I have had the privilege of being a pastor and evangelist for many years. I am used to interacting with crowds of people on a daily basis. Because of the coronavirus (COVID-19), I can no longer host live events or attend church—which has gotten me thinking about what ‘church’ really means.
These thoughts led me to the book of Acts, which tells the story of the early church. In Acts, we read about God working powerfully through followers of Jesus who were being persecuted by rulers and government officials. These believers often had to stay in their homes and have very small, secret meetings in order to worship together.
They felt fear and anxiety amid uncertain and unsettling times—a feeling many of us are familiar with today.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic is not the same as religious persecution in Acts. But we can still learn from how the early church responded to adverse circumstances.
Luke, the author of Acts, says the early believers:
Devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
Although we are prevented from physically being together during this time of crisis, here are several ways we can still imitate the early church.
The believers dedicated themselves to teaching and fellowship.
Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, many of us have the ability to access solid gospel teaching from home. I encourage you to tune in to an online church service or podcast each week. I have also launched an online series called “The Bible Quarantine,” which you can watch on Facebook, Instagram and FOX Nation.
Be intentional about connecting with other believers over the phone, online, or even through snail mail. Commit to reading God’s Word each day. There are great resources at hand for diving into Scripture (visit Year of the Bible for free Bible study tools).
The believers devoted themselves to prayer.
Although it is tempting to check the news and social media for important updates throughout the day, try to resist turning to those things in your free time. Instead, set aside time to pray each day.
Pray for those around the world who have been affected by this pandemic, for the doctors and nurses who are working around the clock to treat patients, and for the researchers who are trying to understand the virus.
Pray for those who are out of work and experiencing economic hardship. Pray for those who are at high-risk of contracting the virus. Pray for your family, friends and neighbors. Turn the urge to check your phone into a moment to pray.
The believers were in awe.
We do not know what the future holds. Many of us are worried. We are wondering what will happen tomorrow, next week, and even in the months ahead. Will our jobs be affected? Will schools be open for the next school year?
But as Acts teaches us, the early church was amazed at how God was moving in perilous times. This doesn’t mean they ignored the reality they lived in, but they had their eyes set on what God was doing in and around them, and this allowed them to walk with a sense of expectancy rather than fear.
The believers had all things in common and took care of each other’s needs.
People are hurting financially right now. Some people can’t leave their homes for basic necessities because they are elderly or have serious health conditions. Consider how you can give to meet a need, whether through a monetary donation or by offering to buy groceries for someone and leaving them on the doorstep.
In addition, I and the rest of the Pulse team want to help. Tag us on social media if you know of someone who is in need of meals, other resources, or prayer. You can also reach out to us at email@example.com.
The believers were thankful and praised God.
It can be difficult to maintain a positive attitude when facing hardship. Yet, we must remember all that we have to be thankful for. Take time each day to thank God for the blessings in your life or start a gratitude journal. Praise often quells our fears and reminds us that if God has been faithful in the past, he will be faithful in the future.
The believers led others to Jesus.
God calls the church for times just like the one we are living in. As Jesus said, we are to shine our light before others so they might come to know him (Matt. 5:14-15). Pray that God will call people to himself during this time. Use the resources you have to share the Good News: contact someone virtually, write a letter, make a phone call, or contribute to an organization that is committed to meeting physical and spiritual needs.
When I read Acts, I am reminded that the church is global and vibrant. It cannot be infected and it cannot be quarantined. The church is not a building or a service; it is people. COVID-19 has changed our lives. But it has not changed the church.
Nick Hall is the visionary of the Together movement, author of Reset, and the founder of PULSE, a ministry at the center of the largest millennial-led prayer and outreach efforts in the world.