While much of the secular world’s response to the virus has been inward-looking, driven by fear, pastors in Singapore agree that the COVID-19 situation presents a God-given chance to shine in the darkness of the moment. However, for that to happen, the church must look beyond its own concerns and awaken to the opportunity.
“Having put in place the necessary measures in the church, we realized that this crisis has presented an opportunity to help and reach the community,” said Lim Lip Yong, executive pastor of Cornerstone Community Church.
After the initial window of adjusting to the new normal, churches have begun to observe how their local community has been affected. The needs are both practical—such as education on public hygiene for the elderly—and emotional, with panic and uncertainty the prevailing mood in the weeks after the first confirmed cases surface locally.
“One of the distinct things that we wanted to affect was the atmosphere of the community,” Lim told CT. “At the onset of the outbreak, people acted in fear. In Singapore, panic buying took hold of many people. Healthcare workers were chased off public transport for fear that they had come into contact with outbreak patients. Highly discriminatory remarks were made against Chinese nationals.”
“We can never fully remove these negative elements in society,” he said, “but what we can do is ensure that there are more positive vibes being generated than negative ones. So we sent our people out to care—to be kind and go the extra mile to help.”
Among other efforts, his church staff and members have reached out to migrant workers—many of whom have been unable to earn a living after projects were canceled due to virus fears—and taxi drivers, whose business has been badly affected with people choosing to stay home during this period.
Who is hardest hit in your area? Those directly afflicted with the virus? Those whose jobs have been disrupted by fear of it? Those emotionally weary of responding to it? Many of their doors would otherwise have been closed to the church, but Christians in Singapore have found new inroads through acts of love in this time of coronavirus.
“The world has a virus infection that is far greater than all the viruses we’ve ever known throughout its history. That virus is sin,” said Edmund Chan, leadership mentor of Covenant Evangelical Free Church.
Headlines that regularly ratchet up the local and global death counts are daily reminders of our mortality, forcing everyone to look beyond the routines of life and to consider what lies beyond. Memento mori; we all will someday die, by COVID-19 or otherwise.
“We need conversations on deeper issues,” said Ben K. C. Lee, pastor of RiverLife Church. “Is the meaning of life and our time on this earth the prolonging and preservation of life for as long as possible? Is it to be occupied with temporal things: material wealth and comfort? Or is it to fulfill Jesus’ desire to see all the rooms in our Father’s house that he has prepared being filled to the brim?”
This starts with a public, visible expression of the victory and hope that we have in Jesus. There is an unprecedented opportunity to share the reason for our posture of faith amid fearful times, said Chua Chung Kai, pastor of Covenant Evangelical Free Church.
“We do not live as those without hope—that’s what the gospel is all about! But we have friends, neighbors, and family who do not know that hope. They may open up to share their fears and concerns during such crisis,” Chua told CT. “As the Old Testament prophet Daniel wrote [in Dan. 12:3], ‘Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.’”