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4 Pastors, 4 Countries, and COVID-19

Perspectives on COVID-19 from various countries.

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We interviewed 4 pastors in 4 different countries to hear how their churches are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. What measures are they taking, and what do they feel God is speaking through this situation?

What concrete actions has your church taken to get through the COVID-19 crisis? 

Mark Cabag (Pastor of The City Iloilo, Philippines): We established 3 ”Es” for our church – examine, exercise, and engage. We want to examine the Scriptures and ask the Holy Spirit for His thoughts on this crisis. We want to exercise our bodies and our minds, so we can be healthy for the duration of this quarantine. And we want to engage a fearful world with the hope we have found in Christ.

David Kropf (Pastor of Chapman Community Chapel, Pennsylvania, USA): The measures we have taken have changed gradually.  At first, we continued to hold services while discouraging hand shaking and we stopped passing the offering plate around.  Now that we have stay-at-home orders issued by the Governor of Pennsylvania, I am trying to post a video every Sunday morning for the congregation to watch.  We also have a list where we can contact our people in case of emergency, that was intended to be used when we had to cancel services because of snow – it has become very useful at this time.

What is your biggest concern for your congregation during this time? What dangers are you guarding and praying against?

Henry Mukisa (Pastor of Cornerstone Community Church, Entebbe, Uganda): The biggest concern I have right now is protection and survival for our people – many of our members are casual day laborers who can’t survive without daily earning.

“Church will never be the same again. It will never be “business as usual again” after this round of shaking. A new norm is being birthed.   The Acts church is being revived among us – an unshakeable church is arising.” -Mark Poh

This is a great danger, since our government does not have the ability to bail people out, due to the increased financial challenges the nation is facing. I am deeply praying for breakthrough, so my people will be able to survive with at least one basic meal a day. This is the priority right now.

Mark Poh (Pastor of Emmanuel Assembly of God, Singapore): I am concerned that the congregation could become disengaged during this period, and develop an unhealthy habit of complacency. We are praying for the children of God to remain unshakeable, draw closer to God, and not take unnecessary health risks.

David Kropf (USA): The lack of fellowship can be a grave danger.  People were intended to live life with others and isolation can lead to depression and many other problems.  I think the loss of connection is bad.

We all know and often say that the church is more than just a building, but this has given us a chance to prove it.  How can the church express itself when we aren’t meeting every Sunday?

Henry Mukisa (Uganda): The most important factor is that Christians are bound together by relationship – not by the church building! I relate this to a married couple, where one spouse is temporarily working in a distant country. Does this cause challenges? Yes, of course. But can the marriage still work? Yes! If the two have built a relationship, they can remain strong even though they are physically apart.

This is a time to use all available avenues to reach out to each other and pray for each other, to extend practical acts of love as we navigate through these challenging times. I believe these actions will keep us together.

 

Mark Cabag (Philippines): Discipleship is not just a meeting but a relationship. A thriving and healthy relationship makes a way when there seems to be no way. We will use all possible means to meet together, communicate, and do ministry together. In this case, we make use of media, like Facebook Live for our messages, and Zoom conference calls to keep in touch with one another, continuing accountability and praying together.

Mark Poh (Singapore): I absolutely agree that time has come for the Church to live out its call and essence in its truest form.  When COVID-19 first broke out, the Lord assured us that instead of our numbers dropping, He would see to it that the numbers of His Body will increase, contrary to our human expectations and understanding. And we have it happening, as the leaders and members themselves engage each other and invite their family and friends to join the online services and chat rooms.

What does the church’s role towards discipleship look like in this time of uncertainty?

David Kropf (USA): During this time, maintaining contact is essential for discipleship.  Obviously, prayerful presentation of messages (even if online) should support growth.  Perhaps this may lead to a different approach to discipleship, that in itself may make the church more effective going forward.

It is very easy to become program-driven in a church.  The stripping away of programs may actually promote discipleship if this time is used to reevaluate what is effective.

Mark Poh (Singapore): This is exactly the time and opportunity for us to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20).  All over the world, leaders are now circumventing the inconvenience or inability to meet in groups or pairs, and are personally discipling and interacting with their flock.

We pray that the church will rise up in all quarters, and that leaders and members alike will take it upon themselves to disciple and be discipled.

