This should be the shock to the system that pastors need, or the next pandemic just may take the church out.

You'd expect the church to respond very differently than the world in the midst of crisis. Sadly, this hasn't always been the case. Social media is filled with freaked-out Christians who are absolutely terrified, spending their energies seeking out natural solutions to a supernatural situation. The fact that they can't disinfect their hands or wipe their, well, you know, has sent many into a frenzy. Something is terribly wrong and church as usual is no longer an option.

If ignoring, minimizing or seeking a natural solution to a demonic threat brings relief, don't presume you have won the battle. The entity is merely resting alongside you, thankful his foe has refused to fight.

The response is a glaring indictment on the church, and without question, the church must not ever allowed to go on as usual. This pandemic may be the catalyst to reformation the remnant has been crying out for.

THE CHURCH ISN'T READY

7  Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; Revelation 19:7 (ESV)

In an age when so many Believers are merely concerned with their personal eternal security and so many others are sitting back waiting to be raptured before the trouble comes, it's clear that the church is far from ready for the end-time waves of crisis that are crashing down.

Global traumas like the coronavirus very well may play a part in determining the wheat and the tares. Who will rise up in great, unmovable faith and who will shrink back in fear? Those who know God will respond very differently than those who are mere pretenders.

32  …the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. Daniel 11:32 (NKJV)

So, the question for pastors and every Believer in the midst of trial is, how can we prepare? Yes, there are natural precautions we should take. There are spiritual reactions that are necessary too. Many are suggesting adopting house church/small group models. That very well may come into play, but that's a functional shift. There are spiritual shifts that are much more important.

TEN WAYS EVERY CHURCH MUST RESPOND

INSTITUTE STRATEGIC PRAYER

The days of simply attending a Sunday morning service where we worship a little, pray a little and listen to a sermon before heading back into the world for a week must come to an end immediately.

The primary focus of every legitimate Christian church must be fervent, passionate, powerful and strategic intercession. The days of simple prayer lists and prayer chains are over as the call to groans and cries of spiritual prayer explode out of the saints.

For years I've been campaigning for services that are marked by people laid out at the altars from start to finish as the Holy Spirit broods over them. Deep, guttural groans of intercession will be heard throughout the sanctuary every Sunday (and ultimately, every day of the week).

I am absolutely convinced that a church filled with tongues of fire will do more than any other single activity to make everybody ready for the coming storms.

1  When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2  And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)

DEAL DIRECTLY WITH SPIRITS OF FEAR

It's astonishing how a very dark spirit of fear has blanketed the church. Fear results in unsettled, nervous reactions while faith results in a confident, peaceful, calculated response.

Pastors must introduce deliverance into their churches as a primary ministry. The spirits that are tormenting Christians have been exposed all over the world during the pandemic. I believe nearly all Christians need or have at one time needed deliverance. The enemy is especially attracted to children of God as he seeks to find open doors to latch on and destroy.

We cannot afford a scared, timid people who shrink back at the sight of their own shadow. This end-time season requires mighty warriors, an army who has annihilated fear and who will stare right through the darkness and expose the enemy and send him fleeing!

In fact, it very well may be time to allow those who are afraid to step back so the church can finally do what God has ordained it to do—fight and possess the land!

3  Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.' ” And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained. Judges 7:3 (NKJV)

DEVELOP A PROPHETIC CULTURE

Possibly a primary source of fear in the camp is the lack of foresight, the absence of prophetic revelation. Imagine how different everything would be if God's people were made ready in their spirits as God prepared them with all sorts of prophetic communication.

Dreams, visions, God's still small voice, words of wisdom, words of knowledge and other divine impressions are extremely powerful and necessary if everybody in the church is to weather the storm.

Every Christian must be both equipped and activated prophetically. The church needs to hear God's ever-present voice now more than ever. To have some people who are not tuned in compromises the camp and gives the enemy a very powerful and secure foothold.

