Hi, welcome to Priority Pastor, this is Daren Wride. I’m recording this on March 12th, 2020, as the Corona virus is starting to look very serious indeed. There are not a lot of voices anymore saying it’s not a big deal. People are recognizing it is indeed a big deal. Just how big a deal it’s going to be, we don’t know yet.
I’ve been looking back to some of my notes from post 9/11, how we dealt with that in our little church in northern Canada, because even though we are a long way from the epicenter of it all, people were shaken up. It did affect us. It affected our culture. It affected a lot of things. So I’ve been looking at how we handled that, what we did right, what we didn’t do so well and thought I would pass some of that on. This is about preaching and leading in times of crisis and some ideas and principles about that.
To start out with let me just tell a story that you might want to use as a part of your communication in this season, whether it’s for the Corona virus or other crises down the road:
A small boy was watching a parade through his city one day. His only problem was that he stood on the wrong side of a 6 foot high fence. He could only see the parade through a tiny knot hole in the fence. He saw only what was directly in front of him at any given time. Consequently, it was a volatile experience for him. When lions came by, it was scary. When the clowns came by it was funny. When the band came by it was exciting. Then something happened that gave him an all new perspective. A man walked up and hoisted him up onto his shoulder. So he sat above the fence. He could see the panorama of the parade. It was only at that point that the young boy understood what a parade was really all about.
That is really a great story for understanding crises and seasons of crisis and how we need to lead. It is really about perspective. Let me share with you just a few principles I gleaned from how these kind of crises have been handled in the past and then some of the actual content, some of the biblical passages and content that I preached that I think you’ll find useful in preaching in a season of crisis, whether it’s a global crisis or a local crisis in your church.
The first principle is not to interpret what has happened too soon with limited information. Don’t conclude that something is really good or really bad until you know for sure. Don’t make a statement about the limits of what has happened -you know how far it’s going to go or how it fits in with biblical prophecy or that kind of thing- until you actually know something. Just be very careful, make sure that you are calm, that you do not rush to conclusions because the conclusion is not what is really needed by your people.
Another principle is to be a voice of calm. I was actually quite taken aback by how unsettled people were in our northern Canadian community by 9/11. It was a big deal, no question about it. It shook me up. It was completely distracting. But we were a long ways away and yet it was truly traumatic and scary and perspective giving and a crisis of life in a lot of ways for a lot of people. And our call, yes we’re people too we face all the same emotions, but we are to be a voice of calm, which comes back to being that voice of perspective.
And then really as a part of that, we are called at our core as leaders and preachers to give another perspective, to give a biblical perspective. You know, I look back at how we handled 9/11. We were in the middle of a series on family. Husbands and wives and family and how the gospel fit in. And two days before 9/11, I spoke on husbands the following week, scheduled to speak on the wives thing. And we actually did. But we began that service, that time with a very scripted statement about what had happened and how we’re going to handle it and just acknowledge what had happened and spend some time praying about it while at the same time recognizing we didn’t know truly what had happened yet at that point and how broad its scope and scale would be.
And it wasn’t until a little later on October- let me see here- October 21st, was when we really started going after it and addressing in a big way an October 21st. I did a message on Revelation 4 and 5 called Stepping Away from the Knothole where I shared that story I just share with you about the boy and the parade. And so we spent some time in Revelation 4 and 5. I talked about how in those days there was a knothole issue that could’ve been a knothole issue for Christians- persecution, that everything that was happening to them was through the lens of persecution.
Then we went to Revelation and spent some time in chapter four and five. I pointed to how the word throne is a key word in those chapters. In fact, it’s a key word in Revelation appearing 50 times, throne as in the throne of God. The Spirit of saying to John, before you see what will happen on earth, you need to see what’s happening in heaven before you get distracted by the persecution you’re facing get a little distracted by what’s going on in heaven. And I believe the Spirit is saying to us before we look or try to understand or get distracted by what’s going on down here we need to look at and understand and remember what’s going on up there.
