Monday, 6 April 2020
This storm will be over. However, for those who sincerely reflect, the way we do ministry may not remain the same as it recedes. For some, it may likely leave behind it a wreckage of the materialistic and cross-less gospels we have inundated our congregations with in recent years. For others yet, attempts may be made to rekindle the false hopes and so called prophetic merchandise. But most likely, many people may know better because our weaknesses and human limitations have been exposed. All over the globe, there is a disruption of our established systems because everything is shaken and put out of normal order. As God’s ministers, we will all have to make fresh decisions on how to move on post COVID-19 pandemic.
This current situation has exposed the emptiness of false hopes in religious rituals. Denominational worship rituals, burial rituals, holy orders, holy communion on death bed, and touching and kissing of the feet and hand of the ‘man of God’ are all not observed anymore because of the urgency caused by this disease outbreak. I read a news item how a priest is at one of the Crematoriums in Madrid, Spain and all a burial ceremony takes is barely five minutes because in the next fifteen minutes, another Hearse will arrive with another wooden casket containing the corpse of another dead. No lying-in state, no eulogy, no hugs and kisses because only about a few family relatives are allowed to come around, standing at a distance, you can stream the short ceremony for those at home to watch. The entire process is handled by the staff of the Morgue in protective gears. Our rituals, as good as they may be on their own, become problems when they block people’s view from seeing Christ and putting their trust in Him. From what is going on currently, religious worship centers are closed, there is no time for most rituals because everybody, including those who keep the rituals, is on his own, striving to protect himself. It is obvious that not everybody will have the opportunity of saying goodbye to his loved ones at death, not everybody will have a priest or pastor by his dying bed, every dead will not have a “proper burial” as we used to practice before now. What humanity is experiencing all over the world confirms these facts. The Information Minister recently announced that for those that died of the disease, no corpse will be released to the families for private burial. Everything is disrupted. Imagine where someone had placed his eternal hope on the burial ritual that will be conducted after he is dead, and he dies in this period. If your hope is in religious rituals and not in Christ, you have a false hope. Those who taught people to place their hopes in these rituals may need to think again.
The lies and helplessness of the power and control of materialistic theology of health and wealth are glaring at us in the face, like the day light. While money offers no hope in difficult times like these, the Gospel of Jesus is very powerful and not only offers hope and peace for now, but also gives hope beyond this life. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25-26 NIV. Most TV preaching are so irrelevant today that even the emotions and feelings they used to create may transform into irritations to their listeners. They do not offer any consolations to people in this current predicament. The rate of the spread of the disease and the statistics being reeled out are making many hearts afraid and forcing them to think more of eternity than their accumulations and earthly success. An atheist, a Medical Doctor recently repented and acknowledged God in the middle of this crisis in Italy because of the realities he is forced to face. Most people are no more thinking about what their tithes and offerings will do for them because even the person that used to receive the tithes and offerings may not even be available to receive them. Everybody is in a survival mode thinking about life and existence and what happens after. The theology some people have espoused over the years is so irrelevant today that even they themselves are currently confused as well as their followers and nobody knows what to tell the other.
Again, ministries and churches that are ran as an administrative establishments and institutional organizations with little or no emphasis on fellowship and personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ may find it difficult these days. Many of us are so separated from our parishioners and members that all we know or think about them is statistics and numbers. Ministry membership is analyzed by the numbers the ushers submit to us and the amount of money in the offering box. We have become more like astute administrators and organization managers using our members as human resource materials to accomplish our dreams, instead of pastors and shepherds of their souls. Members are no more seen as souls that Christ died and shed His blood for. The current situation has put strain on the organized establishments and those whose validity of Christian life and ministry is based on church activities have suddenly discovered that their faith is like onions - remove all the skins one by one and you have nothing else left. We have been forced to close our churches and fellowship venues and some people are empty because they never had any seed inside of them. But the truth is that churches that are like fellowships are better off today than churches that are ran as institutional organizations. For the first time, some of us are forced to calm down and live by ‘faith’. Living by faith, by the way, is not an exclusively reserved lifestyle of missionaries and those that do independent missionary ministries, it is supposed to be our lifestyle as Christians at all levels.
Finally, we may need to rethink the emphasis we lay on the physical building as the ‘house or temple of God’. Many have invested so much on the architectural building than on lives of church members. While the New Covenant is laying emphasis on our bodies as temples of God, we often lay more emphasis on the physical civil building as the temple of God. This emphasis equally defines our priority on resources distribution and allocation. In Italy currently, most churches are used as a holding point for corpses before they are buried because of the daily number of deaths which the army, who are carrying out the burials, are struggling to manage. As this COVID-19 pandemic reached Nigeria, churches and other worship centers were the first places to be closed down even before bars and night clubs were closed. We are forced to begin to look for alternatives how to fellowship together. Many commentators have even suggested that if we have an escalation that our big churches and conference centers should be used for adhoc hospitals and holding centers. If the physical building then is really the temple of God, does it mean that COVID-19 has kept us away from God’s temple? It is good for us to have places of fellowship, but if you miss building human lives, God’s temples and lively stones, as a leader, you have missed everything.
The truth is that we all need to do soul searching as we pray that this storm be over. How relevant is what I have been preaching to the lives of my members today? Assuming my members are living in areas that are hard hit by this COVID-19 disease, how relevant will my preaching be to them? Will my preaching help them weather through this storm? Are their hearts at peace in Christ due to what I taught them over the years or are they confused with questions they cannot even ask me?
I believe that the current situation is redefining ministry, or better put, is pointing us back to real ministry. We need to ask God to show us what He is doing through this situation, as tragic as it is, so that we can adjust our lives to Him.
May His healing overshadow all that are afflicted in Jesus name. Amen.