Coronavirus brings Unprecedented Openness to the Gospel
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 –
This is a message from Dr. Julian Urban, a 38-year-old serving in a hospital in Lombardy, Italy, who is fighting Covid-19 nonstop and has not eaten for days! Pray for Italy! 5000+ dead and 50,000+ infected, rising daily!
Never in my darkest nightmares did I imagine that I would see and experience what has been going on in Italy in our hospital the past three weeks. The nightmare flows, and the river gets bigger and bigger. At first, a few patients came, then dozens, and then hundreds. Now, we are no longer doctors, but sorters who decide who should live and who should be sent home to die, though all these patients paid Italian health taxes throughout their lives.
Until two weeks ago, my colleagues and I were atheists. It was normal because we are doctors. We learned that science excludes the presence of God. I laughed at my parents going to church.
Nine days ago, a 75-year-old pastor was admitted into the hospital. He was a kind man. He had serious breathing problems. He had a Bible with him, and impressed us by how he read it to the dying as he held their hand. We doctors were all tired, discouraged, psychologically and physically finished. When we had time, we listened to him.
We have reached our limits. We can do no more. People are dying every day. We are exhausted. We have two colleagues who have died, and others that have been infected. We realized that we needed to start asking God for help. We do this when we have a few free minutes. When we talk to each other, we cannot believe that, though we were once fierce atheists, we are now daily in search of peace, asking the Lord to help us continue so that we can take care of the sick.
Yesterday, the 75-year-old pastor died. Despite having had over 120 deaths here in 3 weeks, we were destroyed. He had managed, despite his condition and our difficulties, to bring us a PEACE that we no longer had hoped to find. The pastor went to the Lord, and soon we will follow him if matters continue like this.
I haven’t been home for 6 days. I don’t know when I last ate. I realize my worthlessness on this earth. I want to use my last breath to help others. I am happy to have returned to God while I am surrounded by the suffering and death of my fellow men.
PASTORAL AND CONNECTION CARE
Riverlife Baptist Church
Here is relevant information from Riverlife Baptist Church, one of the larger churches in Brisbane, Australia. You may be able to use or adapt this for your church congregation.
You have probably been following along with the developing news and growing concerns of the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). As a church family, we do not want to partner with any fear but simply practice good hygiene and safety to minimize the risk to our community. Please read the following carefully.
As in any cold or flu season, I want to encourage you to stay home from Sunday gatherings or other church-related events throughout the week if you, your family members or roommates are experiencing any cold or flu symptoms (fever, persistent cough, headache, chills or unexplained rash). Please seek medical attention if you are experiencing these symptoms.
If you have recently travelled to any high-risk countries (China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Hong Kong or Japan as currently identified by the World Health Organisation and Australian Government Department of Health), please follow the recommended guidelines here and stay home for a couple of Sundays (14 days).
If you are planning on attending regular activities, please ensure you wash your hands with soap, make use of hand sanitizer stations, cough into your sleeve, sneeze into a tissue and put any tissues or waste in the bins provided. Simple, but very helpful!
We post the sermon to our weekly messages podcast here and the video feed on our website here and encourage you to access the teaching from home if you are unable to join us in person. You might also like to take advantage of our Spotify playlists here for some worship playlists we have collated.
We are also taking extra precautions to keep our building sanitary for everyone who will worship with us in person this weekend and in the coming weeks and have also reviewed some of our ministry guidelines to include the following:
We are stocked up on hand soap and hand sanitizer (located at several stations).
We are sanitizing surfaces between gatherings (including Kids Check-in Kiosks).
Volunteers, as always, please follow cleanliness and safety procedures in our Children’s Ministry and be even more diligent during this time.
Our friendly Host Teams and Greeters will be welcoming you with a smile and a wave this week rather than a handshake.
Our Ministry Teams (both in service and at special events including Encounter) will adjust prayer ministry protocols to be mindful of personal space and close contact.
In faith, we continue to uphold those directly affected by this virus in prayer and ask that God would release wisdom to our leaders, strategies to our health professionals and healing to those experiencing symptoms.
With the surge in the number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID – 19) around the world, experts say that the likelihood of it spreading to Australia and within our communities is inevitable.
The World Health Organisation has now declared the outbreak of COVID – 19 to be a pandemic, and the Australia Government has been taking necessary steps to prepare for this, with the Department of Health providing regular updates in relation to planning for and responding to COVID – 19.
We need to be thinking about prevention and preparation strategies now that a pandemic has been announced. So, what can we do as the QB Movement to be prepared to respond and keep our church community safe?
