learn from her history.

Please allow me to make three statements that I hope will encourage you.

1. God is building His church.

It is His job, not ours. His church will grow no matter what.

2. God is changing His church.

There is not just one way to have church, do church or be church. We have many examples of a wide variety of expressions. Watch carefully what He does during this time. Watch what He builds, what He sustains and where He works. He is shaping us for the times ahead. The times ahead are different from the times behind us. Church cannot just remain the same.

3. Never again

Is this the first major crisis in the world during the past 2000 years where the church was deemed to be non-essential? Why is that?

May it be the last time in the history of the world that we wear that label!

The Bride for whom Jesus will return will be beautiful, pure, holy, victorious, and glorious. How much work does He still have to do? Is it possible that He is using this international crisis to bring about some changes?

I pray that you will embrace what He is doing with all your heart. And that our King will open the eyes of our hearts to see what He is doing and what He is not doing.

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