We are in a worldwide pandemic that has caused most of the world to be under lockdown orders from their consecutive governments. People are not working like they typically would, and school kids are not learning at school like they typically would. Churches are also not meeting up, as are other religious gatherings. While this is happening, it can be tempting for believers to also think and functionally operate like the gospel is also under lockdown. It is not. Our mission in the world is still the same: to see dead people made alive by our proclamation of the gospel. We are still in the business of making disciples.
We live in a world and at a time when there are so many distractions that pull us in all ways. Besides the current lockdown, we know how all across the world Christians have often neglected the mission of God as they strived to climb corporate ladders, make as much money as they can and in some cases idolize their families to a fault where the gospel and the mission of God are not at the center of many families' priorities. Under lockdown though, all these distractions are somewhat gone for some folks, and yet newer and more nuanced distractions present themselves.
By virtue of my Zimbabwean heritage, my current US residence and my previous stint doing ministry in South Africa, I get to interact with brothers and sisters with very different perspectives on life, yet all of them have the same call: to make much of King Jesus by proclaiming his good news. Yet there are distractions that are evident in each of these unique places, and everywhere else in the world. When we set our eyes off of the goal for a second, we not only become disobedient, we also miss out on real opportunities to make much of Jesus to those close to us. We cannot afford this, friends. The gospel is an urgent message that a hopeless world needs.
Brittany and I are blessed to be at Old North Church in this particular season, and mainly for one reason: in my view, the Church has literally tightened its screws in pastoral care and discipleship because of this lockdown - which is a blessing to see and learn from. Interacting with the "behind the scenes" thoughts and conversations among the pastors and elders has constantly got me thinking: these men really love these people. Praise be to God! I know loads of churches in Zimbabwe, South Africa and indeed the US who are working hard and are keeping their eyes on the mission. Thank you for your faithfulness in the work of our Lord Jesus.
Some of the prevalent distractions I have noted range from serious to less serious, but we are all pulled in different directions by them. I know for me, while I could use my late evenings in more meaningful ways, I spend my time in frivolity sometimes — binging on Netflix, or YouTube funny videos. I mean, there is time for that for sure, but I often have nights where I actually do more meaningful things with my time — writing, reading, thinking, preparing studies, etc.
No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. (2 Timothy 2:4-6)
A lot of people are probably distracted by the unending hole called internet browsing. Or maybe entertainment of varied forms. Again, I am not saying any of this is bad — but I would like you to consider if you could invest a good amount of your time in things that concern eternity. We are here for a mission. Like soldiers, we focus on the mission and not civilian pursuits. Like an athlete, we seek to complete the race. As farmers, we work hard to see Christ formed in ourselves as in others.
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! (2 Timothy 2:19)
Here is good news: we are under lockdown - but the gospel is not! Paul as an apostle to the gentiles is locked up for a significant time period. You would think he just spent time in jail grumbling about the unfairness of his imprisonment or how the conditions in prison were an impediment to his individual rights. He does not. The gospel continues to go forth. He is an encouragement to the Gentile churches even in his suffering. Friends, let us have a laser focus on this — eternity is beckoning, many are dying and headed to hell — may the gospel going forth be what consumes our thoughts and time.
Do not waste your lockdown. I beg you, please do not. This is a ripe time for you to bring up conversations about eternity, death, life, and hope. This is an opportunity for you to start a habit of reading the Bible. This is an opportunity for you to pray more. Write that blog. Start that YouTube channel to encourage others. Start reading the Bible with your unbelieving friend on Zoom/WhatsApp. Start a family Bible study. Whatever it is you have in mind — do it! This not a break from the mission. In God's name, I beg you, this is not a break. Keep pressing forth and press even harder.
What a glorious thing to know that COVID-19 does not take our "jobs"! As proclaimers of the gospel, we are in business. On Zoom, on Instagram, on Twitter — we want people to see and hear over and over again that there is a hope set for us in heaven that is imperishable — they can access this hope by putting faith in Christ.
Thank God for a gospel that is not under lockdown!