This is a “defining moment of discipleship”: Pastor Benny Ho on COVID-19
Pastor Benny Ho // February 21, 2020, 11:37 am
"In a national crisis, may the Body of Christ rise in oneness of spirit and purpose," urges Pastor Benny Ho.
Three years ago, Singapore’s Church leadership declared 2018 as ‘The Year of Prayer’, 2019 as ‘The Year of Proclamation’, and 2020 as ‘The Year of Personal Discipleship’. I believe this is not random but rather, prophetic.
Year 2020 is truly turning out to be a year of discipleship. It informs us how we should view our present crisis. If we respond to this crisis correctly, it can turn out to be a defining moment of discipleship for our nation.
Amid this crisis, I see seven defining discipleship moments:
1. This is a time of redemption
In a time of global crisis, the Church is driven to a place where we are helpless. We face an enemy that is invisible and silent.
God takes what the devil means for harm and turns it around for His redemptive purposes.
Like Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20, we turn to God and we confess to Him that we do not know what to do but our eyes are upon Him. We are driven to our knees. We come to a place where we can only stand and see the deliverance of our God!
And His deliverance, we will see! It is amazing how God takes what the devil means for harm and turns it around for His redemptive purposes. Because of this crisis, there is a greater burden to pray. There is a greater desperation to trust God. There is a greater passion to see the Church revived.
For example, Grace Assembly of God, the biggest cluster for the virus outbreak: We see cell groups spontaneously coming together to pray (and not roam) online. We see an upsurge in cell group attendance and a greater outpouring of love and care among the members.
Truly, “crisis” is when our eyes are opened wider to see who Christ really is!
2. This is a time for self-examination
This crisis is also a great opportunity for us to examine the condition of our heart and the direction of our life. In this crisis, when so many are asking how to stay alive, the real question we ought to be asking is: What are we living for?
The issue is not just to stay alive but to be alive to the purposes of God.
It is a time for us to check if we are truly living for what truly matters. The issue is not just to stay alive but to be alive to the purposes of God.
In the face of death, our values are redefined. What was so important before may not be that important now.
In the face of imminent dangers, our priorities are rearranged. This is a great opportunity to have deep conversations about what we are living for.
Are we merely existing or are we truly living? Are we living for the right stuff? Are we marching to the right drumbeat? Are we governed by biblical or worldly values? Are we living for what really matters?
3. This is a time of decision
In a time like this, many will be making decisions about a lot of things. To travel or not to travel. To gather or not to gather. To cancel or not to cancel. To meet or not to meet. And so on.
Heads of households and organisations will have to make the critical calls that will affect the people they are leading.
And the truth is, whatever decisions they make will spark criticism. If they choose to cancel, there will be those who will question if this is a lack of faith. If they choose to go ahead, there will be those who wonder if they are being sensible and responsible. There are no easy answers.
Give each other the freedom to do as the Lord would guide, according to our relationship with Him.
The leaders are the ones who have to bear the burden of command. And either way, it would take courage to make decisions and stick with them.
It takes courage to choose to carry on business as usual and it takes an equal amount of courage to decide not to carry on. The leader will have to be led by the Lord and be bold to make the call.
The best way for the people to respond would be to recognise the burden of command their leaders carry, accept the decisions, come alongside their leaders, and choose to encourage rather than to criticise them.
However, leaders must remember that our members need to be led by the Spirit, too. So if they cannot embrace our decision in faith, if they are not able to sincerely follow the decision we made, without faking it, they must be given the freedom to make their own choices before God.
Whatever is not done in faith cannot please God. Therefore, according to their faith, so be it for them.
The guiding principle is that those who choose to gather must not judge those who choose not to. And those who choose not to gather, must not judge those who choose to do so. Then we are giving each other the freedom to do as the Lord would guide, according to our relationship with Him.
4. This is a time for prayer mobilisation
This is the best time to mobilise prayer in the Church for divine protection and sweeping revival in Singapore and China, especially at the COVID-19 epicentre, Wuhan.
We will ‘Raise a Hallelujah’ to the Lord in the presence of our enemy.
2 Chronicles 7:14, Jeremiah 33:3 and Philippians 4:6-8 are anchor verses for such a time as this. That is why Love Singapore has issued a national prayer dubbed PraySingapore@12.
Every day, at the strike of 12 (noon), when our phone alarms ring, wherever we are, we will stop whatever we are doing, pause and pray one minute (at least) for our nation. For as long as the Spirit leads, we keep on. We can go five minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour.
In the same way, I am proposing for my church in Perth to activate Prayer@7.14pm. At the strike of 7.14pm on our phones, we will pray for Wuhan, for China, Singapore and Perth.
We will do this as individuals, as a family or as a cell group. We will ‘Raise a Hallelujah’ to the Lord in the presence of our enemy. We will declare that He is truly our “Waymaker, Miracle-worker, Promise-keeper, Light in the darkness”; this is who He is!
5. This is a time for authentic discipleship
The best way to disciple our people is not by more studying but by doing. In a time of crisis, we learn to live out our faith in tangible ways – not in theory but in practice. It is a time for us to trust God to be our Protector, our Provider, our Healer, our Defender, our Good Shepherd, plus so much more.
In a time of crisis, we learn to live out our faith in tangible ways – not in theory but in practice.
This is the time for our shepherds to discern where our flocks are and allow our Chief Shepherd to guide us on what we need to teach and to impart to our people.
It will be different from flock to flock, but one thing is common: In a time of crisis, our flock will be far more open to receive and believe. This is a great time to disciple our people!
The complacent will need to be challenged. The committed will need to be encouraged. The confused will need to be grounded in Truth to anchor their faith. The cold will need to be revived.
Whatever the Lord directs us to do, we must do it with courage so that the Singapore Church will emerge stronger.
6. This is a time for united action
In a national crisis, may the Body of Christ rise in oneness of spirit and purpose.
Our years of making every effort to keep the unity through LoveSingapore’s annual prayer summits, equipping conferences, and citywide concerts of prayer, can now culminate in tangible and visible actions of affirming one another, encouraging one another, praying for one another, caring for one another, serving one another, speaking well of one another and loving one another.
This is happening not just among churches here in Singapore. Globally, churches around the world are beginning to pray, to give and to serve one another. City to city, nation to nation. This global crisis will bring churches and nations closer together to love one another like never before.
7. This is a time to go in the opposite spirit
When the world is fearful and uncertain, the Church of Christ must go in the opposite spirit. This is not the time for the Church to cower away in fear but to arise in humble-boldness and demonstrate our confidence in the Lord. This is not a time to retreat but to advance!
Just as the medical personnel from different parts of China are converging in Wuhan to serve their fellow citizens, the Church must rise up and become a messenger of faith, hope and love.
Instead of passing on bad news out of fear, we choose to speak faith and life to those around us. Instead of promoting a sense of hopelessness, we choose to tell others of the hope that we can have in Christ. Instead of blaming and pointing out the weaknesses of those in authority, we choose to honour and cheer them on.
That is why Salt&Light has chosen to broadcast all the good things that churches and organisations are doing to spread faith, hope and love in our city for such a time as this. This is the time for the Church to become a bearer of good news. And the best news we get to share is the Good News of the Gospel!