Does this sound like a contradiction in terms? Reaching out in the times that everything and everyone has been told to shut down and shelter in place. How is this possible? Why would anyone want to do Outreach in such an environment? Well, a casual glance at history will easily show you that in the worst of times, persecution, floods, wars, hurricanes, plagues, and unrest, it was the Church that has always taken the lead in communities, neighborhoods, nations, and foreign lands. Why? Because only the Church—the Body of Christ on earth – is uniquely fashioned for such difficult and challenging occasions.
It has been roughly nine months since we heard of the Corona virus, COVID-19. It is believed to have originated overseas and hit our country and the world with incredible speed. For the first time in my lifetime, I witnessed an entire economy shut down. Businesses were told to close by executive orders from various government institutions. We have come to find out that this invisible enemy would take hundreds of thousands of lives, billions of dollars economically, and untold numbers of personal businesses destroyed.
So the mantra from the top down that was trumpeted was to stay home, stay alive! Add to this, there came a tragic death of a person in police custody that set off rioting in multiple cities across the nation.
The government and many organizations have the role in rebuilding the nation. The Church is the only one uniquely qualified to provide hope now as well as hope to come. As believers, we understand we live in two worlds—the one we see with its physical limitations, the good, the bad, the victories and failures—the other one is spiritual where God reigns, evil is defeated and life eternal is the unbreakable assurance from our Creator.
The great Commandment ( Matthew 22:35-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) are the basis of our holy calling. It is a response to the broken, sinful, chaotic world that we are called to reach. Loving God and loving people are not void when tragedies or plagues happen. It gives the believers the mandate to go as we also follow the safety guidelines to reach those that are hurting and alone.
So, in a climate of fear, we can provide hope; in pain, we can pray for comfort; and in disillusion, we can give clarity. In all of this, we may have the opportunity to share hope to those who have lost faith in their government, disappointed in humanity, and distant from even God himself.
Of the many things that COVID has revealed, it is that our separation from each other has shown to be one of the most devastating effects of all. Loneliness, far more than any other physical issue, may be found to have a damaging consequence, not only among the general population, but the most vulnerable. God didn’t say go and make disciples, except during a pandemic. He didn’t say don’t love the neighbors during a national unrest. We have to be as wise as serpents, but as gentle as doves when we do outreach. There are many opportunities to connect with people during this crisis starting though your local church. Again, we need to take precautions. But precautions don’t mean don’t go! This is the time for the Church to be the body of Christ, to be the hands and feet of Jesus. In New Testament times, Jesus reached out to the unreachable, the lepers, the sick, the downcast. We must do the same.
COVID is no problem for the Lord. So pray and seek out opportunities where we can be safe and provide the connection for which people are so desperately starving. We know this is not our home. We are encouraged that we can have the time to share precious moments with others who are struggling with isolation and illness. So as we submit to the governing authorities, we reach out with Godly authority not only to those who are the Body of Christ, but to those who may be encouraged through relationship to become part of the Body. We are told to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything (including a pandemic) give thanks (I Thessalonians 5:16-18). To God be the glory for ever and ever, amen.