19  Do not quench the Spirit. 20  Do not despise prophecies. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (NKJV)

GROW IN POWERFUL FAITH

There is an angry crowd of “Believers” who are demanding we “USE WISDOM!” regarding this crisis. I wish they'd shout “USE FAITH!” It's much more effective.

It's disappointing to see very little difference between the world and the redeemed in time of trouble. For so many, the initial and most powerful reaction is natural protection instead of supernatural advance. On social media I've run into an angry Christian crowd that snipes anyone who suggests peace, faith and authority over the schemes of the enemy are the answer. They see such counsel as a minimization of their human efforts and a threat to that strategy. I wonder just what counselor they are listening to.

They love to promote “wisdom” but tend to see faith as haphazard and even some sort of nonsensical supernatural voodoo. A life of true biblical faith is so foreign to them that the extent of their belief system is a cop-out by simply “trusting that God will do as he pleases.”

True faith looks nothing like that. It's confident, authoritative and declarative.

Pastors have no option but to repent of their silly anti-faith positions and to actually embrace some of the teachings they previously dismissed. Whether you appreciate the whole of who Kenneth Copeland (or similar ministers) is or not, you cannot deny the powerful truth on the subject of faith that he carries.

38  Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:38 (NKJV)

GO DEEP IN THE WORD

The world needs pastors who have the smell of fire on them as they emerge from the prayer rooms and stand with great anointing and authority behind the pulpit. The low-level milk of Bible teaching must cease as the Spirit of God reveals the deep mysteries of Scripture.

The people of God must be students of the inerrant Word, allowing the truth to radically transform them. Times like this require a spiritual response, and the foundation of God's wisdom is found in his timeless Word.

The tired Sunday School style sermons must cease as earth-shaking revelation from God's Word shakes us to our core, and equips us as mighty end-time soldiers.

12  For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

DEAL DIRECTLY WITH SIN

The greatest debilitating factor in the church by far is unaddressed sin. A church that isn't pure, holy and consecrated is a liability, a breeding ground for demonic manifestation and a magnet for God's judgment.

Hellfire preaching must return to the church and a call to intense consecration is simply mandatory if we hope to endure to the end.

The Bible clearly instructs certain people to be removed from fellowship, but it's rare to find a leadership team that is willing to follow those orders. I propose it's either an attempt to extend more mercy than God himself is, or the leadership are steeped in the same sins themselves.

11  But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner–not even to eat with such a person. 12  For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13  But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 (NKJV)

5  deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 1 Corinthians 5:5 (NKJV)

TEACH ON THE END-TIMES

I believe the church's greatest hour will be during the Great Tribulation. I understand that many others don't believe that at all. Eschatology is a volatile topic, but we can't afford to ignore it any longer.

It's laughable to think the church is ready to endure such a terrible Tribulation period, even though God's wrath won't be expressed on his true church in that season. The measure of protection we'll have will be enough for us to have an opportunity to stay true to God and to proclaim his truth.

Yet, today, with a comparatively very minor crisis in the world, the church is failing miserably. The church isn't ready. We need leaders who will emphasize the trials that are coming, whether they occur during the Tribulation period or not. We are in the end-times, and the end itself draws nearer every moment.

I believe a casual approach and the thought that we'll be raptured away is detrimental and will cost potentially millions of Christians their very salvation. The falling away will be very great as countless Believers fail the test and don't endure to the end. Their blood will be on the hands of the pastors for failing to prepare them.

EQUIP IN SIGNS, WONDERS, HEALINGS AND MIRACLES

I've been sadly stunned at the number of professing Christians who have little to no confidence in God's supernatural ability, and have even less confidence in their authority to move in wonders themselves.

Training in signs, wonders, healings and miracles can't be delayed for another moment. We need a supernaturally charged people who are fiercely opposed to the illegal activity of the enemy. This includes fear, sickness, poverty and other assaults of the devil.

