God is using the coronavirus pandemic as a time to “prune the Church and cut off branches that aren't bearing fruit,” ultimately allowing the Body of Christ to become more “fruitful,” according to popular speaker and author Francis Chan.
Chan, former teaching pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California, on Wednesday participated in the Q 2020 Virtual Summit, an annual event that equips Christian leaders to thoughtfully engage culture from a Christian worldview.
“I hear a lot of talk of people being concerned about whether their church is going to survive,” Chan, speaking via livestream, told host Gabe Lyons. “The illustration I think of is, if I had a diamond right here, and I just smash it with a hammer, what would happen to that diamond? Nothing. If it's a real diamond, if it shatters, it wasn't real.”
He pointed out that in Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
“This is going to be a group that the gates of Hell can't stand against,” Chan explained. “No virus, no government, no economic this or that, life, death, nothing. And so we as believers are supposed to trust the words of Jesus and go, ‘The Church is going to be fine. If anything, this is the time where God is going to prune the Church and cut off branches that aren't bearing fruit, but it's only going to become more fruitful.’”
“And so with that type of confidence, we have to move forward and go, what's the worst thing that happened to me? I die and receive the award I’ve been ... longing for my whole life. We can be fearless.”
Statistics from a recent Barna Group survey found that six to nine percent of pastors are unsure or not confident that their church will survive the coronavirus pandemic. Forty-two percent of pastors said giving was "significantly" down and 28 percent said it was "slightly" down. Only around a quarter said it stayed the same.
Additionally, nearly a quarter of American churches (22 percent) have already reduced staff hours, reduced compensation, or laid off employees.
In this unprecedented time of uncertainty, the Crazy Love author stressed that “God knew you and I were going to be alive at this time, adding: “We were literally made for this, prepared for this.”
“Jesus promised that there would be this Church that would rise, and He told us that in the latter days, there would be the signs and wonders and that that this Church really would be that unified and that in love with one another,” Chan said. “And we all know that what we've had for the last couple of decades, at least in the U.S., is a far cry from what we read in the Scripture.”
COVID-19, he said, gives Christians an opportunity to live out God’s vision for a unified church.
“God knew this day was coming. And here it is,” he said. “And so let's move forward. And trust the change.”
Earlier in the session, Lyons asked Chan if he “prophetically” heard from God that something big — like a global pandemic — was about to radically impact the entire world.
Chan, who with his family moved to Hong Kong in February, said that while he did sense something big was about to happen, COVID-19 “was not at all what I had in mind.”
“And I don't know if it was prophetic as much as it was just logical to me as I was looking at the way the world was going,” he clarified. “And I'm just thinking, ‘Gosh, I don't think we're going to have this freedom to just say whatever we want to say in big crowds. And I don't know if it's going to be governmental or economical.’
“And then I just thought, ‘Gosh, I just don't know if the culture is going to allow us to have these big gatherings if our morals contradict that of Hollywood.’ So I thought there's going to come a day when we're going to need to go possibly underground ... but in no way did I see the virus coming.”
The bestselling author said that for years, he has been encouraging Christians to participate in house church gatherings. COVID-19, the pastor pointed out, has allowed exactly this to happen.
“The idea of the house gathering was, ‘I don't know if we'll always have this luxury of you just sitting under me. So let me prepare you,’” he said. “ A good spiritual parent should equip you for works of service, equip you … [so that] if everything gets shut, it's not a big deal because you know how to get along with the Lord, you know how to thrive just by getting alone with the Word of God. You know how to share with the people around you, and you know how to gather people around and have the most meaningful times of worship.”
Held April 22 and 23, Q 2020 Virtual Summit showcased a series of educational talks from a number of pastors and Christian thought leaders, including Andy Crouch, Ann Voskamp, Priscilla Shirer, Tim Keller, Bill Johnson, and others, with musical offerings from hymn writer Andrew Peterson.
“Q is a proven vehicle for building and sustaining a vision for restoring the credibility of the Christian faith in Western culture for new generations. Our long-term goal is to see the Christian faith become increasingly attractive, credible and influential in the church, our communities and the next generation,” notes the event website.
Founded in 2007 by Gabe and Rebekah Lyons, this year’s conference focused largely on the COVID-19 pandemic and the role and obligation of the Christian church in response.
“We’re trying to understand the cultural moment as best as we can,” Gabe Lyons said at the start of the conference. “And in doing that, really relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us ... the power of the Spirit is critical to us understanding. This is what separates us as Christians from the rest of the world and those who don’t believe and don’t understand. We are to have ears to understand and eyes to see.”
“I hope we all can come into this with a posture of worship,” he added. “With a posture of, we don’t know it all, we won’t know it all, but we do know the one who understands, who sees, who knows the future, who we can have hope in. That’s where we want to place our hope.”