The book of first Peter was written at a time when the Roman Empire had declared war on the Christian faith. Persecution and suffering were everywhere. But surprisingly, during this chaotic and worrisome season, the Church thrived, with thousands placing their faith in Jesus across the empire. From this we learn two things: 1) In times of great testing, the Body of Christ rises above the chaos of life, displaying inner peace that baffles the general population; and 2) the unsaved of the world, who are without hope, earnestly seek comfort and security, and are drawn to those who have found it. For this reason, the Apostle Peter, wrote the following in 1 Peter 3:14,15 (NIV):
"Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened." But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…"
In our current world crisis, people are searching desperately for hope and answers. As believers in Christ, we possess this sought-after hope and live under the power of the Holy Spirit's presence within. If you project the hope that so many are searching for, you must be prepared to speak about Jesus, because people will ask why you are smiling in the face of turmoil. Christians are most effective at winning others to Christ when we are living in a time of upheaval and distress. That is why these next few weeks, months and maybe years will be good for the Kingdom. We are about to grow!
And now for a global update from one of Empower's national church leaders.
As I write this, it appears that many people throughout China are coming out of their homes/apartments and cautiously going back to their jobs, living somewhat normal lives. But there are still some who do not have the ability to obtain food and medicine. In the province of Hubei, the process is slower than the rest of the regions. Some factories are operating, but many are only running at limited production due to a lack of components/raw materials.
The Chinese general public does not know how many coronavirus cases still exist or if new ones are popping up; reports suggest the numbers are very low. But people are skeptical about whether the government numbers are accurate. Disillusionment and distrust of authority are widespread.
The Good News:
House church activities are slowly getting back to normal, but still, believers must meet secretly in small groups. The government crackdown on the Church and its leadership continues. Most of the activity is teaching/preaching online, phone calls, and short video clips.
Due to the current conditions, there is an unprecedented opportunity to share the Gospel, primarily online, as well as through Christians and pastors handing out food and face masks to needy people. House church leadership has told Empower that untold thousands are presently accepting Christ in every region. They have never experienced such widespread interest by the general public towards the Gospel. It appears that the very real dread of the pandemic has revealed the frailty of a human life, and resulted in widespread interest in God. Fear is a marvelous motivator to mature a person’s thinking regarding the essentials of life.
Pastors are excited and energized about this new and increased interest in the Gospel. One house church leader put it this way:
"People are thinking more about their life and death. The virus is so small—smaller than dust—and such a small thing can control the whole world. China has boasted that they will be economically and militarily #1 in the world. The leadership and some people were very proud of themselves. Now, this microscopic virus has brought them to their knees. The virus shut down the economy of the whole country. People are thinking about life and the afterlife. Their pride is breaking."
More and more people are joining small group discussions online. People feel safe accessing Bible studies from the comfort of their homes. Unbelievers can ask questions and learn about Christianity without risk. Once in a group, they are eager to talk and accept Christ. Increasing numbers of people are identifying these online meetings as their home church. Christians frequently and energetically share their testimonies and impromptu sermons in these group chats.
The government is trying to put an end to these online Christian chat rooms. They want to stop the robust witnessing that is happening over the internet, but they can't. It is too widespread. They would have to shut down the entire internet in China—but that is impossible.
"There has never been a greater need for Bibles in China than right now," a leader in the country told me. Those coming to Christ online are searching for Bibles. The government remains effective at blocking Bible apps. Empower continues to print as many Bibles as possible in secretive ways.
Ron's Question to a Church leader: When Christians present food and masks to needy people, do they appreciate it?
Answer: "Words cannot describe their appreciation. The gifts of love are received with tears. They felt entirely forgotten. But when Christians come, they love them and show compassion. Then they talk, talk, talk! It is a golden opportunity. The reputation of Christians is so good in China now. People hear the Gospel with every bit of food delivered, and every mask handed out. Pastors and workers are fearless. They may be arrested by police for sharing the Gospel or may even get sick by exposing themselves to the virus, but they don't care. Because they are sensing that people are hungry for love and truth and hope."
Gospel outreach is massive and affecting every level of Chinese society. Government officials, police officers, soldiers, bankers, the highly educated like professors, medical doctors, and nurses are coming to the Lord. Those who believed that higher learning and positions of power would keep them safe are realizing money and education does not protect them. Everyone is susceptible to death from a little virus. It is this awareness causing people to rethink the idea of God in the world. This is the positive side of the coronavirus outbreak in China.
A Story Revealing God's Power to Change Lives
Government Official in Wuhan Becomes a Christian in Wuhan
The man pictured below is a government official serving in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus outbreak first struck. He attempted to find protective face masks for himself and his family, but with no success. One of the local house church pastors in Wuhan that Empower works with, went into the streets, praying for opportunities to share the masks Empower provided, as well as the Gospel. Every mask given to a pastor in China is another opportunity to share Christ.
The fearless pastor spotted this government official on the street and said, “Sir, I have something important to share with you, as well as this gift.” He handed him a new mask. “I see you don’t have one and walk the streets unprotected.”
The official was dumbfounded. “I tried buying some for my family but couldn’t. I know my boss has many, yet he didn’t give me one! I am at risk every day while I work. How much is this mask?”
“Free! Have you ever heard the Name of Jesus?” asked the pastor.
“No, but it doesn’t sound Chinese. This man Jesus, did he donate the mask?”
The pastor smiled warmly and said, “If you have ten minutes, I can tell you the story of Jesus.”
“No one has dared to come out of their homes except for you. It’s boring to stand on the streets alone, and you seem like a nice guy. Please tell me about Jesus.”
The pastor spent 30 minutes with the government official and brought him to Christ! He is a member of the Communist Party and cannot tell others he is a believer, but he has joined the Bible studies conducted over the WeChat app. He is listening to sermons whenever he can. The house church in his area continues to follow up with him and is excited to report he is becoming a firm believer and follower of Christ.
Pictures of Wuhan and China Compassionate Outreach:
Hundreds and hundreds of people have heard the Gospel and turned to Christ during Empower's latest outreach initiative that involved providing for some of the poor, needy, suffering, forgotten, and hungry in China with food packages and face masks to offer people protection from the virus. Both believers and unbelievers were the recipients of Empower's compassionate assistance.
Your partnership is making a powerful difference in China for the Kingdom. Thank you, Empower family!