The church needs to learn the difference between God-ordained pestilence and devil-initiated attacks. From that place, the church can rise up and function in absolutely remarkable signs and wonders as a traumatized world looks on and witnesses God in action. Hope will flood in and countless desperate lost people will be saved.

29  Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30  by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” 31  And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:29-31 (NKJV)

KEEP ETERNITY IN FOCUS

The fact that Christians pay little attention to eternity and that their gaze is on the here and now has never been more evident in this generation than it is today. Instead of having peace and confidence about spending an eternity with Jesus, and being excited about that, so many are fearful and anxious about a virus that, in their minds, has the power to kill.

It's time for our preaching to be zeroed in on eternity and to prepare people for the place they will be living forever. I am personally gripped by forever, by the expectation of the glories of the age to come. Do I want to die before my time? Of course not. But, I place myself in God's hands, and I battle the enemy's attempts to bring destruction to me and I trust that I will go not a second before or after my designated time.

55  O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Corinthians 15:55 (KJV)

PREPARE TO GO UNDERGROUND

As easy as it was for our government to force everybody indoors, and to cancel everything from sporting events to church services, and to threaten imprisonment for those who defy the orders, we better be preparing the people to go underground.

We can't presume the internet will be available. We can't expect to be able to freely gather. There will come a time when we will have to choose to obey God rather then men and gather, illegally, to worship, pray and unite as Believers.

Read this passage and be ready to expect a very similar scenario as the end draws near:

27  And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28  saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29  But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30  The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31  God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32  And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” 33  When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. Acts 5:27-33 (ESV)

FINAL THOUGHTS

The call is for pastors to embrace a mighty shift in the church. Church as usual is no longer an option. We must see the people equipped as mighty men and women of great faith, fervent intercession, workers of miracles and prophetic instruments in the hands of God.

Does the church have the faith to endure pandemics, pestilences and global trouble?

Welcome to a divinely ordered test. I believe God is mercifully allowing his church to see just how ready it is in the face of an end-time crisis, a minor pandemic compared to what most certainly lies ahead. While I have been encouraged to see many Believers rise up in great faith in the face of this taunting Goliath, many others have had their shallow faith exposed.

24  And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid. 1 Samuel 17:24 (NKJV)

44  And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” 45  Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 1 Samuel 17:44-45 (NKJV)

THE ERROR OF SEEKING NATURAL REMEDIES FIRST

I'm hearing from a lot of Christians during this pandemic about their concerns, their natural strategies, their fears and their determination to avoid people and situations that are threatening. So many of these same people are saying very little about their fearless resolve to fight the enemy and to go deeper in the Lord. Something's not right in the church.

12  And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians. 13  So Asa rested with his fathers; he died in the forty-first year of his reign. 14  They buried him in his own tomb, which he had made for himself in the City of David; and they laid him in the bed which was filled with spices and various ingredients prepared in a mixture of ointments. They made a very great burning for him. 2 Chronicles 16:12-14 (NKJV)

I believe we are seeing this scenario play out during our current crisis. Instead of first seeking the Lord as the primary and most important action, Christians are initially rushing to find the same natural protections that the unredeemed are. You can smell the fear as they are desperately attempting to take every natural precaution they can. Can you do both seek the Lord and prepare naturally? Of course, but the problem comes when the two steps are out of order.

The above passage is very interesting. Not only did Asa seek natural medical care as his prime hope, but he was despondent, surrendered and ready for his own death. He prepared his own tomb. I don't believe it's a reach to suggest that many of God's very own are doing the same thing. A sense of dread has blanketed them and instead of truly standing in powerful, confident, overcoming and authoritative faith, they are digging their own graves, preparing for the worst.

SHOULD CHURCHES CLOSE DURING THE OUTBREAK?