Church will never be the same again. It will never be “business as usual again” after this round of shaking. A new norm is being birthed.   The Acts church is being revived among us – an unshakeable church is arising!

The church is to be salt and light to the world. How can we engage in courage in this time of fear, while exercising wisdom towards our missional responsibility?

Mark Cabag (Philippines): During this time, some of the local churches here in our city have mobilized food distribution for the poorer families in the community. Because the government has shut down public transportation, day laborers like jeepney, tricycle and pedicab drivers cannot earn a daily wage. Many local churches have donated resources and manpower towards helping these people.

“We need to live the message of love, extending acts of kindness, encouraging those who have lost their loved ones, and praying for the sick to recover quickly, and praying for leaders and those on the front-lines.” -Henry Mukisa

In a worst-case scenario, where people are dying and needing help, it could mean the church goes out to the world and risks our lives to help others, as the Holy Spirit leads. This is what Christianity is all about, “To live is Christ and to die is gain!

David Kropf (USA): I think we should be Spirit-led in our effort to be salt and light, now more than ever.  When we need to go out, we should prayerfully look for opportunities to show His love.

This should include taking care of those in need around us and actively looking for opportunities to serve.

Henry Mukisa (Uganda): First, it’s important to hold onto the word of God – we realize all these occurrences which seem new and strange have been spoken of in the Bible. We can be resilient in our attitude and actions.

Second, we ought to encourage others to live with hope, knowing that God is in control. Finally, we encourage our people and the communities to follow government instructions and pray for our authorities and others on the front line.

What opportunities does this crisis present for the Church?

Mark Poh (Singapore): Every situation, every threat, and every challenge is an opportunity. This crisis is to be seen as a “Christ-IS.” It points all believers to Christ, the I AM.

Mark Cabag (Philippines): It’s an opportunity to share the hope found in Christ by engaging a dying world. It could be through good works and the good news of the Gospel.

Henry Mukisa (Uganda): In such trying moments, when everything is shaking, there is a wake-up call for all people to think about supernatural and divine intervention. We saw this when President Trump called for a National Day of Prayer in the United States. These are powerful statements that send a powerful message.

“We should have a real message of hope that no matter what we face we do not walk alone.  Therefore, we will not fear death nor any other thing.  This can be a real witness.” -David Kropf

We have a great opportunity to be on the front-line, extending hope and love in any way we can during such a trying moment.

I believe there is going to be a great harvest of souls as people think more of the afterlife; this is a great opportunity for the Church.

Thank you all for your time – last question. What message do you think the Church should be sending to the world in light of COVID-19?

Henry Mukisa (Uganda): I believe we ought to fill our hearts with faith, hope, and love, the three virtues that will abide forever. Then, out of the abundance of our hearts, we will speak these same virtues to the world.

This is a time to speak faith, knowing that we believe He is a good God. Despite what we are beholding with our eyes, He is going to work something good out of these dark times.

Next, everyone needs hope. Economies are shaking, people are losing their jobs, they don’t know how to navigate these times – the Church alone is in a better place because we know there is always hope in Christ.

Finally, we need to live the message of love, extending acts of kindness, encouraging those who have lost their loved ones, and praying for the sick to recover quickly, and praying for leaders and those on the front-lines.

Mark Cabag (Philippines): 3 things we need to declare:

1) That there is a God who rules this earth and he does ALL that He pleases;

2) There is a real enemy whose name is Satan, who wants to kill, steal, and destroy:

3) The earth and everything in it is groaning in the pains of childbirth (Romans 8:22). But – there is a solution! “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14

David Kropf (USA): I think our message needs to be rooted in an attitude of trust.  We declare and demonstrate a real understanding of Psalm 23 – even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death we fear no evil.

We should have a real message of hope that no matter what we face we do not walk alone.  Therefore, we will not fear death nor any other thing.  This can be a real witness.

Mark Poh (Singapore): We need to show that above all, there is a God who is true, living and is everything that He claims to be. If the Church rises up to be the Christ that the world needs to see, the world will understand that Jesus IS THE SAVIOR and LORD of all.

We can display the Church as a body of faith, love and compassion, not fear, intimidation and cowardice.   The local church is the hope of the world pointing people to HOPE Himself.