Out of ill, God can bring forth good.
May 7th was the US National Day of Prayer and it presented a unique opportunity to reflect on how God has moved upon our nation during this time of national and global crisis. You won't hear about it in the mainstream media, but a significant tremor of spiritual revival has been happening across America during this traumatic time, so much so that it is now being referred to as "The Great Quarantine Revival".
Prophecy News Watch has made the following encouraging observations.
While no doubt many have turned to periods of self indulgence in their time of isolation and quarantine, many have used this opportunity to question and search for meaning and purpose in life. Often we do not see how desperate we are until our health is taken away or we experience the loss of a job and realize we are up against something so big that we need outside intervention.
That's us right now. We are in deep need. Not only because of this virus-plague, but because we have forgotten God. We think our greatest need is to get a vaccine or to get the economy back up and running. These are important, but they are not our greatest needs. What we need more than anything else in this land is a spiritual awakening.
With no sports, little entertainment and lots of time to reflect without distractions - it is a unique time in history where people are acutely aware of their need, and willing to reach out to others. Not only do people have the time to listen but are open and willing to do so.
A poll conducted by the Joshua Fund back in March found that 43.4% of all respondents say yes, we are experiencing a "wake up call" from God. One-in-five non-Christians (21.5%) polled said the crisis is causing them to start reading the Bible and listen to Bible teaching and Christian sermons online even though they usually don't, search online to learn more about Bible prophecy and God's plan for the future of mankind, and have more spiritual conversations with family and friends.
For Christians it has also been a time of deeper spiritual connection with four-in-ten self-identified Christian (40.1%) respondents said they are reading the Bible more than ever, watching or listening to Bible teaching and Christian sermons online and searching online to understand Bible prophecy and God's plan for the future of mankind.
The polls' indication that people are willing to read the Bible more than ever before has been reflected in record numbers of Bible app downloads including the YouVersion Bible App which saw 40.6 million people complete daily reading plans on Easter, up 54 percent. During Holy Week, another 14.1 million people shared verses, up 30 percent from the year before.
Traditional print Bible sales also saw a dramatic rise in April as did Google searches for "prayer" and "Christianity".
That wake up call has taken many forms and shapes but the response online for salvation according to several ministries has been unprecedented.
One of the largest online evangelistic events was put on by Nick Hall of Pulse Ministry. An estimated 1.7 million people from 167 countries across the world tuned into Pulse's service which included translation into 40 different languages.
The crusade featured talks by Hall, renowned apologist Ravi Zacharias, bestselling author Max Lucado, NFL Super Bowl Champion and Hall of Fame Coach Tony Dungy, Francis Chan and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez. It also had worship by Lauren Daigle, Michael W. Smith, and singing duo Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes.
As a result of the online crusade over 100,000 people indicated they wanted to put their faith in Jesus after hearing the gospel.
The responses, which came via international call centers, email, website and text messages, are evidence that God is at work in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Nick Hall, who founded Pulse and was the creative mind behind the outreach.
"We were literally getting smartphone photos from all over the world--from Nigeria to India and China--of families gathering in their living rooms around 18-inch cathode-ray TVs, laptops and HD screens watching our services," Hall said. "The doors to our church buildings may have been closed, but the church has not closed. We are living through a Great Quarantine Revival, and I think God is just getting started."
Two other well known ministries are reporting similar experiences.
David Jeremiah, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California, and host of the radio program "Turning Point," says that ever since the shutdown began, viewership of his online services has dramatically skyrocketed.
"The church is alive and well and may be more responsive now that I can ever remember except for the possible exception of 9/11," he said. "What we've learned from all of this is God doesn't need a building for there to be a church."
The founder of Turning Point Radio and Television Ministries revealed that on Easter Sunday, a staggering 90,000 people tuned into his online worship service.
"I'm preaching right now to more people than I have ever preached to my life," he said, adding that after the service, he gave viewers the opportunity to receive Christ.
According to Jeremiah, over 600 people clicked on that button.
"I've been doing this for over 50 years; I'm all over media, and I've never had anything like that happen, ever," he emphasized. "Would I rather have the 12 or 15,000 people that we have on Easter sitting in the church with our choir and orchestra and the Easter lilies and everybody cheering and praising? Yeah, I'd rather have that. But this is a new and different thing that God is doing. It's unprecedented."
Megachurch Pastor Greg Laurie received quite a bit of attention during the pandemic when President Trump said that he planed to tune into his online service during Easter. Laurie says that increasing numbers of young people are starting to embrace the Gospel during this time.
"Last week, we had over a million people tune in for church. These are people literally from all around the world, from every age and background, who are missing church. So, to the best of our ability, we are bringing church to them. What's more, hundreds of thousands of them are people whom marketers would refer to as the 'target demographic' between the ages of 18 and 34."
Ever since the shutdown began, viewership among millennials has increased 235%, he said.
Churches have been attempting to reach younger generations with the Gospel for decades, seemingly in vain, Laurie elaborated, highlighting the plethora of news stories and surveys in recent years about declining church attendance and the rise of the "nones" -- those who never have or no longer affiliate with any particular religious tradition.
But the worldwide coronavirus outbreak has fundamentally changed the environment.
"Could it be that simply by responding as best and as quickly as we could to something no one saw coming, we've unwittingly stumbled into part of God's answer to a generational riddle?" he asked.
"But here is the most surprising thing to me about this new, burgeoning online congregation. At the end of my message, I extended an opportunity for people to pray and ask Jesus Christ to come into their lives. At last count, over 31,000 have responded. That's in four weeks," Laurie said.
"You've heard of 'life imitating art.' Well, this is virtual reality becoming actual reality.
Let's hope and pray that it continues. America is long overdue," Laurie concluded.
The pandemic has triggered a "historic spiritual moment" - but like the lessons learned after 9/11 - we can easily be lulled back into complacency. Churches that were full after 9/11 quickly went back to normal in the weeks after. Let us pray that this revival lasts.
I wonder if the same can be said of New Zealand as we prepare for a widening of our Covid-enforced bubbles. Will we go back to our old ways of doing things? Or will we search God's heart for our nation and listen to His words on our future directions? We each have a God-shaped emptiness in our souls until we seek and find His fulfillment. That empty place is what is causing the lonely, frustrated and fearful to seek God. Please join me in praying for a wave of repentance and a fresh revival of His Spirit over our land.
Covid has been a 'full stop', and a wakeup call causing whole nations to grind to a halt within a few weeks.
We're vulnerable, our pride has been questioned, and we are more open to acknowledge our powerlessness.
This is the state of humility when we are receptive to God.
"If My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray; and seek My Face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear them from Heaven, and will forgive their sins and heal their land."
(2Chronicles 7 v 14.)
The next move is ours, people of God!
In His Service,