This year of 2020 has seen in unprecedented changes, never before seen in history. So where to from here?
The corona virus pandemic has afflicted the world for months now, causing a near shut down of life as we know it, social isolation and a climate of fear that still persists. Don’t believe me? 37 new infections 2 states away, and suddenly there’s a run on toilet paper!
We might sing Advance Australia Fair, but the question right now is Advance Australia Where? Where do we go from here, as a nation, as a church, as a people?
Here’s what I know…
GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL
The world is out of control, and leaders, governments, even the media have no idea how to manage it! They are passing laws and handing out money, but honestly, no one has a clue. Human wisdom is failing us. So where to from here?
But in a world where people won’t shake your hand, and football is played to a crowd of cardboard cut outs, I declare to you this day, God is still in control, and still in the throne. None of this was a surprise to Him, and He says,
Isaiah 46:9-10 (ESV Strong’s)
for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
If you are fearful or confused, it’s time to put your faith in the one who knows the beginning from the end. So where we go depends not on us as a church, not on our government and their crazy decisions, ultimately it depends on obedience to God.
William Carey said, The future is as bright as the promises of God!
WHERE TO… AT SUCH A TIME AS THIS
So why have we gone through this pandemic, why us, why now and why are we even here? I believe God has you here for such a time as this. The message is the same as Esther heard from her uncle Mordachai…
Esther 4:14 (ESV Strong’s)
For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
God has great plans for His people post COVID, but many will stay silent, stay isolated from church and thereby miss out on being great and part of His plans. But where to from here?
What we do as a church is so important right now. We have a golden opportunity to shine into our dark nation like never before, if we are willing to listen to Him, to change and to be obedient.
Isaiah 1:19-20 (ESV Strong’s)
If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
THE WHOLE WORLD COUNTS THE COST
The cost of this unprecedented pandemic is horrendous. The Asian Development Bank predicts that the economic cost of the slowdown due to the pandemic could reach $8.8 trillion (1000 times a billion) US dollars, with one Cambridge study suggesting it could cost up to $82 trillion over 5 years! Australia is losing $4 Billion a week according to the ABC. So where to from here?
The social cost? The AMA is predicting and increase in suicides as a result of the pandemic of between 25 and 30%, and reports of domestic violence, what is now called intimate terrorism, have sky rocketed.
Even in the church, with draconian laws being made against it, the numbers of attendees are predicted to fall significantly post virus.
Romans 1:21-22 (ESV Strong’s)
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
Look at the way the world has tried to handle this pandemic… trying to be wise they haven’t really handled it well. Human reason is limited. They’ve tried to do the right thing, but honestly no one has a clue! So they change laws every 5 minutes. And where to from here?
WHERE TO… THE CHURCH UNDER ATTACK
State government laws tell us we can have up to 100 people attend church, but must allow 4 sq m per person, or 7 sq m per person if singing is involved. Name a church that doesn’t sing. Sporting events can have up to 2000 people screaming and spitting, and social distancing is only 2 m. Where is the sense in that? Pubs playing music, you don’t think anyone is going to sing?
The Bible says,
Romans 13:1-2 (ESV Strong’s)
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
Yes, Ignite will be obedient to our government, but I call upon our government to stop persecuting churches with targeted, more restrictive laws for Christians only. If you have integrity, make the laws the same across pubs, clubs, sports and churches. Suicide, mental health and domestic violence rates are far less in the church, so for the mental and spiritual
wellbeing of all Australians, government, treat churches with respect and give us a level playing field!
But whatever happens, change is here to stay for the church. I wish change was easy.
An old man from the mountains took a trip to the big city. For the first time in his life he found himself standing outside an elevator. He watched as an old, haggard woman hobbled on and the doors closed behind her. A few minutes later the doors opened and a young, attractive woman marched smartly off. Amazed, but realising the possibilities, the old man turned to his son and said, “Boy, go home and get your mamma so I can run her through that thing.”
But sadly, genuine change is not instantaneous, but a process. All of the changes we see around us make us uncomfortable.
No one likes change. Mark Twain said, The only person who likes a change is a wet baby.
David Bowie sang, ch-ch-changes, turn and take the strain. Changes make us strain, they hurt, but sometimes they are necessary, and I believe right now we need to embrace changes and the strain like never before, and do so without fear, for the one who is within us is greater.
Psalms 91:9-11 (ESV Strong’s)
Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
Changes might be uncomfortable, even unwelcome, but you should not face these changes with any fear. Our God is our refuge, and our provider, so we in the church can accommodate changes with confidence.
THESE CHANGES ARE HERE TO STAY
911 was a pivotal time in history. After 911, things changed forever especially in the world of security. No longer are kids asked up into the cockpit, and we now allow lengthy time for security at airports. It’s all changed, and now we are use to it… It’s the new norm.
COVID will change how we live forever. Many of the changes are most likely here to stay, including meetings via zoom, working from home and probably some aspects of social distancing. I guessing football in front of cardboard cut outs and toilet paper shortages will go.
