The leadership team and board at MBC have been working at refining our vision, mission and core values these past few years. One of the results of this effort has been a reinforcement of the core values that will drive our ministry. These core values are also the basic principles that will guide our content for our mission of growing resilient, biblically rooted families. The first such principle of resilience is expressed in the term: ‘Christ-centred’.

This COVID-19 Pandemic has created the perfect opportunity for each one of us to test this principle on a personal level. There is much to say about what it means to be centred on Christ. However, today I’d like to start with asking a key question – ‘If all else abandoned me, would I to Christ faithful be?’  

Currently we are in a lock-down situation that limits all group gatherings to no more than 5 people and those 5 must maintain a physical distance protocol of 2 metres (families living together excepted of course). As expected, this has put severe restrictions on any church gatherings. Most churches are now meeting ‘online’ through video conferencing and teaching is delivered via live webcasts. The sense of community and togetherness is a mainstay value of church. Now that has been ripped away from us in just a few short weeks. Add to this the uncertainty of how long this lock-down will last and we are left with a sense of loss and grief.  

The Church is meant to gather together!  How often have we cited Hebrews 10:25‘not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.’

While I don’t at all dismiss the importance of meeting together, I do think that this lock-down is providing an opportunity to evaluate our relationship with Jesus Christ. I’ve long had the concern that many who frequent our church gatherings do so out of a desire for community, and their relationship with Christ is at best a distant secondary pursuit. Dare I say that church can often become our manifestation of a ‘social club’.

Now we have a situation where the ‘community’ has been pulled out from beneath us and all I have left is Jesus and me. Alone. Together.

Pastors and other ministry leaders also are struggling. They miss connecting in person with their people. And this is good and right. But some are struggling for different reasons. They need the accolade and affirmation of the audience. Now the audience is virtual and the feedback is much more ambiguous, less tangible. Ugh. 

I think of how alone Paul must have felt as he penned these words found in 2 Timothy 4:16-17.

‘At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.’

He was alone, save Christ stood by him. Christ was enough for him.

We are now living in a season where our claim to sing or preach or serve before an audience of One is being tested.  We are being held accountable to the lyrics we have sung so many times – ‘Christ is Enough for Me’.

Will Christ be enough for you during this COVID-19 Pandemic? Will you heed the call and take the opportunity to seek His face during this season?

You have said, “Seek my face.”

My heart says to you,

“Your face, Lord, do I seek.” (Psalms 27:8)

I know many, even in the midst of grieving the loss of corporate group gatherings, will seek the face of their Saviour and LORD during this time and enjoy rich and personal fellowship with the One whom we call our Redeemer. I know that when we meet again the meeting will be that much the sweeter for it.

Others will flounder. They will lament the community they have lost and seek to find solace in other experiences. They will drift from any sense of fellowship with Christ and their loss will be great as a result.

May I encourage you these days to earnestly seek to invest in your personal relationship with Jesus. I know that He rewards those who seek Him. Don’t lose heart, press on.  

One of the things that has helped me regain a focus on this relationship has been some of the music presented by Fernando Ortega. God has gifted him with a sense of adoration of Christ and his music is an amazing blessing in drawing my mind to comforting thoughts and reminders of who Christ is. I highly recommend his song – ‘Give me Jesus’ if you need a kick-start.  

I also recommend just taking time to read through the Psalms and then the epistle of Colossians. Don’t pressure yourself to engage in an in-depth study but rather let His Spirit give you a sense of Christ as you read. 

For pastors and ministry leaders – I encourage you also to take this time, not to try to live up to the pressure of being the ‘crisis leader’ but rather to invest in your personal journey with Christ.  

One of the reasons I value the devotional ‘My Utmost for His Highest’ is that Oswald Chambers consistently reminds his students of the need to press into their relationship with God above all else.

A quote from the January 6 entry gives an example of this:

“The lasting value of our public service for God is measured by the depth of the intimacy of our private times of fellowship and oneness with Him.”

And another from April 13:

“Many servants set out to serve God with great courage and with the right motives. But with no intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ, they are soon defeated. They do not know what to do with their burden, and it produces weariness in their lives.“

Much more could be said about ‘Christ-centredness’. Let it suffice that the start of living out this principle is the pursuit of an intimate walk with Him.

So – press hard into your walk with Christ and your weariness will turn to the love, joy and peace that is befitting a servant of the King.

Your fellow sojourner,

John Friesen

CEO, Muskoka Bible Centre / Muskoka Bible Foundation

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