Global Christian leaders: COVID-19 pandemic not a moment to retreat, but share Gospel boldly

Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren speaks at the Closing Gala of Proclaim 19, the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Anaheim, California
Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren speaks at the Closing Gala of Proclaim 19, the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Anaheim, California | NRB

Well-known leaders from a variety of Christian traditions worldwide are interceding in prayer amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In a prayer call hosted by Rick and Kay Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and posted on Facebook Monday, pastors and leaders from the U.S., U.K., Singapore, Brazil, and Australia all prayed for people who are affected by the disease. The prayer call, which occurred during Holy Week, also coincided with the 40-year anniversary of the founding of Saddleback. The church's first public service was held on Easter Sunday in 1980.

Interspersed with the prayers were worship songs led by artists Chris Tomlin, Brook Ligertwood, Tasha Cobbs Leonard, and Matt Redman.

Pastor T.D. Jakes of the Potter's House in Dallas, Texas, prayed for those who are anxious and fearful due to COVID-19.

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"Nothing that is current in our news is shocking in Heaven. But You have a plan and You have a purpose, and that you orchestrate all things to the council of your own will," he prayed, asking God to give people who are beset by anxiety the kind of peace Jesus had in the storm-tossed sea, Who was able to sleep while the waves were rocking the ship.

"I pray for anxiety, to be worried about what might happen, what could happen, the possibility of something happening, the kind of anxiety that every time you sneeze or cough you think, 'I must have COVID-19.' The kind of anxiety where the enemy constantly threatens you about you or your children or your loved ones or that somehow you're going to suffer loss. I speak against it. I know that he is the father of lies. And I thank you, Lord, that your word is true."

Brian Houston, who leads Hillsong Church in Sidney, Australia, and has since become a global movement with congregations around the world, prayed that the Church would be bold and creative during this season.

"These are challenging days, no doubt about it, for the world. I've never seen anything quite like it. Who would have thought even just a month ago that at Easter all of us would be being innovative, coming up with new ways to take the Gospel out to thousand, [and] between us all millions," Houston said.

He emphasized that this is a great opportunity for the Church to be the light to the nations, highlighting that Google searches for "prayer" and other faith-oriented terms have significantly increased amid the disease outbreak, as The Christian Post reported last week. 

Joining from London, Nicky and Pippa Gumbel, who lead at Holy Trinity-Brompton Anglican Church, where the popular Alpha course was developed and launched, prayed for the furtherance of the Gospel and the advance of God's Kingdom.

Pippa Gumbel noted that what has been "normal" has gone and many are gripped with fear amid lockdowns and isolation.

"The good news of Jesus is never more needed," she said. "People feel as though everything has been taken from them and they are looking, like people were looking for Jesus when He was taken from them."

Nicky Gumbel added: "I've never known a time in my life when people are more open [to the Gospel] than they are now. There are no other distractions. There's not football, there's no sport. There's no entertainment and people have time to hear the Gospel."

"People who would have never gone to church, the church is coming to them in their homes. People who would never have explored faith are coming to explore faith online. This is the most extraordinary time. This is not a moment to retreat, this is a moment for the Kingdom of God to advance," he added. 

Leaders Carlito and Leila Paes of Brazil, Laurent Mbanda of Rwanda, and Tony and Mei Yeo of Singapore also interceded for revival and spiritual renewal and for people in economic hardship that have suffered financial loss as a result of the public health crisis.

The Warrens concluded the prayer stream by stressing the importance of being completely dependent on God during dark times and knowing that the Church will last. They also read a portion of Psalm 91, which speaks of resting in the shadow of God Almighty even in times of plagues and pestilence.

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