The Church and the Coronavirus: 4 Lessons From History

The Church and the Coronavirus: 4 Lessons From History by WILLIAM MURRELL for Charisma News

What for many weeks seemed like media-driven hysteria—or at least a distant, localized phenomenon—has now become a tangible global reality.

According to many public health experts, the coronavirus, or COVID-19, has the potential to become one of the greatest pandemics of our lifetimes. We do not know how many will ultimately be affected by the outbreak, nor do we know how many will die. But we do know that the social, economic and geopolitical effects will be deep and widespread.

How should the church respond in this moment of crisis? And how can pastors provide spiritual leadership for congregations in a time when governments across the world have forbidden public gatherings (including Sunday worship services)? Where can we look for guidance and wisdom?

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Though this may be a new experience for us in the 21st century, it is not new in the 2,000-year history of the church. Plagues and pandemics have come and gone, but the church, by God’s grace, has remained and continues to spread to every nation. What can we learn from church history that will help the church in our present moment? How did our brothers and sisters who came before us respond in the face of panic and pandemic? What characteristics mark the people of God in a time of widespread fear and imminent danger?

When I look at the history of the church, I see four unique characteristics that have caused the church to shine in times of darkness: calm, compassion, creativity and courage.


In the summer of 1854, a young and inexperienced pastor in London found himself in the middle of a terrifying cholera outbreak. As the recently hired pastor of New Park Street Chapel, 20-year-old Charles Spurgeon did his best to serve his new congregation by visiting the sick and dying.

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