Okay. I admit the title probably qualifies as click-bait.
Before you leave a comment full of rage and expletives, let me explain. As many of you know, I have the honor of pastoring a small church called Renovation Church in the small town of Garretson. From the beginning of Renovation Church, I have committed myself to preaching verse-by-verse through Books of the Bible.
We are currently studying the Book of Acts. This is a fascinating book written by a guy named Luke. Luke was a medical doctor, historian, and leader in the early church. He has written two books that have been included in our New Testaments; the first is the Gospel of Luke which is about what Jesus began to do and teach through His earthly ministry. The second is the Book of Acts which is about what Jesus continues to do and teach through His Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the very beginning of the Book of Acts, Jesus gives the church their marching orders. Before ascending to the Father, Jesus commands them to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” For the first 7 chapters, the church has limited virtually all of its activity to the city of Jerusalem. Although God is clearly at work in the church, they have not been fully obedient to Jesus’ marching orders. The church, from the very beginning, was never meant to be limited to one city or one people group. The church is to be comprised of all nations, ethnic groups, and nationalities united under the person and work of Jesus Christ.
In Acts 7, tragedy strikes the church. A young and promising leader named Stephen is brutally murdered by a religious mob after a botched trial. It was a day that plunged the church into a time of incredible darkness and uncertainty. Here is how Luke describes what happened on the day Stephen was murdered:
“And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” – Acts 8:1-3
Three terrible things happen “on that day” –
- The church, which valued physical proximity and community far more than any of us, was scattered “throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.”
- Great lamentation was made over the death of Stephen – it was a time of unrelenting mourning.
- Saul, a sadistic religious extremist, was “ravaging” the church. In the Greek, this gives the picture of a wild boar entering into a vineyard and literally destroying everything in it’s path. Saul was breathing threats and murder against the Church and was quite successful in his destruction of the church.
If we ended the story here, it would seem as if Satan was finally winning a battle against the church. Nevertheless, we must keep in our mind the words of the famous military strategist Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon, while speaking on the importance of understanding counterattacks, once said, “The greatest danger occurs at the moment of victory.”
In the very next verse – Acts 8:4 – we are given a glimpse into God’s counterattack – “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”
Remember where the church was scattered to – according to Acts 8:1 they were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria. The exact places Jesus commanded the church to go to in the beginning of the Book of Acts. What Satan meant for harm, God used for the good of His church and the surrounding people groups. Satan can never thwart the plans of God; even in his apparent victory, Satan was used to advance the Church into further revival and missionary expansion.
Back to the title of this post – COVID-19 is GOOD for the church. I think COVID-19 is the greatest thing that has happened to the church in the past 50 years. Now, let me be very careful with my words. I do not think COVID-19 is good – just like I don’t think Stephen being murdered was good. COVID-19 is a horrific disease that has crippled the world economy, caused many to lose their jobs, and has taken the lives of thousands of people.
Nevertheless, COVID-19 has also caused churches everywhere to reconsider the methods we are using to make disciples. The era of consumeristic & attractional churches that view themselves as businesses trying to attract customers is (hopefully) beginning to die. As churches have been forced to move online, gather in smaller groups, and reject the “bells and whistles” that churches so often appeal to – we have been left with a much simpler model of doing church. The church is beginning to return to our original task which is to make disciples who make disciples – not make consumers who “church shop” every 2 – 3 years.
If you are part of Renovation Church, here’s my commit to you as the Lead Pastor of our church. When we return to a “new normal” my focus will not be on developing programs to make our church more attractive. My focus will not be on trying to compete with other churches in the area to steal disgruntled and immature sheep from the church down the street. My focus will not be on some vague from of vision casting as a means of appealing to our fleshly standards of success.
Instead, I will focus on carefully, slowly, and faithfully teaching the Bible verse-by-verse for the purpose of making disciples who make disciples. I have no interest in developing a religious institution so I appear successful in the eyes of the world. My desire and longing is to develop people who look more like Jesus and less like this world; this can only be done through life-on-life discipleship that is rooted in the Bible and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Finally, if anyone reading this does not have a church you are a part of and you are interested in learning what it means to be a disciple – I’d be honored to have you join me on this journey. On Sunday, June 7th (Lord willing) we will begin holding physical services outside at Split Rock Park in Garretson. For the entire summer we aren’t even going to meet in a building; the Church is the people. We will meet for worship in the original sanctuary that proclaimed the glory of God – His creation.