Three. That’s the number of churches that have made headlines in less than a week – the latest being two staff from Grace Assembly of God (AOG) who were reported last night to have come down with COVID-19 infection.
Together with the other patients linked to churches, they account for eight out of a total of 50 cases in Singapore. Unsurprisingly, this has caused disruptions to church life for many congregations.
As a precautionary measure, Grace AOG announced that it would stop all church services and activities at both its Tanglin and Bukit Batok locations for two weeks.
Separately, in a note addressed to church members yesterday, Paya Lebar Methodist Church’s pastor-in-charge Rev Dr Kow Shih Ming shared that these have also been challenging days ever since they received the news of a grandfather who visited their premises before hospital admission.
“We experienced the gamut of emotions such as fear, anxiety, confusion, worry, bewilderment, anger, desperation, uncertainty. I apologise that our best efforts may not have been able to dispel or soothe these emotions completely,” he said.
Quoting from Philippians 4:6-7, he added: “Though I may fail you, I know One who is more than able to meet you where you are and bring a peace into your hearts that surpasses our human understanding.”
Pastor Kow then reminded everyone that there was a magnificent rainbow seen across the skies of Singapore two days ago.
He said: “For many, it was a beautiful sight to see. For us who follow Jesus, it is also a reminder of a promise given to all humankind.”
“I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” (Genesis 9:13)
“The covenant is the promise that God made to humankind that He will not flood the earth again like He did in the days of Noah. The rainbow is the sign of this covenant promise. Hence, the rainbow is an assurance that tomorrow will be a better day.”
If the clouds are a metaphor for trouble (Ezekiel 30:3), then the presence of the rainbow in the clouds is a clear assurance that God is with us even in trying times such as these, Pastor Kow concluded.
Indeed, while many outside the Church have used this occasion to question if God could be good if He couldn’t even protect His own from being afflicted, the simple answer is this.
After the world was created, the Bible talks about how God looked at all He made and said “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
But something soon happened that shattered that perfect reality – namely man’s choice to act in disobedience and choose his own will over God’s (Genesis 2:16-17).
Ever since the fall of man, or what we also call sin, we’ve had to face many difficulties in life, including suffering and death.
However, the Good News for those who believe in Jesus Christ is that the church has always been a place for the sick.
THE CHURCH IS WHERE THE SICK CAN FIND HELP
As we all now know, eight out of these 50 cases (16%) who tested positive for the virus have been to church recently. That’s not a bad percentage, really.
(As a very loose comparison, The General Household Survey 2015 tells us that 18.8% of our resident population aged 15 and above are Christian.)
But beyond being a place for the physically unwell, Jesus once described Himself this way: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)
Jesus came for those who are in need of healing and help, and for those who need rescuing from this imperfect world. That is why we can call Him our Saviour.
Jesus himself said plainly: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
THE CHURCH CAN STILL BE A SHINING WITNESS
Despite this time of trial, we can also be confident that God is still at work.
Consider how everyone got so curious about a church in Paya Lebar that many ended up tuning in to the livestream by The Life Church and Missions Singapore, which had to cancel its services after five patients were found to have links to the church.
Senior Pastor Vincent Choo shared with us that they had around 1,130 viewers at peak – about four times more than their usual average viewership. In addition, some of the points from his sermon have also been reported in local media.
So “bad press” or not, I’m reminded about Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi when he was imprisoned. Christ is being preached.
“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel.
The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter?
The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice…” (Philippians 1:15-18)
The spotlight is certainly on the Church – but it’s up to us what others will see.
As someone wise once reminded me, when people are at the crossroads, they are most ready to be pointed to the Cross. Are we seizing the opportunities to do that?
Let’s not waste this chance to share the Good News of peace, hope and love. For this moment may never come again – at least not in this way.
It has been a difficult time for many churches, but let’s continue to stand together as one Body of Christ and let our light shine so that our Father in heaven may be glorified (Matthew 5:16).
- Pray for wisdom and strength for the church leadership to make sound plans
- Pray for those who have been infected and quarantined
- Pray for protection against the coronavirus for those who are well
- Pray for love and unity to be evident through the body of Christ