Bearing Fruit During Lockdown
“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.
Jer 17:7-8 (NLT)
In my 1st blog post on 27 Mar, I ended off with some questions for you to reflect and think upon, beyond yourself and your family.
One of them is: How can we be creatively making a difference in our neighbourhood or immediate community?
Don’t wait for better days to do it. If we cannot do it now, we will not do it when the lockdown is over.
Make the most of every opportunity, redeeming the time for the days are evil!
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
(Ephesians 5:15-17 NIV)
Of Churches and Cruise Ships
It is interesting that quite a lot of media highlight has been given to outbreaks caused by church mass gatherings (South Korea) and also the pandemic spread on cruise ships (Ruby Princess, Diamond Princess etc.)
For a period of 10 years from 2002-2012, I was a director at the SE Asia office at an international Christian evangelistic organisation called Christ for all Nations (CfaN), the ministry founded by the late Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, who developed a short film series called "Full Flame".
In Full Flame episode 1, there was a very powerful allegory of a ship called "Corpus Christi (Latin for "body of Christ"). In the short film, the Corpus Christi, a battleship, was in the midst of a raging storm. Nearby, was a sinking ship whose passengers were drowning. But the people on the Corpus Christi were going about their feasting and banqueting, and “1:45 pm church as usual” (quote from the movie).
They were happily enjoying themselves and apathetic to the raging storm outside, oblivious to the urgency of the situation around them. And when the call came for rescue boats to be launched, they refused to leave their sanctuary to go out to save the people drowning in the waters around them.
I hope this clip inspires you. It is a tear-jerker. I warn you. So prepare your Kleenex tissues.
A Note to the "pastors"
We cannot go on with “church as usual”. Our Sunday services can be likened to cruise ships or the above battle ship in the film, which was functioning more like a cruise ship than one ready for battle.
We put on our Sunday best, “go to church“ in a building, greeted by smiling ushers in their smart suits and dresses, distributing bulletins of announcements, upcoming activities and programs. Then we sit in rows in a theatre or function room of a hotel or in a stain-glassed sanctuary with pews, and go through the “service”.
How long are we the church going to cruise around on the sea of helpless humanity with the loud cries from souls screaming for help drowning round about us?
If we cruise around in close containments we can become a potential breeding ground for “viruses”. Just like cruise ships have close confines that enable viruses to spread, our “Sunday Cruise Ships” can become the perfect confines for “infections”.
A study on cruise ships shows that outbreaks seed easily on the vessels not just because of the closed confines but because of the high proportions of older people who tend to be more vulnerable to diseases.
This seems all too familiar with many churches with a high percentage of older people or with “old” or “long-time” Christians who have been warming the pews for a very long time. Isn’t it seemingly true that it is harder to move old folks out of their comfortable confines?
For a very long time, churches have been struggling to keep the young people interested in spiritual things and keeping them “coming to church”. In fact, in the USA, the statistics are that more than 1 million young people “leave church” every year.
The worldwide church is in a crisis and we are losing our young. And if we do not grow up from “doing church” to start making disciples, we will get into a far deeper crisis.
This COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call. Are you hearing the call?
John 9:4 (AMPC)
“We must work the works of Him Who sent Me and be busy with His business while it is daylight; night is coming on, when no man can work.”
Let’s learn from Jesus Christ whom we are following and work His works while we can.
Get Creative and Selfless With Reaching Out to Others
God is our Creator and has created us with creative abilities to think outside a box. Now you don’t have to go very far. Look for someone around you in need to help and reach out to.
I have heard about someone with a family of 5-6 moving into one bedroom in their apartment, and getting permission from government authorities to house those who have lost their jobs in the F & B industry, in the other rooms of their apartment.
For me, the day before the COVID-19 lockdown happened in Australia about 2 months ago, I had started an online English Conversation Time with B, my neighbour who is a university student and her housemate. We had English Conversation Time over video calls weekly, sharing about topics of fear, online classes, travel etc. Over the Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday weekend, I had such a wonderful time telling them about the death and resurrection of Jesus!
She's a "person of peace" (Luke 10), a neighbour whom I met in the elevator of the apartment block I had just moved into that week. The Holy Spirit nudged me to get a hold of her contact number.
Last weekend, I had such a wonderful time with B, going through the 1st miracle Jesus performed in John!
The 7 Signs of John is commonly used as a tool by Disciple-making Movements to help people discover God. These are the 7 miracles specifically recorded by John.
John 20:30-31 "The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name."
B was so awed by Jesus. She said, "Wow He's magical, he's amazing, he's incredible and.. !" She was really at a loss for words to describe Him. It really warms my heart to hear someone so excited to read about Jesus and so excited about Him. Sadly most of the time, in countries where there is so much bible, church, etc., people become sceptical and we become overly cautious not to share lest we offend. I was so refreshed by her response!
After going through the 1st sign of how Jesus turned water into wine in 20 minutes, she said "now I can ask Jesus to help me in my problems and trouble too" .
By the 4th question, B wanted to share this miraculous story with her friend! And by the 4th sign in the 4th week, she had invited another friend from China, who is studying in the USA to join us!
Who says COVID-19 can stop us from reaching out and making disciples for His kingdom?
What creative ideas has God given you to reach your neighbour and your community? What talents, resources and gifts has He given you to use? Who can you journey with to do that?
I hope that by the time this COVID-19 situation is resolved (hopefully) or if there is another pandemic which is likely, we would already have many doing the work of an evangelist in such creative ways that we won’t need paid staff in the church to come up with expensive, manpower-heavy programs, concerts, and activities that the organisation of the church puts up!
After lockdown, lots of problems in the world will continue. The needs are going to be immense. Joblessness, homelessness, foreign worker issues, migrant issues, mental health issues, and any existing marital and family problems will escalate.
What then do we do? Do we wait till then to figure things out, or start taking action now, so that by the end of the lockdown we are unleashed not to head to McDonald’s, but to embrace the broken amongst humanity?
I would like to pen off with these words of Jesus in Matthew 6 which we know so well in our heads. But the question is: are you doing it so well?
Matt 6 (NLT)
33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
This is the starting point: Seek for the Kingdom of God, not Church, “Churchian-tiy” or Christianity. When you seek God’s kingdom, you will become His Church, His Body, His hands and feet with Christ as the Head.
May His Kingdom and His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!