As you prayerfully evaluate the current cultural and social climate, I want to continue guiding you by the hand through recent live ministry events across America with the Christian Thinkers Society. There are tremendous signs of hope as Christians continue thinking, worshipping, serving, and doing outreach, and yet, there are causes for concern, too. For example, a week ago, I spoke five times in New Jersey at Southridge Community Church for their Accelerate weekend (and the church is celebrating her 150th anniversary!) – Southridge is located in Hunterdon County, considered a bedroom community of New York City.
One story stood out to me: a gentleman in his 70s was hospitalized for over 80 days due to Covid. There are weeks of his life he doesn’t remember from the hospitalization. Even so, this dear man and his wife continued their faithfulness to their local church and attended our Accelerate event! Ministry in a pandemic continues to look different. Even though I was speaking in-person inside the church worship center, we still had to utilize live streaming, breakout rooms, masks, and social distancing. But one thing remained the same – all were challenged to engage with the truths of our faith thoughtfully and boldly! It was refreshing to hear feedback such as “overflow rooms needed” and “bursting at the seams” Sunday morning from church staff full of excitement, all while implementing the strict social distancing guidelines! I want to commend church staffs who are leading out, not being silent, finding ways to gather, worship, and reach out during the pandemic in the powerful Name of Jesus! Here’s a question for you to consider? Should we continue to minister in a pandemic or should we just shut everything down?
I want you to know that Christianity emerged in a world of immense suffering and low life expectancy. Life expectancy in the time of Jesus and the early church averaged twenty years of age. Skeletal remains suggest that as many as one-quarter (25 percent) of the Roman Empire, on any given day, was sick, dying, or in need of immediate medical attention; often, only one-third of the skeletons found in archeological digs from that time are those of adults. Infant mortality was as high as 30 percent; fewer than 49 percent of children saw their fifth birthday. Even in the glorious city of Rome, infant mortality was common. Near the catacomb of San Panfilo, 83 of the 111 graves are of children. Only 40 percent of the population lived to the age of twenty. With this in mind, Jesus’ reputation as a famous Miracle Worker and Healer guaranteed that people would try to see Him (See, for instance, Mark 5:28; 6:56; 8:22; 10:13). The church grew and grew fast, even though there were 1,000 ways to die in the Roman Empire.
These facts should challenge each of us not to be silent, to continue to worship and be the church in the world. The church never takes a time-out.
Jeremiah J. Johnston, Ph.D.
Paul had to learn the discipline of peace … check out this important clip for experiencing God’s Shalom in our lives!