The COVID-19 crisis has brought much of American life to a grinding halt. Gone and nearly forgotten as we shelter in place are heretofore assumed national pleasures such as the advent of spring and Major League Baseball. The exhilaration that many of us experience at this time of year has been replaced by deeper and deeper levels of apprehension.
Yet as dark and foreboding as this season appears, the church is poised, as in so many other times of uncertainty, to direct the world’s attention to Christ, in whom we find the light of life. But we are not there yet. Here is how Charles Spurgeon articulated his longing for gospel renewal for a hurting nation:
We must confess that, just now, we have not the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we could wish. . . . Oh, that there would come a rushing mighty wind, that should carry everything before it! This is the lack of the times, the great want of our country. May this come as a blessing from the Most High!
The awakening that Spurgeon describes may well be on our horizon. Whether it remains in the distance or suddenly draws near, we can expect to see certain characteristic elements. In the words of J.I Packer, they will include the following.1
Awareness of God’s presence: “The first and fundamental feature in renewal is the sense that God has drawn awesomely near in his holiness, mercy and might.”
Responsiveness to God’s Word: “The message of Scripture which previously was making only a superficial impact, if that, now searches its hearers and readers to the depth of their being.”
Sensitiveness to sin: “Consciences become tender and a profound humbling takes place.”
Liveliness in community: “Love and generosity, unity and joy, assurance and boldness, a spirit of praise and prayer, and a passion to reach out to win others, are recurring marks of renewed communities.”
Fruitfulness in testimony: “Christians proclaim by word and deed the power of the new life, souls are won, and a community conscience informed by Christian values emerges.” The form of this fruit will look different living in quarantine, but it’s as applicable in this situation as in any other.
These are all wonderful things for which to pray, and pray we must. And gospel renewal cannot simply be an item on our prayer lists, however fervently we ask for times of refreshing from the Lord. We must take this God-given opportunity to pause what we have been doing and refocus our hearts on seeking renewal in our homes, even when we’re sheltered in our homes. Although it may feel as if we’re in survival mode, we’re actually right where God wants us to be as we begin seeking gospel renewal. How? Whether we are single or part of a family, we can give ourselves to the disciplines of Word, prayer, and worship, expecting the Spirit of God to enlighten and warm our hearts.
There can be no true awakening without the Word of God having a prominent place. If you have slipped into a certain laxity concerning the Scriptures, now is the perfect time to address this. As many of us are confined to our homes and in close quarters with others, our actions, good or bad, become magnified. In these dark times, let’s return the Bible to its rightful place in our homes, as “a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).
Every situation is different, and what works for one home may not work for another. This is not “one size fits all.” Here are some suggestions for you to consider as you get back into the Word in your home:
- Memorize the Ten Commandments, the fruit of the Spirit, the Lord’s Prayer, or the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Give little rewards for progress. Make it enjoyable.
- Read good Christian books together (Lewis, Chesterton, Dillard, etc.) and discuss them as a family or as part of an online book group.
- Establish a family quiet time when all devices are turned off and members can spend 20 or 30 minutes alone with the Bible.
Speaking with God through prayer and opening our hearts to Him in quiet expectation should be as natural as breathing—particularly during a crisis. We can cultivate a habit of prayer as individuals and as part of a larger community (even online). You can pray silently, verbally, or even by reading Scripture back to God. There is no one right way to do it, so do it however you can, as often as you can!
- Pray the Lord’s Prayer once a day at a set time, in concert with others at your church. I am asking our church family to do this, if possible, at 3 p.m.
- Pray through the Book of Common Prayer or read Spurgeon’s devotional at home once in the morning and once in the evening.
We can’t allow one hour on Sunday to be the sum total of our worship. Worship involves not only the assembling of ourselves together or even meeting God alone or participating in virtual worship, as vital as these activities can be. It also involves giving ourselves to Christ as living sacrifices—serving our neighbors, giving sacrificially, and so on. In this time when we are hitting re-set on so many things, let’s look at our worship in fresh ways.
- Organize family devotions. Each member takes a turn reading the Word, praying, etc. No phones or screens are allowed during this time unless they assist in worship.
- Watch and discuss great Christian films (The Hiding Place, The Robe, Chariots of Fire, etc.).
- Sing great hymns and Scripture songs in the home—old and new.
Charles Spurgeon longed for God to pour out His grace on the nation. May we develop the same passion for ours! This may indeed be the moment in history when God visits His people with transforming grace once again. In view of this hope, let’s be like the faithful ones who have their wicks trimmed, agents of Christ’s awakening presence in the world—starting in our homes.
P.S. – Here are some additional resources I recommend for home worship and discipleship:
- David R. Helm, The Big Picture Story Bible, 2004.
- Bruce Ware, Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God, 2009.
- Donald S. Whitney, Family Worship: In the Bible, in History, and in Your Home, 2006.
1 J.I. Packer, God in Our Midst: Seeking and Receiving Ongoing Revival (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant), 24-35.