And then we just read some of the segments of Revelation in Revelation 4.1-4 the worship passage of all these people worshiping and falling down before God, actually collapsing before God. Which was interesting to talk about, collapsing in light of the images of of the collapse of the Twin Towers in recent weeks at that time. And then there is this this bunch of singing in the passage where the elders are singing and the angels are singing and then everybody is singing. All creation is singing, which is a reminder of Philippians 2 that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God, the Father. And it’s really saying the same thing. And I concluded this way, I said “It’s very simple- what the Holy Spirit wanted John to know, and his people to know and us to know is this that God is in control and his plan will be completed. His plan will be accomplished. And we are called to reflect on God’s character and God’s purposes before trying to understand what’s happening in our world. “
I talked-about Proverbs, the Fear of God. The fear of God being the beginning of both wisdom and knowledge and not trying to understand current events, the bigger events, the smaller events, the crises without making sure we’re in a right relationship and thinking right about God.
And here’s how I concluded that message word for word: “I suspect that many of us have been watching the news more in the last month than we usually do. I know I have. and I noticed that no newscast goes through all the stories and all of the gloom and doom and fear and insecurity and then concludes with, by the way, God is still on the throne. He’s in control. His purposes and plans will be accomplished. But we need to end the newscast that way. We need to face our personal crises that way. We need to digest God’s character and his purposes before trying to understand or deal with what’s happening in our worlds.
“That’s one reason why we worship. Worship gets our eyes off down here and onto up there. More importantly, it gives perspective to the down here. Worship reminds us what God is like and what he is about. Worship gets us away from the knothole so we can see over the fence.”.
And then we did that, at the end of that service, we actually put most of our worship time at the end of the message, focusing in on the character and the nature and the power and the sovereignty of God. And that’s really, I think the biggest principle, the perspective we need to give is right thinking about God. There’s a lot of other details we could unpack- theological issues, the problem of evil, all of those things. But it’s about getting a right focus on God.
So I spoke on Revelation four and five. And then the next week we actually went right after the topic. Coming to Grips with September 11th and Beyond. And I shared a letter that a lady had written, kind of a journal entry she’d written just about the trauma she was facing. I talked about some of the results or some of the surveys showing what people were thinking post-9 11, this is over a month later. I told the story, I revisited the story of the knothole, the boy at the fence. And then I just made some observations and raised some questions.
I talked about the God issue. What was his part and purpose and how does God actually use pain and trauma in our lives? I quoted RC Sproul: “The most difficult theological question that I ever faced in my life is this one Why has God been so kind to me?” And so I talked a bit about the problem of evil and C.S. Lewis- God whispers to us in our well-being, He shouts to us in our suffering. And I shared- and this is in light of 9/11, it doesn’t apply completely to every crisis, certainly not all completely to the corona virus- but some of these things overlap.
Number one, the human race is evil. A lot of times in crisis, we need to remember the human race is evil. Again, that was more obvious in 9/11 than with coronavirus. Number two, this isn’t heaven. Just a reminder that this isn’t heaven. And number three, to do some self-examination and repent.
I know when I once read the Bible through just noting what the Bible actually said about God, the thing that jumped out at me in the Old Testament was when things happened, good or bad, people knew God was involved in some way. They recognized his sovereignty in a way that we don’t always recognize and that if things were good they praised him. If things were bad, they would fast and pray and seek God for direction and see if there was something they needed to repent for. And so this is a time for self-examination.
There’s also whenever there’s a big global crisis, the prophecy issue comes up. How does this fit into the end times? And we’ve just got to guard against the temptation of shoehorning it in and stating something adamantly. A lot of people have said foolish things and made the church and Christianity in the Bible look foolish. And we can say, yes, you know, some of the teaching on the end times talks about crisis and famines and pestilence for sure, in increasing measure. We can talk about that, but just avoid putting some kind of a timeline and dates on it. Please, please, please.
We talked about the security issue. Where can we be safe again? That brings us right back to the person and the nature and the heart of God and who he is and what he’s like. Proverbs 14.26 talks about the one who fears the Lord has a secure fortress for his children, it will be a refuge. Psalm 24.7, some trust and cherish some in horses but we trust in the name of the Lord, our God. And so our call in the season is not to over-interpret what’s happening, to be a voice of calm and to give another perspective, to give a biblical perspective and focus in on the character and the heart and the nature of God and for people who do not have the security of a relationship with him, this is a time to call them to repentance and faith. Absolute forgiveness, the gift and the hope of eternal life.
We don’t want to be manipulative. We don’t want to capitalize in an evil way on people’s emotions. But we can point them to the truth with integrity and say, look to Jesus. He knows what’s happened. He knows what’s coming, he’s paid the price and we can be secure in his hands.
So God bless wisdom and grace as you seek to lead and preach in this season of crisis or in some future season of crisis.