Firstly, and until further notice, churches and congregation members should continue to go about normal daily life, church, work or study as normal. Church and congregation members should however already be promoting and following best personal hygiene practices.
Practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene is the best defence against most viruses. This includes:
Washing your hands frequently with soap and water, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet. Wash for at least 20 seconds and dry with paper towel or a hand dryer.
Cover your cough and sneeze – if you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow. Dispose of tissues and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
If unwell, avoid contact with others (touching, kissing, hugging, and other intimate contact).
Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
Prevention Ideas for Churches
Buy an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with over 60 per cent alcohol and have these available throughout the church.
Shaking hands is optional! Give permission for fist bumps or a hand wave to replace hugs and hand shaking.
Place boxes of tissues in easily accessible areas e.g. church reception/information tables.
Wipe down surfaces touched by churchgoers such as door handles and railings after each service.
Limit potluck meals and other nonessential large gatherings.
Consider hosting conference calls or video chats as alternatives for face-to-face meetings
Request that people displaying flu like symptoms stay at home and seek medical attention.
Review Communion practices/procedures to take precautions to limit the spread of infection via potential cross contamination
Preparation Ideas for Churches
Preview your church’s emergency response plans and communication plans in the context of a pandemic.
Church leaders should consider appointing a second in charge (2IC) who can run the church efficiently in his/her absence.
Remind your congregation that accurate information is essential, and that it is important to use trusted sources such as State and National Health Departments.
Churches should also prepare to support vulnerable people in their community especially the elderly and people with a disability.
Promote that all people should seek medical care if they require it.
Encourage church staff and congregation members to review their family emergency plans and take time to prepare now. For more information go to www.qld.gov.au – Emergency Plan
Create plans to enable church staff to work remotely/from home if that becomes a necessity. More information on this is available from www.fairwork.gov.au -COVOD – 19
Many affected countries have suspended their church services, and some bigger churches are streaming their Sunday services live. Facebook Live or using pre-recorded videos for sermons are effective options.
Other adaptions could include following the Jewish tradition of a treasury or offering box at the entrance, and communion available on designated tables.
Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, wrote about the plague in the Roman Empire: How suitable, how necessary it is that this pestilence, which seems horrible and deadly, searches out the justice of each and everyone and examines the minds of the human race; whether the well care for the sick, whether relatives dutifully love their kinsmen as they should, whether masters show compassion for their ailing slaves,
whether physicians do not desert the afflicted.
Plagues in the Roman Empire, and currently in many countries, also became times of evangelism and revival.
See more information about revival such as the Moravian Revival among refugees which sparked the Evangelical Awakening in Europe and America.
China: How Christians respond to the coronavirus outbreak
Christians seem to be less panicked because their faith gives them strength. They also support others as a community with care and hospitality.
How do Christians in Wuhan handle the coronavirus outbreak and quarantine?
China is in a state of emergency because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), a causative agent of lung diseases. The city of Wuhan, which has a population of 11 million and is believed to be the source of the virus, is particularly affected. The city has been in quarantine since January 23. Entry and exit are only possible with a special permit. The Chinese authorities have since isolated other cities. As a result hospitals are overloaded. Buses, trains and taxis stopped their services, and food prices have risen enormously.
The health crisis also has consequences for the Christian communities. Based on sources in China, German Evangelical news agency IDEA reports that because the residents of Wuhan are required to stay in their apartments and houses, there are temporarily no church services in many congregations. Instead, pastors posted sermons and songs on the internet. There are also calls to use the ‘free time’ to pray for the sick, medical staff and those responsible in politics and society. The crisis encourages fasting and increased Bible reading.
Christians seem to be less panicked because their faith gives them strength. They also support others as a community with care and hospitality.
According to the IDEA source the crisis opens people up for the Gospel, and Christians freely share God’s love as they see fit, be it in an open conversation on the street, on the internet or by watching evangelistic videos together with non-Christian family members.
Joel News International, # 1157, February 3, 2020
A Door opened in Wuhan, China
A Christian in China reported:
A few months ago a pastor I know, along with church members, was preaching the gospel on the streets of Wuhan. He kept on street preaching even when Christians were not encouraged to share the gospel. But nothing stopped them from proclaiming the gospel, not even the virus.
Now it is the 10th day since the city was separated by quarantine, and protective masks are the most valuable thing in Wuhan. You can’t find a store that sells masks. People are desperate.
In response, our brothers and sisters preach the gospel and give out tracts and free masks. They are sharing the word of hope and comfort from God. They have become more and more favoured in the city, even in the authorities’ eyes.