So I have said to the Lord, I am not interested in changing how we do church for a month, or 6 months or whatever it takes to overcome the restrictions. I’ve asked God for keys as to how we can do church into the future. Are there things we can learn now that will last, and things that can improve our effectiveness as a church?
THE UP SIDE OF THE DOWNTURN
There’s no doubt the corona virus is responsible for many bad things, including people dying, economies collapsing, businesses ceasing and mental health, who even knows!
Romans 8:28 (ESV Strong’s)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
I believe God can make lemonade out of lemons. He can bring tremendous good out of a really bad things. So what is the upside of the downturn due to corona for Ignite?
- We are going live online with Facebook, and downloads of sermons far exceed the numbers we use to get in the building. We are reaching more people.
- Sparks give me as a pastor a chance to speak into people’s lives daily. A lot of work, but we get hundreds of downloads every day. Is this a key of how we can reach our community and beyond online?
- Small groups have formed in homes that are going very well, and the Holy Spirit is moving in them wonderfully. Participants report closer fellowship, and seeing visions and prophetic words among the attendees.
- We have ground to a halt as far as “normal” church is concerned. I believe that we now have the opportunity to makes changes we probably couldn’t have made before.
- Everything is different. Never before have people in general and church people in particular been open to change to this extent. Normally it takes 2.5 miles to turn the Titanic 90 degrees. It’s harder to change a church culture. COVID has caused a reset that stopped us and our long term preferences, and we can now start afresh in a new, Spirit led direction.
- People are not so much hungry for preaching or worship, they can get that online. But people are hungry for fellowship.
So how can we capitalise on these trends to become a stronger, more powerful church, reaching more people and setting more lives free in our community?
THE WAY FORWARD IN THE NEW NORM
God spoke to me yesterday in my Quiet Time and said,
Isaiah 42:9 (ESV Strong’s)
Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth I tell you of them.”
I said, great Lord, please show me and tell me about these new things.
If you are waiting for things to get back to normal, you could be waiting a really long time, years in fact. They tell us that most of us will not be travelling overseas any time this year. We can’t even travel to Victoria. And church may not get back to what it was pre corona until next year, if ever!
So we need a new way if doing church, that complies with heavy handed, abusive government laws, but still connects our people.
After much prayer and seeking the Lord, I believe God has given us a plan to move forward as a church, and to restart church, call it reignite, so that there will be something for everyone going forward. At the present time, and possibly for a long time to come, restrictions on the numbers of people in the church auditorium remain, and we have no idea when they will cease.
So as we always do, we turn to the Word of God for guidance. The early church faced severe restrictions too, and they grew through it…
Acts 2:46-47 (ESV Strong’s)
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
That’s our plan… Some attending the temple, and some breaking bread in homes. I believe this is God’s blueprint for us to grow and prosper as a church in this moment, and maybe even long into the future.
SO WHERE DO YOU FIT?
I believe there’s a place at Ignite for you, every one of you. If you want to attend a church and experience church live, we have limited spots, but you can. If you want to experience close fellowship, you can attend a house party, watching the first part of the service on the big screen, then fellowshipping in the small group.
So here are 3 positive decisions I am going to ask you to make today…
- RESET YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Above all I want to urge you at this time to reset your relationship with God. Some of you have just let it slip. You are still a Christian, but in all the upheaval, in all the isolation, it’s just quietly slipped out of your reach.
Now is the time to reset your relationship with God, starting with your quiet time. Read His Word, join us in the Bible reading plan, and come join us at church, in some form or other. Prioritise Jesus.
- COMMIT TO IGNITE AS YOUR CHURCH COMMUNITY, NO MATTER HOW IT LOOKS
If you are willing and have an open heart, I believe the Lord will give us insight and principles that will enable us to be closer than ever before, and to grow more than ever before. God did it in Acts, and He will do it again at Ignite…
Acts 2:42-44 (ESV Strong’s)
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common.
So we will have a time of teaching, a time of fellowship, a time of breaking of bread which is eating together and a time of prayer and worship. I think church at Ignite is going to be more exciting and engaging than ever before.
- BE PATIENT WITH US AND EACH OTHER, GOD’S NOT FINISHED YET
I am asking you to be patient with us as we learn and understand what the Lord is saying, and I’m asking you to be committed to Ignite, believing God is growing something truly powerful and profound in these dark times.
I don’t have all the answers, so I’m not entirely sure where to from here… but I can see the start. Our worship team is learning new ways to enter into deeper worship. Our group leaders are learning how better to facilitate discussion, how to pray more effectively. We are all learning how to hear God more, how to move in the Spirit more, how to see more lives transformed, more miracles, more healings, more marriages restored, everything. So please be patient.
I read a meme, Lord, bless me with patience, not the opportunities to be patient, I’ve had plenty of those and they don’t seem to be working, I mean the actual patience.
I believe we are about to see church change as it has never changed in history, and in it Ignite will discover incredible keys, keys that will enable us to reach our community more effectively than ever before.
Come with us, stand with us, believe with us and together we can build the church God has destined us to be!
Jesus is still praying His high priestly prayer
John 17:21 (ESV Strong’s)
that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
Lord, make Ignite my home. I join hands and join hearts with Ignite to build the church You want in such a time as this.