A fellow South Florida pastor recently told me that, “The American Church is spiritually unprepared for this next season.” He’s right. As the country continues to grapple with the spread of COVID-19, renewed racial tension, an uncertain economic outlook, and what is assuredly to be an ugly election, the Church – God’s people – are facing something of a fork-in-the-road moment.
Flattening the curve of the coronavirus is and continues to be inconvenient and painful. It has meant major changes to our daily rhythms, comfort and convenience. It has brought pain and grief to those who have lost loved ones. It has caused work and economic disruption along with increased stress and anxieties about the future. In the midst of the chaos, we have also discovered something deeper and indeed much more sinister than the coronavirus pandemic: an asymptomatic Christianity that has created the perfect storm for a spiritual epidemic to flourish.
We’ve grown comfortable. Similar to much of the spread of COVID-19, we’ve had the virus of Christian faith, but failed to show symptoms of infection as we continued to chase comfort, security, convenience, pastoral personalities and a highly individualized definition of success. Symptoms of love, unity, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness may have manifested as the sniffles or a scratchy throat at times but not enough to raise concern – let alone a doctor’s visit or hospitalization. However, similar to the coronavirus pandemic, our spiritual pandemic is also an issue of life and death.
What is interesting about COVID-19 is the way the virus spreads. To date, the CDC is reporting that up to 50-80% of infections are asymptomatic, meaning people who have and can transmit the virus show no signs or symptoms of being infected. Christianity – our faith in Jesus and the message of the gospel – does not work like COVID-19. God’s people cannot be asymptomatic and hope that Christianity is going to spread and take root in culture.
To stop the spread of the coronavirus, collaboration and inconvenience are essential. Governments, nonprofits, businesses, and tech and pharmaceutical companies are connecting and collaborating at an unprecedented scale to create and produce a safe and effective vaccine. For citizens, the inconvenience of social distancing, facial coverings and learning to adjust to the realities of the “new normal” play an essential role in curbing the spread of the virus.
Similarly, in order for God’s Kingdom to grow here on earth, collaboration and inconvenience are essential. Scripture reminds us time and time again that the world will know and believe in the claims of Christianity by our love and unity – by the “symptoms” of our faith – by the fruit of God’s spirit. Love and longsuffering, faithfulness and self-control just to name a few, are by their very nature inconvenient. They require death to preference and convenience for the sake of others. Put plainly: Christianity is inconvenient and necessitates collaboration.
Are you contagious?
If there is one thing the coronavirus has exposed it is that in order for lasting change and transformation to happen, God’s people must be awakened and shaken of their comfort, preferences, and convenience and embrace a faith that bids us to come and die so that we may truly live. In order for South Florida to look more and more like heaven lived out on earth, God’s people must be contagious. Our neighbors, friends, and co-workers should see our lives and recognize the symptoms of our spiritual virus: joy, hope, love, peace, kindness, wisdom, and gentleness that is rooted in a deep love for Jesus and others.
Christian, this our time. We were made for this. We were made to be contagious.
Edwin Copeland serves as the Director of Church United with the National Christian Foundation of South Florida where he works to unify the Church through collaboration and celebration to see faith, hope, and love spread throughout South Florida. To learn more about Church United, visit churchunited.city