The issue of faith is intriguing. Note, I didn't say that we shouldn't take natural precautions, but rather that we should diligently, fervently seek the Lord and contend in the Spirit for supernatural resolutions first. From that place, God will give the peace necessary to make both spiritual and natural decisions with the clear guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The reason I said that faith is intriguing is that, sadly, a massive percentage of “people of faith” simply don't walk confidently in the faith they identify with. It's easy to say that churches should remain open and everybody should flood in and intercede with passion for breakthrough, unafraid of any assaults of the enemy. The question is, would everybody who floods in truly be functioning in great, biblical faith? No.

To walk in faith requires such an extreme consecration that it would be silly to presume that most live in that realm. They do not. All of us are greatly challenged in this area and few truly respond to that challenge. This is an indictment on Christians everywhere, and especially on pastors and leaders who have not prepared the people for such a time as this.

If you are paying attention to the chatter, you'll know that the world is mocking various churches and ministries for cancelling services and conferences. Supposed “faith ministries” are cancelling events and encouraging people to stay home, and the world is most certainly noticing, and laughing. Would it make sense for some churches to stop gathering together in the short term? Maybe. Maybe not. While I tend to believe that contending together in fervent intercession in person as a body makes all the sense in the world, some may think otherwise. Whatever the case, we can't ignore the fallout. The lost are having a field day saying, “I told you your faith was nothing more than superstition. You are as afraid, ummmm, I mean cautious, as the rest of us.” 

The church is supposed to be made for times like these. Psalm 91:10 should be our rallying cry (No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling). We should be showcasing the power of God to protect and the revealing a fearless disposition that comes from intimately knowing Deity. The world is missing out on this opportunity in this current crisis.

I'm not suggesting we need to haphazardly or foolishly do things to “prove our faith” or even that those with faith are immune to sickness. Please don't presume I am. What I am saying is that we must rise up in strong, confident belief that Jesus has overcome sickness and that healing is our portion. The blood of Jesus doesn't grant us immunity. It grants us authority. My hope is that the church would be filled to overflowing during a pandemic with people who refuse to be intimidated by the enemy and coerced to stand down. However, if most are nervous and lack the spiritual confidence necessary to fight the devil at this level, I agree that the church itself has become compromised and is at risk. Spiritual resolutions that aren't heeded then give way to natural reactions.

With this in mind, I'll admit it is disturbing that so many are suggesting instructions that are opposite of what Scripture dictates. Instead of coming together in faith to lay hands on the sick, we are isolating.

14  Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. James 5:14-15 (NKJV)

17  And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18  they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18 (NKJV)

I want to qualify something as I understand many are troubled by this current season. Is it appropriate to follow the instructions of medical experts in the short term by temporarily isolating and cancelling services? It very well may be. It's true that many are still young and growing in their faith and it can make sense to exercise caution. However, I must stress that fear cannot drive that decision. Further, we must aggressively, zealously seek the Lord, understanding that our protection comes from him. In a perfect world, I do believe we'd still gather in spite of threat and contend with great faith and ferocity in our spirits.

THIS IS A TEST

Speaking of faith, I wonder if we truly believe the following passages:

1  He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2  I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”3  Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. Psalm 91:1-3 (NKJV)

9  Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10  No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; 11  For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. Psalm 91:9-11 (NKJV)

God is testing us. The above scriptures are the very words (the Word) of our perfect, omniscient, loving, eternal and undefeated God. Do you believe them without qualification?

If not, your lack of faith will absolutely compromise every part of your life. Fear can settle into your soul. Doubt can overwhelm you. Human wisdom will masquerade as spiritual wisdom. The enemy will have access to you. I'm not saying this to disturb you, but rather to awaken you to a very real scenario.

In order to succeed as Christians, we have to exercise common-sense-defying faith that refuses to surrender to a very powerful and demonic spirit of fear.

I wonder if we realize that you and I are God's mighty weapons in this hour. We are the ones who are commissioned to stare down this enemy with fire in our eyes and to change the course of history. We must stand together with absolute fearlessness!

I want to encourage you to fight the enemy, to pray with fiery passion and to stand in incredible faith. There are much greater troubles ahead, and the church must learn to walk in miracles, signs, wonders, healing and supernatural faith. This is what the lost need to see as despair threatens to overtakes the planet.

