- Christine Armstrong
'What's your story' Evangelism in a Pandemic
We’re on the rock and they’re on sinking sand
God is the ultimate evangelist and He’s always at work seeking people - even in this pandemic!
Although many of us know this truth, we need reminding of it. As Rico Tice and I prayerfully considered how we would encourage and help our church family to embrace their role in what God is doing, the passage we decided to lead with was a very familiar one. It was the story of two houses, one built on the rock by the wise man and the other built on sand by the foolish man - Matthew 7:24-27.
The wind and waves we’re all experiencing from COVID-19 made this passage especially poignant and relevant. It also very simply helps us see that everyone is ultimately in one of two stories.
What’s striking is that on the surface both of the houses look fine. It wasn't until the storm came that the stability of the building or lack thereof was revealed.
As we know, people build their lives on and live for many things other than God. We’ve seen people relying on all sorts of things for hope and to cope in this pandemic, things like their garden, online learning and even helping others.
As Christians, we’re not immune from feeling anxious, overwhelmed, fearful and disheartened. Before COVID, I felt like I had more control, freedom and independence which was in keeping with the secular storyline that Sam Chan helpfully pointed out in City Bible Forum’s Post-COVID playbook. But the security that storyline offered was an illusion because almost overnight it changed. I could no longer live in the often individualistic way I used to, I couldn’t control what I could do next week, let alone in a few months, and there was a real sense that my actions would affect others and I could be spreading an unseen virus. So instead of independence, I was reminded of our interdependence and ultimate dependence on the Lord as our rock for everything.
In the secular storyline, people fool themselves that they don’t have to be accountable or dependent on anyone else, least of all God.
How do we show people that Jesus is the rock and the world is sinking sand?
We need to pray that the Lord would use us in what He’s doing and that he’d help us create opportunities to share our story about how Jesus is our rock. To do that we need to prioritise, plan and intentionally connect with people. We’re to live out the gospel and share our lives with people by getting to know them, valuing and genuinely caring for them. Serving them practically where we can, building real friendships. This may look different in COVID but it’s still possible and we’ve recognised two major themes:
We're all more local. God amazingly invites us to be part of what He’s up to in our neighbours’ lives and in our local communities. An example of this is that by God’s grace, I’ve met new people in my neighbourhood. I’ve been having chats with a 94-year-old man I met in a local park which started with a simple “hello”. He isn’t a Christian but his son goes to church in Korea. So maybe his son has been praying for him. We’ve already talked about some of his difficult past and a bit about God and death and I’ve given him a gospel tract. I’ve also started reading The Word One to One with a neighbour of mine who has been struggling with one of her newborn twins being unwell. That started by sharing I had been praying for her and this opened up an opportunity to talk about God and an invitation to read John’s gospel with me.
We're more tech savvy. What’s been remarkable and joyful to experience is that the walls have come down through technology. Our online Christianity Explored courses have allowed church family to invite friends and family who geographically could never have physically come. We’ve had people from all over the UK join us, plus people from parts of the USA and other countries. If we can’t meet in person on a one-to-one level, we can make the effort to arrange a virtual coffee to catch-up over the phone or video call and find out how they’re really doing. I’m in London but have been watching our online church services every Sunday via Skype with my Mum and brother based in Australia. Many people are lonely and might be really blessed by our offers to check in and spend time with them, even if it’s not in person.
(In the next instalment of this blog, Christine will suggest ideas to discover people's stories and help them think about the beauty of the gospel)