The Reality of the Times
I wish I could say that we are living in a time unlike any other in the history of the world. Sadly, this isn’t true. Yet, on the other hand, there is much truth to the idea as well. When it comes to the topic of persecution things have been much worse in past centuries. Furthermore, the contemporary Church has seen far worse persecution in other areas of the world than it is seeing in North America. Faithful Christians through the ages have experienced much worse than we are experiencing.
Conversely, for the first time in the history of the USA, American congregations are seeing impediments like they have never experienced before. In some instances, these impediments come as a result of overreaching local magistrates. In still other cases, some of what faithful congregations are facing is hyped-up fear-mongering by the press. The constant refrain from the legacy media that “COVID19 is going to kill us all where we stand” has inundated the news cycle. This has led to people overwrought with fear shying away from any interaction with anyone in public.
Everywhere you go in the US, the majority of people in public are trembling in fear behind face masks. Face masks that have not been proven to be of any actual use beyond the psychological comfort they provide. This is the reality of the times.
Faithful Gospel Work Pre-COVID19
Gospel ministry seems to have been different as little as 3 months ago. If you are exclusively a proponent of relationship evangelism you have to admit that the ensuing COVID19 responses have hindered your work. If you are a proponent of street evangelism and open-air preaching, there is no doubt this looks greatly different today.
Before all of this snafu (situation normal all fouled up) began, relationship evangelism looked much like having your neighbor or co-worker over for a BBQ or a beer and shooting the breeze. All in hope of getting to the Gospel as your friendship grew. Street evangelism and open-air preaching meant one could go to hubs of outdoor activity at varied times of the day and be assured of even a passing audience.
Defining what it meant to be faithful to Gospel work was pretty easy in those settings. Whether-or-not you agree with one method or the other or take a multi-pronged approach to your Gospel work isn’t what is important. What is important is that Pre-COVID19 faithful Gospel work looked so much different. Open-air preaching on college campuses was met with a certain amount of legal restrictions and resistance from students. But there were still audiences.
Hurdles to Faithful Gospel Work Amid the Morass of Restrictions
At this point-in-time, impediments to faithful Gospel Advancement are profound. While there has been overt authoritarian resistance to the spread of the Gospel Pre-COVID19, it was not normative. However, that is changing.
Where it was once difficult for authorities to shut down or silence faithful Gospel work at abortion mills, there are now tools. Subsequently, those authorities are appealing to edicts from governors and mayors to silence Christians that are trying to rescue those led to the slaughter. This has happened on numerous occasions. Some of them with high profile consequences.
College campus preaching, once a bastion of fresh fish to cast a net over, is all but shuttered. Most if not all college campuses were shuttered as early as mid-March. Some of them not set to open again until as late as 2021.
Even Gospel tract distribution has come to a place where the hurdles are nearly insurmountable. As more and more businesses are refusing to take cash, getting a stranger to take a Gospel tract or a booklet is nearly impossible. While this isn’t directly tied to official edicts, the fear that has been instilled in the public by the government and the legacy media has led to even more reticence. Make no mistake, handing out tracts Pre-COVID19 wasn’t impossible, but it wasn’t overly easy either.
Even practitioners of lifestyle “evangelism” are in a quandary. On one hand they get to display loving their neighbors by staying away from them. But on the other hand, they won’t get a chance to tell their neighbors why the Gospel compels them to stay away out of love for them.
So, What Shape Does Faithful Gospel Work Take During These New Times?
As a person that has often shunned, and rightly so, the concept of lifestyle evangelism, these last few months have taken me to new places. It has pushed me, if you will, to look into new corners.
Back as Minnesota was shutting down in the middle of March of 2020, I wrote up a little flier. With the assistance of my dear wife I printed off about 80 of these fliers. I then distributed them door-to-door in concentric circles radiating out from my home. The flier was just a simple offer of aiding any of my neighbors in which ever way that they would need in the coming weeks, and now months. I also took an extra step and made the same offer on two local FaceBook groups.
Admittedly, the demand has been low, but there has been some request for help.
One ask was from a dear lady that has had pneumonia twice in the last year. Her family is terrified at the thought of her being exposed to COVID19. Another lady reached out to me asking if I would assist her with raking her yard. What did I learn in that conversation and subsequent interactions with her? She is lonely. I think she mostly wanted someone new to talk to.
A few others that received the flier also reached out to me. They wanted to offer help if the demand became too much for me to handle on my own.
Do I tell you these things to pat myself on the back? Not in the least. I am certainly humbled by what I learned as a result of this little project. For me, being faithful to press the Gospel into the world around me has been given a new layer. Or a new dimension if you will.
How Will I Remain Faithful to Gospel Ministry Moving Forward?
I think this is a question that all Christians need to ask themselves. Being faithful to pressing the Gospel into the world around us has always been incredibly important.
But at this time, we all need to ask ourselves what exact steps we are going to take to bring the Gospel to bear on our neighbors. The people around us are scared and hurting. They are coming face-to-face with what they have been told is the most terrifying disease of their lifetimes. Over 30 million (30,000,000) people have been forced out of work and some don’t know if they will ever go back.
Of all the people in the world. Of all the religions in the world. Moreover, of all the worldviews, faithful Christians have the best answer to all of this. We remain faithful to Gospel work by bringing that message to bear on all of the myriad of situations we are dealing with.
This means that the person who is terrified of catching COVID19 and dying, needs to hear the Gospel from the faithful. The person who sees a communist agenda behind every door and news report needs to hear the Gospel from faithful Christians.
This doesn’t mean we can’t be involved in different causes. Certainly, I would be the last person to forbid it. It is out of love for my neighbors that I will continue to take up the mantle of liberty from tyranny. For you that may mean attempting to persuade your neighbors to be faithful to wear a mask in public. That could be motivated by a desire to stop the spread of COVID19 or for the sake of not causing needless fear in the terrified.
However, each of us needs to decide what it means to be faithful to Gospel Advancement…
A Brief Conclusion…
I will continue to seek to preach the Gospel in the open-air. I truly desire to remain faithful to that cause. As I find college campuses that are opening up in the fall, I will travel to them as well. But I will also be looking for more intentional one-to-one conversations with my real neighbors from now on. Not just for the sake of chatting, but for the sake of their souls.
If we have learned one thing through all of this, it should be that Romans 8:28 is true. God has brought all things into the lives of all believers for their good. If we are faithful to embrace that truth, we can learn to enjoy these challenging times trusting God to move even now. For our growth, the salvation of souls, and for His own glory!
Soli Deo Gloria!