Rebuilding our Nations with Kingdom Principles in the Covid-19 Crisis
(By Graziano Crepaldi)
Do we know what God wants to tell us through this crisis? Are our communities ready for emergencies and times of persecution? How can we build according to heavenly patterns? Is MP4 preaching and worship the only way to discipline people? What do we do when our idols (including religion) are placed on standby? Are we prepared for the next challenge?
These are the questions that are becoming increasingly important as Europe fights its recent Coronavirus crisis. Despite the effort to help countries reclaim their “normal life“, many of the leaders and authorities feel helpless and unable to give solutions to today's problems. Throughout the last few weeks, we have heard many people hoping and praying that God will take our world back to January 2020, before “hell was set loose on earth.“ Do we still remember how our nations looked in those days? Was Europe politically stable at that time? What about the economy and health? Were our nutrition plan and immune system in good shape? What about our churches and loud Christian gatherings? Did we reflect the image of Christ and see our society transformed though the message of the Kingdom of God last year? Did you know that worldwide, from January to March 2020, more than 100,000 people committed suicide, 400,000 people died from HIV/AIDS, 600,000 from alcohol related incidents, more than 1.2 million from smoking issues and 10 million from abortion? Sadly we must recognize and admit that the Covid-19 didn’t bring any new problem, but it magnified issues that were already present for a long time in our lives, nations and churches. Today there is such an incredible curiosity in the lives of people to find out who is really behind the new pandemic, that we might miss the meaning of what our Father wants to tell us during this important season. Many prophets and pastors are so busy “protecting God“ that they have become His personal spokesmen to make sure people don’t give up on the religious system and lose their faith! The truth is, the Bible tells us that “we must go through many hardships to enter into the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). God has shown us clearly in His Word how to handle crises and difficult seasons. In Matthew 24:1 Jesus chose to leave the Temple and the religious traditions (and that virus) before his “Corona season.” “God doesn't live in houses made by humans”(Acts 7:48). The disciples were so shocked and confused about what Jesus said that they thought the world was coming to an end. They were urged to ask: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Mt. 24:3). Jesus’s advice was: “...You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines (in other translations it is written plagues and sicknesses) and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains”(Mt. 24:6-8). At this point Jesus didn’t send them conspiracy videos, he didn’t tell them to take their guitar and sing a worship song from their balcony, he didn’t appeal to their national spirit, he didn’t confront the demons behind the virus, he didn’t tell them to us self-control or give them a 10-bullet point teaching on how to make their churches (temples) survive without programs. Jesus’ explanation was very simple, direct and clear... “Such things must happen!” Yes, you have understood correctly: sometimes God doesn’t give us an answer because He is not accountable to us about what He is allowing or not allowing to happen in this crazy world! God is not accountable to any man!
Be Aware of False Prophets
In vs. 11-13 Jesus gave us a warning that is important for today’s situation: “many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved: Jesus seems to be more concerned about the “virus” of evil and the lack of love that makes our hearts sick than any catastrophes that make us worried. He knew that the problems of our society need to be dealt with from the roots up. We are in such huge need for the antidote that He has offered through the cross (Pharma), free of charge, which will bring us back to real life. Jesus doesn’t want us to get confused with wrong prophecies.
I have to admit that for many years I thought this was not a very relevant correction until the Coronavirus came and we started receiving hundreds of messages not aligned with Kingdom principles. In the last few weeks, we have seen many people that have become either passive or overreactive and more religious than before, because they have believed the wrong message. Likewise, in the Old Testament, Nehemiah’s main challenge came from false prophets (Neh. 6:10-14). These false friends tried, in the name of God, to stop his projects and encourage him to hide in the temple! This event reminds me of countless situations in the last few years when we had worked very hard to train people how to make disciples that make disciples, only to be slowed down by leaders and intercessors who told us to stop the work. According to these leaders, what we were doing was dangerous for the people of God, and instead they needed to use all their resources for big prayer and so-called worship events! We love prayer and praying movements, but as we observe the life of Nehemiah, we see that he was a man that was able to turn prayer into action (Neh. 2:5). Of course we need to pray and listen prophetically, but we also need to turn our petitions into practical apostolic actions. These are the real apostolic and prophetic foundations of the Church (Ekklesia) of Christ (Eph. 2:19).
Able to Stand in the Storm
Jesus was interested in knowing that his disciples would be able to stand in the storm and that they would put their trust in Him. He didn’t preach a prosperity gospel, but He told them: “...in me you will have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Recently, we have received several reports from Italy about what God is doing: several people (including doctors and nurses) have turned to God, and some of these led some of their patients to Christ only a few hours after they themselves came into the Kingdom; a hospital was built and activated (without bribes or government backing) in a few short weeks, when it would normally take at least 10 years; new businesses have been started from simple people who, instead of complaining about the government’s weaknesses, decided to use their creativity to bring valuable solutions for today’s problems. Of course, none of us like storms, but we can say that we are starting to like what is coming out of this storm!
