The Christian Legal Centre’s Michael Phillips comments on how the Church can still evangelise during the coronavirus pandemic.
Michael Phillips, is a lawyer to Christian Legal Centre. He regularly shares his faith with people he meets, including with secular legal clients. He has seen a number of former clients come to faith and get baptised. Here he shares some of his experiences and ideas for evangelism under lockdown.
With the country’s churches now shut up shop, how can the church continue to bring the hope of Jesus Christ to the nation?
Covid-19 took the world by surprise, but it was no surprise to God. This season is an opportunity to bring hope like none other, when the rest of the world is running around in a blind panic, we have something to offer. People that never normally face hardship, are facing it for the first time. I share an office with a commercial lawyer who told me that all his commercial deals are collapsing – he’s never known anything like this before. That said, we need to be sensitive to the hardships that people are facing.
Historically, church attendance has always increased at times of national crisis, sadly because of the church closures, we won’t see this happen. However, I would like to suggest five ways the church can bring the hope of the Gospel to the nation:
1. Inviting people to on-line church services
People are going to get pretty bored and when they have been through their watchlist for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Now TV etc. They might do something crazy, like join in a church service.
Our church had its first ever online service last church and I was pleasantly surprised how well it went. Prior to the service, lots of church members did a short video and sent it into the pastor and his son (who did all the work I would imagine). On the day, we broadcasted a short service (45 minutes as opposed to the normal 2 hours plus!) with lots of contributions from different members. Something happened that I have never seen before, our children sat through an entire service without getting up once (partly I imagine because they were some of the stars)!
Before the virus, my experience of inviting people to church was that people were a lot more receptive that you might imagine. Now that you don’t even have to travel or be greeted by some stranger on the door, maybe more people will realise that church can be pretty good.
So, share a link to your service with all your friends, colleagues, tenants, landlord, dentist, Dr etc. you will be surprised how many people join in.
2. Sharing messages of hope on social media
I was on my professional body’s website recently. Usually the top read stories are of the lawyers that have been struck for bad behaviour. This time, every article was on the virus, I couldn’t believe that everything in solicitor world could be related back to the virus. The world’s only hope right now, is that the rate of infection will slow.
My experience is that many people, including non-Christians love watching and reading Christian testimonies of people set free from addiction or miraculously healed. There is a story of a man in Georgia USA who says he was healed of coronavirus. Why not share this article on WhatsApp with friends?
At this time, we have a unique opportunity to bring a message that speaks of the ultimate hope in Jesus Christ.
3. Sharing with people on the checkout
There have been reports of supermarket staff being regularly abused and sworn at. One Tesco’s worker was recently grabbed by their neck. Most people are only thinking of themselves and the polite pleasantries have quickly evaporated. Why not just ask how the person serving you is doing?
A couple of days ago, I had an opportunity in a café (before it closed) that I have been to many times and previously given tracts to the workers, but things had never progressed further. This time, I offered a church card, and asked how they were doing. We had a little chat and I encouraged them with some scripture. They said the verse sounded familiar as they had been brought up in the Romanian orthodox church. I offered them a Gideon’s bible in English and they gratefully receipted it.
4. Reaching out to lonely neighbours
More and more people are lonely. The number of people living on their own went up by 16% to 7.7 million between 1997 and 2017, while the UK population increased by only 13%. Christians are more likely to be living in a family or at least supported by their church, however there are millions of people who have no real support.
One thing our church did recently was to draw up a leaflet to be dropped off to the neighbourhood offered free support from the church.
5. Reach out to people on the phone
I remember Roger Carswell the evangelist coming to speak at Nottingham CU about 20 years ago and he encouraged us to reach out to people everywhere we go, even cold-callers! Fast forward 20 years, and I have finally taken up his suggestion. Most people in call centres are probably still working and if they don’t like what you are saying, they can’t easily hang up on you!
Recently a young guy called Josh from an insurance comparison website, rang me to try and sell me insurance. Towards the end of the conversation, I asked him whether he knew what Joshua meant. He said he didn’t, so I explained the meaning and his response was ‘wow so I have the same name as Jesus!’. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t buy insurance from him, however he graciously gave me 40 minutes on the phone, as I cycled home, and I explained the gospel to him, invited him to church and prayed with him. He thanked me profusely and said he would follow up my suggestions.
A cure for our wrongs
As yet there is no known cure for the Coronavirus invader. But there is a cure for our wrongs. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, and he does not want to leave us in a state of despair. As believers we can know peace in the midst of trouble.
Believe it or not, God has a purpose for the virus. Nothing just happens. Everything flows from the eternal counsels of God (Ephesians 1 v 11). For those who trust Jesus Christ, all of it is kindness. For others, it is a merciful wake-up call: “Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” Revelation 22 v 17.