After the resurrection of Jesus, as the gospel began gaining momentum, Satan’s opposition and persecution increased. By Acts 7 Stephen, one of the first seven chosen to serve as deacons, was captured by religious leaders and stoned to death. Then came widespread persecution of Christ’s faithful followers.
Have you ever wondered why God, Creator of earth, wind, and fire, allowed persecution and its heavy toll on believers? Is it because tested faith brings praise, glory, and honor to Christ (1 Peter 1:7); because battle-tested and strengthened disciples emerge fresher, stronger, and more courageous than ever, guaranteeing the progress of the gospel and the kingdom of grace?
Today Satan’s tools include mega forces of fury in a host of killers and destroyers of lives, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, crime, violence, wars, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. He uses immorality, greed, substance abuse, child abuse, human trafficking, apathy among believers, and a litany of other evils that are on the rise in our nation and world. Having failed thus far to accomplish his pernicious plans to destroy the church, the apple of God’s eye, he has sent a pandemic, the worst in more than 100 years, causing widespread death and debilitating health issues.
As the pandemic roars on, some churches are resuming old programs, old methods, and old activities. But some wise voices have warned that the pandemic is likely to be more like a “little ice age” than a long winter or stormy blizzard of discontent. Yet, what Satan meant for evil, we may just shift our eyes and see God using for great good.
What Satan meant for evil, just shift your eyes and see how God is using it for good.
How can we who are divinely called to lead in this world of unprecedented changes be prepared to seek and save the lost? The answer is one word: “SHIFT.” Shift our thinking: realize that worship and life will never return to the way they were in the pre-pandemic era. Shift from being busy with lots of activities and keep worship simple so members can do the most important ministries they are divinely called to do. Shift and place prayer and people over plans or programs, as our most important focus in the new normal. Shift to the fact of our church address as no accident, and connect like never before with people in the community where God has placed His church. Preach the Word in and out of season, for God is using the pandemic to cause a paradigm shift from traditional practices to spiritual progress with courage, confidence, and commitment—no matter the cost.
If you haven’t done so already, check out churches and schools that have successfully made rapid shifts in methods and operations to virtual or remote activities. Once-bustling sanctuaries and bursting bank accounts have dwindled significantly, but churches have learned to use online giving and a variety of apps to donate to ministry.
The heightened anxiety of facing a future with no clear understanding of what it may look like has caused leaders to find innovative relief for members suffering from Zoom fatigue. Hope that we will soon return to the old normal has been replaced with creative, inspiring worship using livestreaming video, in a time when home has become the sanctuary.
I earnestly pray and appeal that those who have not yet caught on will shift from the old to a new focus on the gospel for the progress and spread of hope, health, and healing in our nation and world.
Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.