Preach the Gospel of the Kingdom
Another desire that Jesus declared was that “the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to all the world!” (Mt. 24:14). This means that all ethnic groups need to hear about the Kingdom as soon as possible. Do you know that today there are still more than 7,000 unreached people groups that have never heard about Christ? There are about 3 billion people who don't know how to push the “reset button” on their sinful life! It is sad that the Western Church invests only 0.01% of its wealth (and resources) to complete this unfinished task, but instead invests much more in buildings and programs for, what I would argue to be, our “spiritual entertainment.“ Currently, we have an incredible open window for sharing the message of Christ to many people around us! Maybe to be a witness of Christ will become a habit for some of us, and, after the crisis is finished, we will continue to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Always Be Ready
It is clear in Matthew 24 and 25 (as well in Lk. 21 and Mk. 13), that goal of Jesus, from the beginning, was that we always should be ready for His return and He also wants us to be strong to endure difficult situations. In these verses we read about the need for faithful workers who are not afraid to stand for God, helping the poor and bearing good fruit for His Kingdom. We know that, in the last 2000 years, there have been various epidemics in the world, where millions of people lost their lives. In those dark days, the real Bride of Christ has always grown stronger and true disciples were pushed to stand on their feet; moved out from their temples to help people in need, share their resources, preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and walk in the Spirit in the midst of the storm!
We are Under House Arrest, but Truly Free in the Kingdom of God
In the last few months, western society's idols of freedom and independence have been directly confronted. People have been forced to follow the instructions given by their leaders and have had to put their needs and selfish motives aside in order to take care of their nations. This sounds so incredibly normal and healthy, doesn’t it? A person that loves God and has been discipled knows that his or her real freedom is found in loving obedience to the Father; a follower of Christ has learned how to submit to authorities (Rm.13:1) and continually pray for them. We know that the real solution to the Covid-19 problem can only be found in God and His Kingdom. This was the central theme of Jesus Christ's teachings on earth. The concept of the Kingdom of God, in its original and pure sense, has lost its meaning in our modern world, because all the prototypes have either been substituted with religion or they have been completely abandoned. The Kingdom of God includes many principles (standards) that, when carefully considered and lived out, will produce the benefits of living in the Kingdom. God’s transforming work in our lives never meant to make us members of a new religious group, but instead, to make us citizens of His Kingdom, “a holy nation” and “a chosen people“ (1 Peter 2:9), set apart for His purposes on earth. The reality of Jesus being our King in today's world is difficult for most believers to understand. Therefore, many of us simplify our beliefs by thinking that He will be King once we get to heaven. Unfortunately, many haven't realized the revelation that He is our King HERE and NOW on earth. The Bible says that the Kingdom of God is a real Kingdom with covenant rights for its citizens, statues and laws to obey, and a Kingdom government to rule. This is the law about which the apostle Paul says: “I am under the Law of Christ“ (1 Cor. 9:21). The Bible says this government, led by Christ the King and His true disciples (those who obey Christ), will rule over all the nations on earth for a thousand years. “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15).
In the COVID-19 era, if we enter and live in His Kingdom, “the Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom“ (Deut. 28:13). God will provide the necessary resources, ideas and solutions that the world needs, but cannot grasp. In this challenging season, God is helping us and He will use us for his Kingdom work. All over the world we are impressed by the courage and boldness of believers who are helping their cities with social projects and acts of mercy. In Wuhan (China) the local churches, that only a few months ago were persecuted by the government, have been officially thanked for their valuable contribution to the crisis!
God Wants to Rebuild His Church (Ekklesia) on a Good Foundation
The Father promised to rebuild what had been destroyed and to replant what had been plucked up. “If the Lord does not build the house, the laborers labor in vain“ (Psalm 127:1). He proved himself to be a righteous, powerful, and just Judge. He proved himself to be a patient, compassionate, and merciful Redeemer. He is a Rebuilder and He began to rebuild when He sent his Son. When God promised to build us up, He gave us a new heart and a new covenant. Instead of destroying us, like we deserved, He placed His own Son on the cross (John 3:16). Instead of breaking down our pitiful defenses and excuses, He sent his own Son to have his body broken in our place (1 Cor. 11:23-26). Instead of overthrowing our rebellion and tossing us into hell, He sent his own Son to the wolves where he was crucified (Acts 2:23). Jesus also had an apostolic assignments, which He declared: “I will build my Church (Ekklesia)” (Mt. 16:18). The word Ekklesia was not a religious expression, but a political one. The people, in the days of Jesus, understood the term very well; it was part of their secular vocabulary. It was a “legal assembly,” a gathering representing the city or region. Christ is himself the owner and master builder, and only those who have a revelation of Him will be useful for this building. Our task in the building project is clear: we are called to make disciples and “teach them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us” (Matt. 28:20).
