Coronavirus is bringing unprecedented openness to the Gospel – now online, on phones, on YouTube, on Zoom, on Dropbox, on TV
*Bible sales went up 44-60%
*Prayer searches on Google skyrocketed
*Over 21,000 indicated desire to trust in Jesus Christ in one church
*700 healing volunteers work together in one church to pray and help
*15 million watched blind Andrea Bocelli sing, including ‘Amazing Grace’ in Milan on Easter Sunday, and over 36 million have watched it on YouTube.
‘On the verge of a spiritual awakening?’
Greg Laurie, who pastors a church in Southern California, reports that their online church service which before the crisis was viewed by 8,000 people each week skyrocketed to 250,000 in the first week, while on Easter Sunday 1.3 million people watched the live stream. Laurie believes the nation might be on the verge of a spiritual awakening. “In the past four weeks, we have seen over 21,000 people indicate their desire to put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. This is unprecedented. We’ve only seen that kind of response through our crusades, which take months of planning and considerable expense.”
Holy Trinity Brompton pastor Nicky Gumbel, author of the evangelistic Alpha Course, is seeing an unprecedented openness to the Gospel during the coronavirus lockdown. “I’ve never known a time in my life when people are more open than they are now,” he said.
“There are no other distractions – no football, no entertainment – and people have time to hear the Gospel. People who would have never gone to church, are now coming to explore faith online in their homes.” He called on the Church to ensure it does not let these opportunities pass by. “This is a most extraordinary time. Not a moment to retreat, but a moment for the Kingdom of God to advance.”
In New Zealand, like in many other nations, churches have moved their prayer meetings and small groups online via popular video chat groups. Christian channel Shine TV has birthed a popular new show called ‘Church at home’, Sunday services recorded from homes across New Zealand.
Christian publishers report that sales of the Bible have escalated as more people are searching for hope and encouragement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jim Jewell, communications director for Tyndale Bibles reports that Bible sales went up 44-60%. Lifeway reported a similar increase. “We believe people are buying Bibles because there’s a longing to connect with God, find meaning, and experience peace.”
‘Prayer searches on Google skyrocketed’
Google searches about prayer skyrocketed when the coronavirus went global, and the search intensity doubled for every 80,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases. This is reported by Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, associate professor at the University of Copenhagen, who researched the phenomenon. “The intensified searches on prayer is global: it occurs on all continents and for Christians and Muslims alike. Even Denmark, one of the least religious countries in the world sees systematic increases in internet searches on prayer.”
Unite714 (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Prayer organisations and churches worldwide launched the Unite714 initiative to pray unitedly for “a miraculous healing of our lands from the coronavirus and for a spiritual awakening among the nations.”
As the world was experiencing the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, twenty-five prominent pastors and ministry leaders from different denominations, networks, and nations gathered on March 19, 2020, for a historic phone call. In the course of the conversation, it became clear they all shared one heart — to unite and activate the worldwide Body of Christ to pray for both the eradication of this virus and spiritual awakening across the world. Using 2 Chronicles 7:14 as their guide, UNITE714 was born. The call from God was simply to unite the global Church by engaging churches and individuals around the world in prayer at 7:14 every morning and evening.
Soon a strategic, pastoral team emerged that would develop and guide this prayer initiative with Pastors Chris Hodges, Steve Robinson, Dino Rizzo, and James Laffoon guiding the way. What began as a small group of leaders has turned into an international movement bringing together thousands of churches and millions of people across the globe.
In Brazil, a country with almost 40% active Christians, believers gathered in the streets – trying to keep appropriate distance – to call out to God together. Over Easter Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue was lit up as ‘Christ the Medic’, to honor heroic healthcare workers fighting the pandemic around the world.
Bethel Church in Redding moved its ‘healing rooms’ – places where people can receive prayer for healing – online. Many people request help with stress and anxiety brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Some 700 healing volunteers are working together to make the ministry available seven days a week from 9am to 5pm (Pacific Time) over the internet.
‘Plans may have changed, but God is still at work’
Restrictions on travel, the size of gatherings, lockdowns, and social distancing have forced many missions organisations to postpone conferences and training events for their workers. But while plans have changed, God is still at work.
Jash, a church leader working in North India, reports: “Our people are fasting and praying at least one day a week. The Lord had already spoken to us to be prepared. Everyone goes up to their roof and cries to the Lord for the land, and for a deeper way to know Him.” The quickly changing times are raising many questions in the community. “Even those who opposed the Gospel are now contacting us and requesting prayer. This provides an opening for deeper conversations about Jesus and His salvation. Much of the outreach is done over the phone.”
The Slavic Gospel Association reports that Georgia, Ukraine and Russia are in lockdown and the situation looks pretty bad in terms of death toll. Christians are sacrificially setting aside funds to help their neighbours in the days ahead. “People in the villages are saying, ‘only your church helps us’,” reports a local pastor.
Sources: HTB, Bethel Church, Shine TV, Global Disciples, Tyndale, Unite714, Revive, CT, SGA, Joel News
* 14 million watched blind Andrea Bocelli sing ‘Music for Hope’ at Piazza Duomo in Milan, Italy, including ‘Amazing Grace’ outside the cathedral on Easter Sunday, and over 36 million have watched it on YouTube –