These churches in Wuhan keep themselves away from all the rumours and political issues. They do what a true Christian should do: preaching the gospel and being witnesses of the true peace and true hope that come from Jesus Christ among non-believers who are in panic and hopelessness.
A police officer came to one sister, listened to the gospel, and left with the tract and mask happily. After a while, another police officer arrived, heard, and left with the tract and a mask also. Shortly, the first one came back saying another officer would like one too. Soon four more officers came! They are the ones who used to be concerned about the message. But now they came to Christians for help, and they bow down to our God.
The yellow (Christians wear yellow suits for protection) has become the most beautiful colour in the city. Christians gained the respect that they never had before because of their willingness to risk their health to serve.
I thank God for their witness and being full of joy in our Lord’s amazing work. Please put them into your prayers. Lots of them are overloaded. They know that this is an opportunity God gave them to gain people for Christ.
“Christ has already given us His peace, but His peace is not to remove us from disaster and death, but rather to have peace in the midst of disaster and death, because Christ has already overcome these things (John 14:27, 16:33),” he wrote. “Otherwise we have not believed in the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15), and, with the world, would be terrified of pestilence, and lose hope in the face of death.”
He said that even if a believer dies in the midst of tribulation, it is still not a defeat.
“Spoken for today, Wuhan’s pestilence cannot separate us from the love of Christ; this love is in our Lord Jesus Christ. These words are so comforting for us, we have already become one body with Christ,” he wrote. “… Therefore, Christ is with us as we face the pestilence in this city; the pestilence cannot harm us. If we die in the pestilence, it is an opportunity to witness to Christ, and even more to enter into his glory.”
The pastor said that the current challenge with the coronavirus reminds him of Abraham facing Sodom and Jonah facing Ninevah, as they Abraham interceded and Jonah preached repentance to the saving of men’s souls.
“[M]ay we like Lot be grieved over all those in this city (1 Peter 2:7), and like Abraham who earnestly prayed for Sodom (Genesis 18:23-33),” he urged. “You see, Jonah with difficulty proclaimed the gospel to Nineveh, and Nineveh repented and was saved. We are this city’s Abraham and Jonah. We must pray for God’s mercy upon this city, and bring peace upon this city through our prayers and testimony.”
Christians at the centre of China’s virus outbreak still preaching on streets
Evangelism thrives on the streets of China’s Coronavirus hot zone
As if rallying around the apostles’ declaration that “We must serve God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), Christians have continued to boldly share the Gospel in the streets of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
Witnesses who share their faith openly not only face possible infection from the dangerous respiratory disease caused by the virus, but also could be subject to potential persecution by authorities, as well.
Despite the potential dangers, CBN News Asia correspondent Lucille Talusan reports that Christians in Wuhan are meeting needs created by the crisis and by doing so are creating opportunities to share the Gospel.
The believers, often operating underground to avoid persecution and prosecution by Communist authorities, are taking advantage of the need for surgical masks. In addition to helping prevent contracting the respiratory disease caused by coronavirus, the masks also help shield the identity of the witness.
Talusan reported that a “very courageous” group of Christians in Wuhan have hit the streets to distribute the protective facemasks. As they hand out the masks, Talusan said, “They say that they are Christians and they share the love of Christ and point to Jesus to bring hope to them and their families and the whole of China. … This is really a breakthrough.”
Talusan said that the uncertainty of the crisis has helped heighten the receptiveness to the message of Christ.
A video shared by Father Francis Liu from Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness shows that encouraging sermons are being broadcasted to their communities through speakers placed on balconies.
A Christian rode his bike to a pharmacy where people gathered and played a sermon through a portable speaker, according to International Christian Concern.
Another video shared shows that Christians were distributing face masks and Gospel pamphlets to passersby on the streets. Playing in the background was a message broadcasted to address the fear and uncertainties of the ongoing crisis.
Pastor Huang Lei from Wuhan’s Root and Fruit Church published an article on January 24, saying, “While the real situation is possibly more severe and complicated than what is known, regardless of what circumstances we are in, we should not worry and fear all the disasters, pandemic, and death, ‘because He is the Lord of our lives. If He does not allow [it to happen], we will not even have a single hair fall out from our heads.’”
Pastor Tan Songhua from Wuhan Cornerstone Church also told his congregation that although they face trials of faith and personal safety, Jesus only has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you (Jeremiah 29:11).” He then called on Christians to pray for this city, and bring the peace of Christ to everyone.
The U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) reports that membership in non-sanctioned churches is growing. The CFR website says that “research by Fenggang Yang, of Purdue University’s Center on Religion and Chinese Society, estimates that there are between 93 million and 115 million Protestants in China, with fewer than 30 million attending officially registered churches.”