Rebuilding Our Own Life
God wants to rebuild what is still broken in us and to teach us the secret of contentment when we face any challenge or disappointment. He wants to give us wisdom, discernment, patience and joy in the work that he has called us to do, and to purify and refine away any sin that entangles us. If you ask Him to fill you and trust Him to lead you, “You will be like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jer. 17:7-8). If you are not a believer yet, now is the time to turn to God because “...no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). If you are a believer but not a disciple, now is the time to make a radical decision and contact a mature believer who will be able and available to help you take necessary steps of growth. A spiritual mentor will be able to pray with you and help you to be healed and set free, so that you can leave your past and hurts behind. Those who are more mature in the faith may want to make a list of people they would like to reach and ask God to show them whom they should start to disciple. Discipleship is not the passing of biblical knowledge from mind to mind, but it is, rather, a school of character. This is why Paul told the church in Corinth that they would need more fathers and less teachers (1 Cor. 4:15). In the process of discipleship, God will make you fearless, satisfied, and fruitful, even in these confusing, troubling, and heart-breaking days.
Rebuilding Our Family
These days, you might be finding yourself with more family time than usual. With stay-at-home policies in place and people working from home, a lot of people are spending more time with their immediate family than ever. This is an incredible opportunity to rebuild our family with Kingdom principles, and strengthen them for the overwhelming trials ahead (expected and unexpected). We need to bring harmony and healing to strained relationships, and to finally lead our sons and daughters into His Kingdom. Many of our social problems have their roots in the breakdown of the family. Many couples and families need external help to work through their conflicts. This takes humility to involve others (disciple-makers or marriage counselors) to help solve long-term conflicts and communications problems. We need to turn our family into a house church and put the Word of God into practice in our daily family life.
Rebuilding Our Community
We can also rebuild our communities and churches. The center of the church is not a program, but our relationship with God and with one another. Jesus didn’t need a “church building” to multiply disciples. He modeled a church where the believers continuously met in small unified groups, as we see in Acts 2 the disciples would pray, talk, eat, share life and process the teachings of Christ together. About 20 years ago God told us to move in the direction that He modeled to us. We believe that, in the future, we will not be able to have large gatherings anymore (churches without walls were Jesus’s way of doing community). We are encouraged to see how, throughout this current crisis, most of our teams continue their activities and projects normally. Some of our communities around Europe have decided after a few years to work and live together, share resources, store food, vitamins and reserves, and even find alternative energy sources!
Another important element in our community is the commitment to unity. Many people are excited, because new prayer events seem to have brought unity amongst believers and churches that everybody has been longing for. We should not forget that, in the Bible, true unity is not reached through meetings and emotionally charged events, but through the Holy Spirit working in us teaching us to die to ourselves. Leaders need to equip the believers “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4:13). In other words, the unity we pursue is unity in the truth. Paul describes this unity as like-mindedness when he writes, “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Phil. 2:2 & 4:2). Everything we do is to be in tune with Christ and “May God...grant us to live in harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus” (Rom. 15:5).
Rebuilding Our Work
During these days of uncertainty, due to the worldwide epidemic, businesses are hurting, and many of them will fail due to the outbreak of COVID-19. We should not forget that the coronavirus crisis affects the poor more than others. Millions of self-employed have lost their businesses and their income. There are even more people who are day-laborers who have no safety nets, and in a lockdown situation they will lose their income and will go hungry. Many people, all over the world, have limited or no access to healthcare. This is an opportunity to elevate Kingdom businesses with wisdom, compassion, and creativity. A Kingdom business is an enterprise directed by the Holy Spirit and managed by a godly leader that uses its time, talent, and money to meet the spiritual and/or physical needs of the community around them to advance God’s purposes. We decided a few weeks ago to start a new Health Coaching Business that would aid people to get help for their physical challenges and find new hope in God. We are also preparing ourselves for the next crisis (that could be economical with limited internet access) and we have started a few synergy groups to discuss ideas and visions on how to offer practical solutions.
Rebuilding Our Nation
We are called by God to rebuild our broken nations in order to reconcile deep and growing racial divisions, to bring peace to international hostility, thwart the plans of evil rulers, and quiet the threats of war; we are called to bring the message of the Kingdom of God to our nation’s leaders, to draw near to those who are suffering and to the families that have lost hope in the future. Making disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:18) requires putting God's will above our own. It takes commitment and sacrifice, but if we put God's Kingdom first (Mt. 6:33), He will provide all that we need as we do His work in the world. Having a Kingdom mindset starts with realizing that it’s not about us. God does not need us to accomplish His will in the world, though He invites us to join Him in His mission and He sanctifies us in Christ through our obedient service. When different leaders, communities, and groups work together toward this larger Kingdom goal, the impact in our regions and cities will be exponential. As Jesus’ followers, we know that our Savior is fully in charge of the affairs of the nations.
God has given us the mission of Christ to “...proclaim good news to the poor... to bind up the brokenhearted... to proclaim freedom for the captives... to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve to bestow on them a CROWN of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61). Interestingly, “corona” literally means “crown”! Maybe if you look a little closer behind the crown (corona) we will soon see the King coming!