These are strange times we’re living in. COVID-19 has turned our lives upside-down.
And with our churches not meeting together in person, many of us might feel a little bit unsure of how we can continue to serve at a time like this. After all, there’s no coffee to be brewed, no chairs to be set up, no programs to be assembled and passed out, no children to do kid’s church for, no one to greet, no one to help find a parking place.
But we have a unique opportunity during this time, rather than taking a break from serving, to serve the mission of the church in new and exciting ways.
Jesus has called us to love our neighbors. And now is a time when our neighborhoods, communities, and networks could use some love. We just have to think creatively about how to show people the love of Jesus during this time.
Here are 4 key ways you can love your neighbors during the COVID-19 crisis.
1. Stay home.
This is a simple one, but if you live in an area affected by a stay-at-home advisory, the best way to love your neighbors is to actually stay home.
One pastor in Florida was recently arrested for disregarding social distancing mandates and continuing to hold large church gatherings. He believes he’s suffering persecution. However, I believe he is acting foolishly.
The County Sheriff who ordered the arrest said this about the pastor: “His reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk, as well as put thousands of residents who may interact with them in danger.” And he’s right. The Church ought to always be an advocate of whatever will preserve human life–even if that means we have to set aside some of our routines, traditions, platforms, and potential financial contributions.
Defying legitimate public health recommendations isn’t something the Church should ever be known for.
I don’t imagine that anyone is coming to arrest you for visiting your friends’ homes or making other unnecessary in-person social contact with others. But we should still take the directions we are receiving from our governmental leaders seriously.
Even if you think it’s an overreaction. Even if you think it’s extreme.
Because you love your neighbors, follow the social distancing and stay-at-home advisories in your area. Follow them to a tee. Support your leaders and ease the worried minds of the people who are around you.
Loving your neighbors means caring about their physical well being. And right now, that means working to support our government leaders in flattening the curve.
2. Be intentional about creating new community rhythms.
While most of us feel isolated, the fact of the matter is that we’re all experiencing the same things. We’re getting stir-crazy. We’re worried about our jobs. Our kids are driving us crazy and tearing apart our houses. We feel bored and stressed at the same time. You, your neighbors, your loved ones, and Facebook friends are all experiencing these things right now. And chances are that most of them feel alone in the midst of it.
You have the ability to help people see that they are not alone. What’s more is that as a follower of Jesus, you have the calling to do so.
So use this time to be intentional about creating community. Don’t wait for a friend to call or text you. Call them. Text them. Zoom or Skype or FaceTime them. Check in on your friends and neighbors regularly. We’re blessed to live in a time where all these great technologies that can connect us from afar are freely available to us. Let’s leverage them to share the love of Jesus in community with other people.
In fact, this stay at home order has caused me to connect with friends that I don’t normally spend a lot of time with, because they live far away. My wife, Tamara, has been on Zoom calls with out-of-state friends, and so have I.
And hopefully some of these new rhythms of community that we intentionally begin during this time will continue to be rhythms in our lives long after we’ve been released back to our normal routines. But there’s no better time than now to start those new rhythms of community.
3. Be intentional about what you’re posting on your social media.
Since many of us are at home with a little bit more free time, we’re spending more time on social media. And while that isn’t always a good thing, it does present an opportunity for followers of Jesus to be a light of encouragement. So leverage your platform to point people to Jesus. Use your social media platforms to inspire hope and joy.
There are any number of ways you can do that. Post about what you’re reading in the Bible. Reshare a blog or article that you found encouraging and helpful. Post your at-home workout and interact with people in the comments and encourage them in their fitness. Share all the creative ways you’re interacting with your children and your neighbors. Comment on your friends’ posts with something fun and uplifting.
Be positive and helpful. Find ways to start conversations and let your social media friends know that you care about them.
4. Think strategically about how to spread the message of Jesus this Easter.
Easter is coming soon. In fact, it’ll be here before our stay-at-home and social distancing advisories are lifted. So Easter will look a little different this year. And that’s okay. Let’s make the most of the opportunities we’ve been presented in this season.
This Easter is going to be memorable no matter what. But we have a choice to make it memorable for how depressing it was or to make it memorable for all the unique ways we allowed Jesus to work through us. Let’s choose the latter.
Here’s one way you can do that. Reach out to your neighbors and loved ones who don’t know Jesus. Invite them to watch your church’s online service, and host a video call to discuss it afterward.
Some people who wouldn’t feel comfortable walking into a church building may be open to an online experience. Let them know you are praying for them and that you hope they join you. And who knows–it may lead to them eventually attending a church service in person.
If you typically serve at church on a Sunday morning, now is a unique season to begin spending that time serving in a different way. Easter is our time to shine, even (and especially) this year.
We’re all in this together. The sooner we realize that, the better off we’ll be.
It’s easy to feel alone. But you’re not. That’s the promise that Jesus made to us when he commissioned us to do his work. He said, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b).
And what’s more is that we can be here for each other. And together, we can be here for our communities. We have a unique opportunity. Let’s not waste it. Let’s find creative ways to love our neighbors during this COVID-19 crisis. And when this season has passed, we will have so many stories to tell about God’s great faithfulness to us.