Pentecost and the Post-Pandemic Church
The earliest disciples of Jesus emerged from their shelter-in-place energized and they
turned the world upside down. Will we?
Sunday, May 31, 2020 marks the Christian celebration of Pentecost. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in Jerusalem just as Jesus promised. The same Spirit that came upon Jesus and filled Him with power for His mission (Luke 3:16) came upon the earliest disciples to empower them to serve as Jesus’ witnesses in the world (Acts 1:8). But this isn’t where our story should begin. Let’s rewind.
Prior to this special endowment of power, Acts 1:13 informs us that the disciples were sheltered in place. They were huddled together waiting on the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that they would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days” (Acts 1:5).
However, their waiting wasn’t passive. Acts 1:13-14 tells us they prayed together as they awaited the dawning of a new reality; a new day marked by the empowering presence of God’s Spirit. The world has been changed ever since. The earliest disciples of Jesus emerged from their shelter-in-place energized and they “turned the world upside down.” Will we?
When COVID-19 struck, I remarked that God hit the reset button on the Church. He has a way of doing that. In Acts 8, God used persecution to scatter the church and move the church out into the world to advance His kingdom. In many ways, this pandemic has also forced the church to scatter. We had no choice but to pivot to a digital representation of church that has been reaching more people than ever before and to focus on loving the neighbor right in front of us. In the words of author Reggie McNeal, “Church has become more a verb – a way of being in the world – rather than its typical use as noun designating a place or an organization.” As a result of the Coronavirus, God may just be rebooting the Church to realign us with His kingdom-centric movement in the world. After all, it is the movement Jesus preached about(Mark 1:14-15) and declared had dawned in His coming (Matthew 4:15-17).
To help each one of us align with God’s kingdom vision we ought to ask the Lord to renew our perspective of our place in God’s kingdom as well as the vital role of prayer. Instead of seeking to advance our own kingdoms, we seek to live exclusively for God’s kingdom just as Jesus commanded us (Matthew 6:33). Equally as important, prayer must be seen as the main instrument through which the kingdom of God is advanced (Matthew 6:10). In addition, we must have a renewed vision of the role of the church in God’s kingdom. As the agent of God’s kingdom, the church exists to build an army of followers (Ephesians 4:11-12) to function as citizens of heaven in the world (Philippians 3:20), rather than simply to comfortably cocoon us from the world.
Due to the shelter in place restrictions, some days we may feel like we’re living in a cocoon. While this experience is only temporary the real question is whether it is transformative? In nature, caterpillars emerge from cocoons transformed as butterflies. How will we emerge from the cocoon of our homes? Will we as Christians emerge as people ready to change the world? When the disciples surfaced from their shelter in place, they emerged into the light of a new normal (“the last days” – Acts
2:17) energized by the Holy Spirit and they changed the world. Let’s follow suit and emerge poised to advance God’s kingdom in the power of the same Holy Spirit!
– Pastor Tim