Each Wednesday morning until the day after the November election, the Colson Center is hosting a virtual prayer gathering for the Church and for our nation. Not only are we praying together weekly, but I’ve asked a select group of leaders to help direct our prayers for the coming week. This past Wednesday morning, Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life, offered a few critical reminders for Christians in this time of, as he called it, “virus and violence.”
First, in times of tension and transition, like ours, the Church has always found unique opportunities to point people to Jesus. In the second and third centuries, even as plagues swept the Roman Empire, Christians ran toward the sick and suffering as pagans ran away. Through Christian love and hospitality, the faith grew. Not only did many people ultimately embrace Christ, but the world was ultimately blessed with hospitals, the name ultimately given to those places that showed this kind of Christian hospitality.
Though in our day, entire health care systems exist to deal with pandemics, illnesses, injuries, and diseases, only the Church is uniquely called and empowered to address what Pastor Rick called the dis–ease that people have, including the fears, tensions, emotional, spiritual, and certain physical needs.
In a terrific, practical example of this, Pastor Rick described that when many food banks and pantries shut down across Southern California during the pandemic, Saddleback Church stepped up and established pop up food distribution centers. Since the beginning of the pandemic, they’ve reached a quarter of a million families with 2.5 million pounds of food. Even better, through this effort, over 9,000 people have professed faith in Christ for the first time, and over 1,000 new members of the Body of Christ have been baptized… in, he assured us, a COVID-safe manner.
The next opportunity for the Church to, as Chuck Colson often said, “be the Church,” is to parents and children as the school year starts. “The Church that figures out how to care for kids and parents,” Pastor Rick argued, “will have the ear of America.” I think he’s right, and even more, I needed to be reminded that despite all the chaos of this culture moment, the work of the Church cannot be stopped. The Church has out-survived movements and philosophies and nations and leaders and empires. It’s going to survive November also.
After all, as Pastor Rick prayed, our Hope is not found in who we put in the White House, but in Who we put on the cross. As far as election results, the safest and most sure prayer is the one Jesus taught us to pray: “Thy Will Be Done.” Because we know it will, even if we don’t necessarily like it.
As much as I hope for certain results in November and will work toward them on a national level and a local level, this week especially I will pray that God would strengthen, protect, and use His Church during this time, and that we, as His people, would place trust, not in horses or chariots or polls or strategies, but in Christ.
I will close with the prayer I prayed at the end of session Wednesday:
“ALMIGHTY God, who hast promised to hear the petitions of those who ask in thy Son’s Name; We beseech thee mercifully to incline thine ears to us who have now made our prayers and supplications unto thee; and grant that those things which we have faithfully asked according to thy will, may effectually be obtained, to the relief of our necessity, and to the setting forth of thy glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.