Will Covid deal a fatal blow to Christianity and the Church? Will all the restrictions, inability to gather, worship; the apparent prolonged season of unanswered prayers undermine faith and unhinge spiritual practices.
In the long run, I cannot see that. Christianity is of course a living relationship with the God of the universe, through his Son and the indwelling of his Spirit. It is also a worldview or an approach to making sense of life that has endured for centuries across all continents through all seasons.
Jesus’ message of hope and life was born in adversity. Its initial growth phase was among occupied Jewish ethnic minorities. It then spread to Gentiles, facilitating factions. Add to this state-endorsed persecution for a few centuries – and yet it flourishes.
Christianity first grew in the Mediterranean. Then it spread into the Middle East and Southern Europe, then Africa and into Asia, before extending into Western Europe.
At various times the Christian Faith has contracted under persecution or opposition, such as in the Middle East between 800-1300 AD. But the greater part of history reveals that Christianity has a cross cultural appeal. Africa saw an amazing continent-wide conversion over the 20th Century. North America, and now South America underwent growth in faith, as does Asia presently.
Christianity has a unique message that speaks to all cultures, across all of time, and all circumstances. Buddhism and Hinduism remain concentrated in Asia, and struggles to gain a serious following elsewhere. Islam’s appeal is limited to Eurasia and North Africa, with some outlying success in Malaysia and Indonesia. Christianity takes root everywhere.
Human history is the story of war, disease, famine and flood. In this very context, the message of the cross prevails, if not grows. I cannot see individualism, or consumerism (the religions of the West) having the capacity to soothe the yearnings of the human soul with the depth or longevity that the good news of Jesus has.
Rev David Rietveld