I’ve been asking the Lord – what would You say to the Church during this pandemic?
Many themes arise, of course, and many of us are asking the same questions.
Last Sunday I was awoken earlier than usual and spent a time of prayer asking the questions again.
My daily reading was Mark 5:1-20, a passage that records Jesus’ encounter with a man possessed by many demons in the region of the Decapolis. Having crossed the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and his disciples are met by the man and the demons beg Jesus to send them into a nearby herd of some 2,000 pigs, which they then cause to stampede into the lake where they drown. When the local residents arrive and find the man restored to his right mind, they are afraid and ask Jesus to leave. But the man who has been delivered of the demons goes on to testify throughout the Decapolis about the wonderful thing God has done for him.
I had no expectations of particular answers to my questions as I commenced reading this passage but as I thought about it I wondered if some of the people God would particularly like to reach during this time are those who are profoundly impacted and gripped by evil. Spiritual prisoners who need release.
The Decapolis where these events in Mark’s account occurred was a grouping of ten cities in the north east of what was Palestine, including the border with Syria. It also included Damascus – more on that later. It was ethnically mixed, subject to informal political power and had a diverse mercantile economy. Sound familiar?
Reading the passage, three things struck a chord:
1. Our Lord dearly wants to liberate people who are profoundly impacted and gripped by evil – like the man possessed by the many demons
Who are those people in our locality and our society today?
2. The Lord wants to challenge and remove evil
The Lord will be rejected by those whose businesses are damaged, possibly irretrievably, by evil being confronted – like the local residents and owners of the pigs who asked Jesus to leave. However, it is interesting to note that the Lord did not initiate the sending of the demons into the pigs, but rather the demons themselves begged for it – the Lord is often blamed for things not of His doing.
Which commercial sectors and businesses are likely to have sustained structural damage through the lockdown so that they cannot easily recover when the economy starts to pick up? Might it be those which dishonour His name most?
3. The impact of the transformed life (the man possessed but now restored to his right mind) on the community that knows them is profound
Coming into contact with coronavirus is transformational but the impact of the life transformed by Jesus and the Holy Spirit is far greater. ‘Deca’ means ten in Greek – may the Lord cause the impact of the lives He transforms during the time of the pandemic to be ten times that of the coronavirus!
A few short years after this event, Saul was sent to Damascus to persecute Christians there. The Jewish leaders obviously saw Damascus as the hub of Christianity growing in the Decapolis and Asia. The transformation brought to the communities of the Decapolis was profound, and seemingly precipitated by the Lord’s miraculous release of the man gripped by evil. Despite the economic impact of this episode and the local town’s initial rejection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was overcoming evil in the lives of many. Saul was converted on his way to Damascus and so the Holy Spirit began one of the greatest evangelistic missions the Church has yet witnessed, resulting in significant growth of the faith across Europe and Asia Minor.
Where is our Decapolis today? What are the evils that need confronting there? And who are the people God wants to reach and use to precipitate significant transformation? Discerning these things can help us prepare the ground with Him for the Church in the years to come after the coronavirus crisis has passed.
Brian Smith is an independent coach & mentor, focussed mainly on sales and IT functions of organisations. He regularly consults on revenue growth and IT strategy in the commercial and not-for-profit sector. He is married to Helen. They have four daughters and live in Harrow. He is chairman of a small charity called the Weald Trust, an avid sports fan and keen walker. He leads teams of volunteers in meeting the needs victims of modern slavery with the aim of helping them integrate into local communities. He is also a lay preacher regularly engaged with several congregations in North West London.