Is this moment a dress rehearsal?

Walter Russell Mead wrote Aug. 4 in the Wall Street Journal a cogent article about the COVID-19 pandemic. As a sampling, “Eight months after the novel corona-virus burst out of Wuhan, China, it has created unprecedented economic and social disruption, with economies cratering across the globe and more destruction to come.”

By now I was thinking COVID-19 would be harnessed and put back in its laboratory bottle and we would write about it in a history for new generations to read. While personal protection equipment and hand washing has helped mitigate the microbe’s reproduction, new infection records are established daily.

In the United States we have some of the best health-care providers in the world and the survival rate is high. Other countries are not so fortunate—like Sub-Sahara Africa and Brazil. By now one would have thought some kind of vaccine would be distributed and life and industry would return to some kind of normal.

Some will remember as children the threat of nuclear war from missiles located in  Cuba—the fear, the precautions. But churches were full of people praying and getting things right with one another. Then we went back to a new normal. Now, the plague of 2020 has made people in our land feel alone, fearful, and threatened by institutions we are supposed to trust for our well-being.

Mead further wrote, “COVID-19 is less a transient, random disturbance after which the world will return to stability than it is a dress rehearsal for challenges to come. History is accelerating and the leaders, values, institutions and ideas that guide society are going to be tested severely by the struggles ahead.”

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While there is some real insight here into the context of our day, we don’t need to hang our heads in a fatalistic slump. There is a hope that is beyond the capacity of mankind. It is the hope the authentic believer experiences each time he/she receives the word of God and casts himself/herself on the altar of the living Lord Jesus Christ.

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It is there we rediscover in a fresh way that we were bought with a price and we live for Him and not for ourselves. Sure, we are living in a transformative time in history. Other believers have experienced upheavals in their society. But let it be said loudly and proudly that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

Sure, we face unprecedented times. Other believers in history have experienced difficult times and many of them were not simply inconvenienced—they were hunted as prey for bureaucratic bloodhounds who sought for people to comply to the norms dictated by those in power. Such oppression is not just for a bygone day but also in places in the world today.

Normal for Christ-followers is to live for Him and to be a participant with Him in what He is doing at this moment in history. I have heard that some in Christian circles are wringing their hands about not experiencing an event or inability to meet in weekly gatherings. The enemy thinks he has shut the church down.

But nothing could be further from the truth. In the last 60 days public gatherings may have been on again and off again. However, the ministry of churches that give through the Cooperative Program were still feeding orphans and caring for women rescued from sex trafficking through the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home.

On the other end of the life spectrum, the widow and the widower are compassionately cared for by servants at The Baptist Home supported by your church’s Cooperative Program giving. The missionary that was just beginning to speak the heart language of an unreached people group continues to network with these people right here in the United States. Yes, 60 percent of our international missionaries are still state-side but they are living on mission here and we hold the rope of support for them as they give witness to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.   

Right here in our state in July, our Disaster Relief volunteers delivered almost 1 million pounds of food to hungry people and there are plans for more in August. The Disaster Relief ministry is possible because more than 800 churches gave to the Missouri Missions Offering (MMO). Just this week MBC Controller Samantha Spencer told me we are running ahead of last year’s record offering that is funding these amazing mission projects. Look at the MMO projects in the center of this issue of The Pathway.

Thank you, Missouri Baptists, for choosing mission above discomfort, for sacrificial giving through your local church to the big things we do in the name of our big God. We give praise to God for you who are praying with hopeful hearts for people who have yet to discover the transformational gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They have yet to taste of the generous life and power of the One who loves us the most. This is their moment in history to experience Him.

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