The Church’s Response to the World in the New Normal

The Church’s Response to the World in the New Normal

COVID-19, the lockdown, and restrictions have created a “new normal.” The globalization of the pandemic and the countless teachings available online have created discordant understandings of the Church. The Church is not a building, a denomination, a nationalistic enterprise, Judaism extended, the kingdom of God, or a parenthetical plan of God. So what is the Church? The Church is first a collective of individuals “who name Jesus as their ruler in life and have indicated their desire to follow him publicly.”[1] And, second, the coming together of “those who obey the call, worldwide, regardless of nation or culture, called out from the world, the flesh, and the devil, they come to hear from God.”[2] The Church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23), the family of God, the household of faith, the pillar, the ground of the truth and the temple of God (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 2:5).

THE CHALLENGES CAUSED BY COVID-19

With COVID-19 came a renewal of faith challenges. The world is now more open with unrestricted and unlimited information and uncensored ideas. Life is fast and furious. The World Wide Web (the internet) has changed our lives. This has thrown up changes that need to be identified and responded to by the Church. What are they?

1. THE CHALLENGE OF EXCLUSIVISM, PLURALISM, AND INCLUSIVISM

The Church is faced with the challenge of retaining the doctrine of exclusivism. In other words, we ask the questions, “Is Jesus the only savior?” and “Is faith in Christ necessary to be saved?” Of course, our response is yes. The world objects to this.The world says Jesus alone cannot be the Savior and faith in him alone cannot be sufficient. One influential traditional ruler in Nigeria said, “I’m a practicing Muslim. I also go to Church and I’m a traditionalist.”[3] He opined that all religions “are one.” Inclusivism says that although Jesus has completed the work necessary to bring us back to God, people can be saved by responding positively to God’s revelation in creation and in aspects of their religions.

The Response of the Church

We must be bold to state and insist there is only one way to God and that is through conscious faith in Jesus Christ. The Church must maintain that the sacrificial death of Jesus is the basis of genuine salvation. Thus, other religions cannot deliver genuine salvation.

2. THE CHALLENGE OF MATERIALISM

Materialism is a preoccupation with physical things rather than spiritual things (1 Timothy 6:4-10). John Calvin said, “where riches hold the dominion of the heart, God has lost His authority.”[4] Materialism is an attitude that attaches more importance to money and material goods than they deserve. The advent of and wrong teaching on prosperity and success has fueled this.

The Response of the Church

The Church must become truer to giving rather than taking, elevate divine desire over transient goals, and teach biblical truth about prosperity. Churches and leaders must demonstrate Christian contentment and modesty in a world riddled by poverty (Matthew 6:19-20, Philippians 2:1-11, Philippians 4:11-13).

3. THE CHALLENGE OF ACTIVISM

Activism is rising. Christian activism is any Christian attempt to improve society. Many Christians desire a more direct engagement with political processes. Christians and non-Christians are questioning the role and responsibility of the Church in the current world order.

The Response of the Church

We should be salt and light as Jesus taught in Matthew 5:13-16, recognizing that the Church should be positively impacting the world in every way possible. The church must disciple those who can lead, serve, and importantly, support them for that purpose.

4. THE CHALLENGE OF INTERNET AND TECHNOLOGY

The internet has changed our world. As of March 31, 2017, there were 3,739,698,500 people on the internet out of a world population of 7,519,028,970. In Africa, there were 353,121,578 people online out of a reported population of 1,246,504,865 people. In Nigeria, of an aggregated 206,139,589 people, 126,078,999 people were internet users as of December 2019. By December 2020, this had become 203,168,355, representing 96.1% of the population.[5] The internet is awash with all kinds of tools. It is a prime promoter of all forms of debased morals. Then, there is also the advent of new technology. These include the use of audiovisuals for worship, dramatic stage lights, multisite church platforms, and numerous other tools.

The Response of the Church

If the Church ignores this reality, it will lose the next generation. We must acknowledge that we live in this age, take full advantage of the tools available, and extend the Gospel wherever possible. We must choose and deploy technology correctly. We must remember that “when used right, technology becomes an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it.” Discernment is the key.

5. THE CHALLENGE OF TERRORISM

Our world is riddled with insecurity. The church faces external aggression from violent and non-violent terrorists. Violent terrorists deploy physical tools and instigate physical assault on the Church. Non-violent terrorists engage the Church through media attacks and wielding of government and political power to subjugate and undermine the Church.

The Response of the Church

The Church must have a multifaceted approach. We must return to true Christianity, repent of our shallowness, and live for Christ faithfully. We must live above anger and the need for revenge. Also, we must identify and train people of proven faith for leadership and governance and then encourage people to support and vote for them. Additionally, we must train those who will defend the faith against all aggressors on all platforms. I believe we have a theological and historical responsibility to do this.

6. THE CHALLENGE OF GENERATIONS

The Church should be concerned about the next generation. They were born into a world advocating for and promoting diversity, evolution of global brands, social media, and a digital world. This generation represents the most materially endowed, technologically saturated, and formally educated generation our world has ever seen. It is a generation that is global, social, visual, and technological, making them the most connected, educated, and sophisticated generation ever. They have never lived in a world without the internet. To them, Google is like the Bible with guaranteed answers.

The Response of the Church

The Church must recognize the changing demography of the world. We must find ways to connect with them, use the tools that they use, and bring the Gospel to them in relevant ways. The Church must develop a curriculum that is contextual to today’s world, applicable to today’s citizens, and useful for the future.

7. THE CHALLENGE OF LEADERSHIP

The Church faces a leadership challenge. Leadership appears patterned after the systems of the world. This style involves “lording it over” to become head over others, gain dominion, subdue, and exhibit a tendency toward compulsion or oppression. In effect, leadership in the world is about interest rather than ministry. This type of leadership was disparaged by Jesus in Matthew 20:25-28, Mark 10:42-45, Luke 22:24-27, and John 13:12-17.

The Response of the Church

The Church must return to the biblical pattern for leadership. The biblical pattern is the Jesus style – focused on serving others and concerned for God’s kingdom. In the words of R. T. France, “The natural human concern with status and importance is one of the most fundamental instincts that must be unlearned by those who belong to God’s kingdom.”[6] Church leadership must be distinctly biblical, Christlike, and deliberately taught.


[1] Ron Kallmier and Andy Peck, Closing the Back Door of the Church (Surrey: CWR, 2009), 22.

[2] Kevin J. Conner, The Church in The New Testament (Kent, England: Sovereign World International, 1982), 12ff.

[3] Wale Odunsi, “I’m a Christian, Muslim, traditionalist – Ooni of Ife,” Daily Post – Nigeria News, 3 February 2021, https://dailypost.ng/2017/06/23/im-christian-muslim-traditionalist-ooni-ife.

[4]  Steve Scalici, “For the Love of Money: The Dangers of Materialism,” 16 February 2021, http://www.crosswalk.com/family/finances/for-the-love-of-money-the-dangers-of-materialism-11529457.html.

[5] “AFRICA,” Internet World Stats, 23 March 2021, https://www.internetworldstats.com/africa.htm#ng.

[6]  R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary of the New Testament. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007), 755.

For Reflection and Discussion

  1. How can you engage young people to help develop ways for the Church to reach and equip this generation?
  2. Technology is here to stay. What can your church do to leverage on it?
  3. In the face of liberalism, how is the Church to maintain its biblical position?