Editor’s note: As China maintains its commitment to no Covid within her borders, citizens in many cities across China have been placed under draconian lockdown. These lockdowns, which are more severe than anti-Covid measures used in the West, have occurred in cities from Shanghai to Xinjiang, from Jilin Province to Chengdu. During them, many have been confined to their apartments for weeks, and have reported shortages of food, medicine, and basic necessities.
Today we are sharing a series of emails a pastor sent to his congregation during lockdowns this past spring. In them, he urges believers to use their confinement as an opportunity to invite unbelieving family members to hear the gospel, and urges them to pray for and reach out to one another. These emails paint a vivid picture of the state of many Chinese cities during this period, and of the mentality adopted by many local believers as they press on in following Christ during Covid.
March 23, 2022
This past Sunday we had the lowest attendance since the church was launched. We expect more and more people to go online, and that we will get used to this kind of “worship.” I would like to remind you that the online nature of worship must be temporary. This cannot become a substitute for physical Sunday worship, or else Paul would not have been so eager to have Timothy bring Mark to him.
Still, let us not waste this short-term opportunity to invite family members to join us online. As a preacher, as I prepare I will be thinking of family members passing time with you in front of the screen. Please invite them to join us.
This week we will begin a weekly Zoom Bible study. I hope this will allow those of you not in small groups to start some church activities outside of Sunday, and to continue this fellowship when we resume offline meetings.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Many brothers and sisters are isolated in their homes, facing inner loneliness and lacking necessities. Other brothers and sisters live in small, unrestricted neighborhoods, and are able to enjoy limited freedom. When God calls the church to become “members” of one another, we can not only worship together, but also live together. If you need someone to chat or pray with in the lockdown period, please let us know. If you cannot get in touch with a delivery man and the nearby supermarket is closed, please let us know. And, if you are willing to help others during this time, please let us know.
We see this recurrence of the pandemic as an opportunity. It is a chance to connect with one another, to ask for help, to serve, and to pray with desperation. The pandemic can make the church better or it can make the church worse. Either way, we will not remain the same.
March 29, 2022
For the second week in a row, most people were unable to come worship physically. Next Sunday will be our first worshipping exclusively from home, as the pandemic has broken out in [the area where we meet]. Although we will do our best to ensure the broadcast is as smooth and engaging as possible, I would like to remind you that snacks can never replace regular meals.
Sunday Internet worship should be a way to pray to God to “stop this as soon as possible.” Even if you have fast Internet and can type quickly, ordering food on an app is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to physically buy, cook, and consume food. By the same token, Internet worship is not the goal, but exists to prepare us for a better physical reunion.
This waiting is a sort of a fast. We are not doing nothing, but wait expecting something good to happen. Fasting is not comfortable, so we must pray and help one another, just as Aaron and Hur held up Moses’s arms until sunset.
We encourage all brothers and sisters to care for one another during this difficult time. You can be taken care of by the church, and not be left alone. Your small group leader may pray with you, your church friends may look you up for a quick chat, and your co-laborers may ask if you need supplies (although they may not have any themselves). Do not be surprised when these things happen – be thankful, for the Bible’s teaching is alive in front of your eyes: “Let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good works.”
If you are unfortunate enough to be left alone with no one to care for you, please make sure you find your group leader or send us an email. According to the Bible, it is not good to be “left alone” at any time.
May God be with each of you in this lockdown, and may we be with one another!
April 5, 2022
The church, like the city, has been full of news both good and bad these days: brothers and sisters have prayed for one another across the screen, applied to be community volunteers, prayed for the city, exercised, and enjoyed the “Balcony Music Festival” outside their windows. There are also those waiting at home for test results and preparing to leave for isolation cabins. Others are worried about their pregnancies, or the elderly. All of us are on edge and bombarded with messages. For co-workers in the church, we are fearful we will miss the opportunity to pastor someone who has been entrusted to us by God.
This is the biggest crisis we have faced in the two years since this church started, and we should not waste such an opportunity to grow. At the very least, we hope the pandemic’s recurrence is not a stumbling block, but a stepping stone; not a tombstone, but a milestone.
What can we do? While we experience the peace of being at home, let us also experience the security of being “in Christ” together. Take 20 or 30 minutes out of your busy life and get away from all screens. Take a physical Bible or spiritual book and spend some quiet time alone with God. You will not miss any information by not looking at your cell phone, rather you will find rest because of this half hour of solitude.
Next week we enter the most important week in the church calendar: Holy Week, which begins on Palm Sunday, continues to Good Friday, and ends on Easter. These days mark when Jesus entered the Holy City in glory, experienced his hour of darkness on the cross, and came out of the empty tomb in complete victory over death.
Wang Jianguo is a collective pseudonym for a group of urban Chinese house church pastors committed to preaching the gospel of grace.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for Chinese facing severe Covid lockdowns to experience God’s presence with them in isolation. Pray also for their physical needs of sufficient food, water, and medical care.