The COVID-19 pandemic which broke out last year did indeed take the whole world by surprise and brought many nations of the world to their knees. This pandemic crisis made us all see and experience the global paradigm shift taking place in every dimension of human life, leading to both negative and positive impact. It also brought about many changes in education, politics, economics, society, and religion. The rate at which the pandemic spread was alarmingly fast and uncontrollable. The world and the Church in particular were unprepared to face – let alone tackle – such a life-threatening crisis which in the initial stage brought many churches in Nagaland to a standstill.
In the beginning, there were many arguments and confusion within the church itself as to how the church should respond to the crisis and to the many resulting challenges. On the one hand, the church as responsible citizens in society, had to decide whether to heed the authorities’ concern and obey the government’s order prohibiting religious and mass gatherings, thereby suspending regular church worship services and various soul-nurturing activities for months. On the other hand, the church leaders had to face criticisms (as “lacking in faith”) from various sections of society and from its own members for complying with the state government’s order. The pandemic not only affected the world’s economy, but it also had an adverse effect on the finances of the church. Much of the church’s mission projects and work within and beyond our home had to be either suspended for a time or had to be stopped completely. One of the biggest challenges the churches had to face was how to continue to spiritually nurture their flock and stay relevant to the spiritual needs of its congregation in such a crisis, given the restrictions and prohibitions on corporate worship, mass gatherings, and community fellowships.
However, in the midst of such a global crisis and chaos, the church remained unshaken in its faith because no matter what the situation is, the church holds on to the faith that “the Lord is sovereign and in control, and He will lead his church safely through the storms of life.” Indeed, the Lord Jesus who is the head of his church has been faithfully leading and guiding his churches in Nagaland thus far. The churches in Nagaland first responded to the crisis through prayer and fasting, coming together to intercede for the nation and for the world against COVID-19. After this, despite the many criticisms thrown at the church leaders, the church as a mature and responsible member of society decided to set an example by obeying the government’s orders and rules. Churches suspended all forms of mass gatherings/activities in order to protect members from the pandemic and for the welfare of the society at large. While complying with the government order, the church’s main concern was to find ways to stay relevant to the spiritual needs of its members. Therefore, the churches also made use of every alternative and available opportunity to reach out to their congregation. Initiatives included online worship, online encouragement/preaching/prayer, and individual home fellowships. Listed below is a short reflection as to how the church could respond to the crisis:
- The pandemic brought about restrictions and prohibitions of mass gatherings and corporate worship in religious places. With this new situation, churches can take advantage of the technological resources available, shifting their regular worship services to virtual online worship services. This way, most churches could stay relevant by continuing to meet the spiritual needs of their congregation through online preaching/teaching.
- The pandemic crisis has helped churches realize that true worship of God cannot be localized or restricted to a specific physical location, but believers’ worship of God is a spiritual reality that can happen anytime, anywhere. The Lord Jesus himself said, “Where one or two gather in my name, there I am.”
- Most of the churches in our local context are technologically ill-equipped, while many members within the congregation are still technologically illiterate. Therefore, online worship services could benefit the more advanced churches but not all churches. Since many churches could not have online services, the church leaders encouraged and guided their congregations to have individual family worship and home fellowships. Due to the pandemic, many churches shifted their focus from corporate worship to individual family worship, which proved to be a blessing to many families because it strengthened the relationship between members of the family as they spent time together in prayer, songs, and reading of the Word. Many broken families could reconcile with one another through family worship. It was also a revival of the early church form of worship (1st Century AD) where the early believers met and fellowshipped together as “the church” in individual homes.
- Amidst the pandemic and the economic crisis, the church has grown stronger and richer in love. The body of Christ responded to the crisis by going beyond its four walls and reaching out to the world with the love of Christ. They provided services, charitable works, and acts of kindness. Many believers selflessly came forward to serve others through giving financial assistance and material support (food, clothing, and other essential goods) to those who are physically in need and in despair irrespective of religion or race. The Church has widened its spiritual task by becoming more socially responsible towards its neighbor.
- COVID-19 affected the whole world irrespective of race, sex, nationality, religion, or status. It also caused both believers and non-believers alike to re-examine the importance of God, the meaning and purpose of life, and the problem of death. The pandemic also helped humanity realize the futility of trusting in human strength and wisdom as well as how helpless finite beings are without the Creator. The global pandemic crisis provided fertile ground and the right platform for the Church to present the good news of salvation to the world. It paved the way for the Church to interact, guide, and help their fellow human beings (including those belonging to other faiths) to seek the Savior Jesus Christ who alone is the hope and solution to our present crisis.
- Many nominal Christians were awakened to the fact that Scripture’s warnings and signs of the last days are indeed coming to pass. The pandemic made many backslidden Christians realize that their security is only in Christ is, and only in Him can we experience life in abundance. Many of them are returning to the Lord by recommitting themselves to the Lord in repentance.
For Reflection and Discussion
1. How did you seek to strike a balance between “having faith” and obeying government regulations?
2. In what ways can your church maintain engagement and community with those who lack technological resources?
3. Have you found that the pandemic has created a fertile ground for Gospel sharing in your community?