These are crazy times that we are living in. COVID-19 has pretty much brought the world to its knees, causing widespread carnage. We must not lose sight of the most tragic thing about this crisis: the fact that thousands are dying, many without Christ. People around the world are anxious and afraid. For most of us, these are the most uncertain times we’ve ever experienced.
Here in the schemes, the problems that people were already facing pre-COVID-19 are only intensified. Isolation, depression, addiction, mental health—all these (and more) afflict people in our schemes. For many, the already acute suffering is only compounded by a nationwide lockdown.
Unique Time, Unique Opportunities
Yet all is not lost. We know the Lord is at work. He’s is using the church to be a hospital for the sick as we hold out the only true hope in all the world—the gospel of Jesus Christ. During this unique time, the church can support those who are suffering, meet practical needs, and share the life-altering gospel of the risen Christ.
In fact, this pandemic has opened a door for gospel proclamation. Here’s the thing: when people are staring down the barrel of a gun, they are faced with the undeniable brevity of life. They are forced to ask questions of eternity.
In Niddrie, we’ve tried to turn these unprecedented times into opportunities to share the good news and serve our community. Given the government’s instructions, this hasn’t necessarily been easy. But still, this is not a time for the church to shrink back into isolation. We’ve sought to come up with ways to love our neighbours in a wise, safe, social-distanced kind of way.
If you are feeling stuck for ideas, here are a few things we’re doing in Niddrie.
Simple Goes a Long Way
Firstly, we are hosting an online evangelistic bible study. People have many questions at this time. Why is the world such a mess? Where is God in this? What’s the purpose of life? Is there any hope? So, we put a wee poster together, spread the word on Facebook and through our communication channels, and hey—presto!—we had 30 people on Zoom hearing the gospel. I’m taking people through a contextualized version of The World We All Want, which offers a simple and helpful introduction to the Bible. It’s nothing complex or flashy, but people were buzzing after it.
Secondly, we put flyers through people’s front doors in our community. There are four options on the flyer—chat/pray, urgent supplies, pick up shopping, or posting mail. Each flyer has a phone number so that people can contact us if they are struggling during this time. So far, we’ve had over 40 people contact us, asking for help in a variety of ways.
This has given us an opportunity to serve people in our community. When we drop someone’s shopping or prescription off, we include some literature from our church. This is an important way to love our neighbours in these difficult times. There are so many vulnerable people in our scheme—single mums, the elderly, addicts, the sick/housebound—and they need the body of Christ to serve them.
Although we may not be explicitly sharing the gospel in these moments, we trust that these simple acts of kindness will open doors for opportunities in the future. As we meet people’s practical needs, we’re praying that they will in turn be more open to hearing the gospel or to coming along to one of our evangelistic events. We’re also keeping a spreadsheet of contacts so that we can get in touch with people once all this is over.
Thirdly, we’re helping existing community groups who are already serving in Niddrie. If you are a small church and don’t have much man-power, then this is a good option. Simply look for ways to volunteer with agencies who are already serving in your local area. Too many churches shoot themselves in the foot by replicating what is already going on. Rather than starting something new, see if you can help something that already exists.
Again, this has opened up doors to serve our community. For example, the local pharmacist needed help dropping off prescriptions because they don’t have enough drivers, so members of our church have stepped in to meet this need, thus helping to get important medication to people.
Finally, one of the churches in our 20schemes network has opened up their building to families in their community. Given government guidelines, they can only offer this to one family a day, but it’s still a great way to get to know people in the community and meet tangible needs at the same time. Families are struggling with the lockdown and we have free buildings. Could you open up your building to help struggling families?
In Wuhan—which was the epicentre of COVID-19—Chinese Christians, instead of staying home, decided to get out on the streets and serve their city. They gave out water, masks, and other supplies. As they did this, they shared the gospel. There have been up to 400 Christians on the street every day during this crisis. This had such a profound affect that even some of the local police—who used to persecute Christians in the city—are turning to Christ in repentance and faith.
As we navigate this tricky time, could we use it to do the same? As Christ’s ambassadors, we must not shrink back in fear, but rather seek to love our neighbours and proclaim the gospel. Let’s pray that the Lord uses this sickness to revive our nation and restore His church!