God causes it to rain on the just and the unjust. Be careful that you don't wrongly interpret its meaning.

I've been dashing in and out of stores today, running errands in the midst of an unrelenting downpour. The rain is soaking all who venture out into it, no matter if they are good or evil, just or unjust.

45  …He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:45 (NKJV)

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I've heard many frightened Christians shout this verse in support of their idea that God will visit pestilence equally on the lost and the saved (how that is comforting I'll never know). Their argument is that while we may have a measure of hope that God will ultimately heal or rescue us, we must expect the exact same “rain” to hit both Believers and unbelievers. The force of the assault, whether it's a demonic advance or judgment of God, can't be avoided.

Of course, any true Christian would agree that they have an advocate in Jesus. So, the disposition becomes, “We can't avoid the plague but we can hope that God meets us in that place.” Basically it's the passive, hands-off “whatever God's wills” belief system. This is the belief that can be exceedingly dangerous.

THE SUN AND THE RAIN

Let's read the verse in context.

43  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45  that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47  And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48  Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48 (NKJV)

Spoiler alert: both the sun and the rain are good!

Many are expecting to be plagued by coronavirus or other ailments and other demonic attacks because of a terrible misunderstanding of the meaning of this passage.

The context of this truth is all about love. God loves both those who are evil and those who are good, the unjust and the just. His mandate is that we are to do the same. In farmer-speak, both sun and rain are very good.

1  Ask the LORD for rain In the time of the latter rain. The LORD will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, Grass in the field for everyone. Zechariah 10:1 (NKJV)

7  For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; Hebrews 6:7 (NKJV)

This truth about rain on the just and the unjust has absolutely nothing to do with expecting ills and ailments. The reason a wrong understanding of this passage is so deadly is because it causes us to come into agreement with a demonic strategy!

We as Christians are absolutely not sitting ducks! If we stand in great faith, refuse the taunts of the enemy and resist leaning on our own understanding, we will rise up with great authority and command with fiery resolve that no plague shall come near us!

10  No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; 11  For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. Psalm 91:10-11 (NKJV)

Waiving the white flag of surrender by accepting plagues and pestilences will bring death and destruction to the people of God. This is not our portion!

17  …He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” Acts 14:17 (NKJV)

HOW TO STAND

Simple prayers of petition that are driven more by fear than faith may do more damage than good. We don't want unbelief to be the driver of our intercession. Rather, we must stand in our great authority and insist that what's in the Word of God manifests!

We command the enemy to back down!

We move the mountains!

We heal the sick!

We decree and declare the Word of God!

But first, we have to ask ourselves if we truly believe the Word of God or not? If so, powerful faith will burn through our being!

This rampant wrong understanding of the sun and the rain has caused many to expect the worst instead of contending for what the cross of Christ has provided for us.

It's not possible to believe that plagues will visit both the just and the unjust while also believing the many scriptures that proclaim our protection!

3  But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NKJV)

19  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all. 20  He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken. Psalm 34:19-20 (NKJV)

WHY DOES TROUBLE COME?

Of course, many would argue that Christians do have trouble visit them. Sickness does come. Poverty is a reality for many. It would take another article, or a book, to fully address this, but I wanted to at least encourage you to venture into the Word of God for your answers. It's true that Satan won't stop raging, but the secret to our success is in our response.

Of course, a barrage of arrows hurled by the enemy will strike us if we allow them to. My wife once had a vision of someone standing confidently with a massive shield of faith protecting them. Then, strangely, when the arrows started flying they lost faith and dropped their shield. The shield of faith is the most important piece of armor we have!

16  above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. Ephesians 6:16 (NKJV)

If we stand in great faith, we will have great success. If we fight the enemy, go to battle, renew our mind, take thoughts captive, pray with power, stand in our authority and believe every single word of the Bible we will most certainly live in victory!