Author archives: David Closson

Prayer Point #8: Pray for a Posture of Trust

by David Closson

May 18, 2020

The world is reeling from the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, our entire way of life has been upended by a novel virus that health experts say presents a particular risk to our elderly and immunocompromised friends and neighbors.

As Christians, we know that one of our greatest spiritual weapons is prayer (Eph. 6:18). But what exactly should Christians pray about amidst these trying times? FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, recently released nine prayer points to guide us in prayer. Each point provides a specific way for Christians to pray during the ongoing crisis.

As many parts of the United States and the world begin transitioning out of lockdown and returning to semi-normal operations, Christians have an excellent opportunity to model trust in God’s providence and provision to their friends and neighbors. Trusting God amid hardship is not always easy. But the Bible provides us with many encouraging reminders that can sustain and strengthen our faith. By reminding ourselves of these truths, Christians can maintain quiet confidence in God’s purposes, even as we face an uncertain future.

First, it is important to remember that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-control (2 Tim 1:7). Throughout the Bible, God exhorts His followers not to be afraid, and He often ties these encouragements with timely reminders of His presence. Christians should take these promises to heart and pray for enduring faith during this season of heightened fear, anxiety, and confusion. Appropriate precautions should be taken; however, Christians should not live crippled by fear. Rather, we should seize the opportunity to model faith in God as we trust His purposes and plans (Rom. 8:28).

Second, believers should remember what the Bible says about trusting God. Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when the heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of droughts, for it does not cease to bear fruits.” Another well-known verse that inspires trust in God is Proverbs 3:5-6, which says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God promised the Israelites, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2). And in the New Testament, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His followers to “not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26). Through these verses and others, God reminds us that He is with us, even amid challenging circumstances, and will neither leave nor forsake us (cf. Hebrews 13:5).

Third, Christians honor God by modeling a respectful posture toward those in positions of authority. By doing this, Christians recognize an important principle of political theology: that God instituted the governing authorities. Despite occasionally being frustrated by or disappointed in our leaders, Christians must commit to praying for them, remembering: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). President Trump’s plan to reopen America delegates significant decision-making power to state and local authorities. We should pray for these leaders as they seek to balance reopening the economy with public health and safety.

In the coming weeks, Christians have an incredible opportunity to model what sincere trust in God looks like. Although Christians are facing the same challenges as everyone else, we can have peace and confidence that surpasses all understanding if we stay rooted in the character and promises of God (Philippians 4:7). And hopefully, when we look back on these times in the months and years to come, we will be able to see God’s good hand of providence and how these difficult days produced opportunities for gospel advancement that would have been impossible any other way. Let us trust God to preserve and keep us as we lean on Him in these difficult days.

For more thoughts about trusting God during the coronavirus pandemic, see my Washington Update article “Choosing Faith over Fear.” Or listen to my recent conversation with FRC’s president, Tony Perkins, on Washington Watch about having a biblical perspective and looking to God, not our circumstances, during trying times.

Open the Doors? The Vast Majority of Churches are Not Defying Government Orders

by Quena Gonzalez , David Closson

April 9, 2020

On Sunday, the Washington Post ran a story on churches that are continuing to meet despite most states having banned assemblies of more than 10 people. The article cites only seven churches, yet suggests a nationwide pattern of recalcitrant Protestants who are defying government orders and continuing to meet.

But is this portrait accurate?

At first glance, the Post’s claims seem to be backed up by data from a respected polling firm. The article cites LifeWay’s recent report on whether Protestant churches are meeting. To be fair, the top-line numbers in LifeWay’s chart are striking; one religion reporter cited the 7 percent figure and mused, “if this is still happening in areas that have had outbreaks, it’s a serious, serious issue.”

Three questions need to be answered: Did Protestant churches defy government bans on public gatherings? Are a large number of churches continuing to meet in person? And, if not, what are they doing instead?

Did Churches Defy Government Orders?

The answer is, by and large, no. A quick search for recent news stories reveals that most of the headlines are traceable to a handful of high-profile churches, some of which (including at least two churches featured in the Washington Post article) stopped meeting weeks ago.

These findings are backed up by the LifeWay report, which notably only covers the month of March. Many states did not impose bans on public gatherings until only very recently, and according to the Washington Post, “more than a dozen states” exempted churches from stay-at-home orders as late as April 5th. State orders lagged behind the CDC’s March 15th recommendation to pause all gatherings of more than 10 people. Even so, the LifeWay data show that the sharpest drop-off of in-person meetings was on Sunday, March 22nd, suggesting that most churches took the CDC’s nonbinding recommendation (announced the previous Sunday night) seriously.

State bans on public gatherings were soon followed by stay-at-home orders, but according to a New York Times timeline, only nine states had a stay-at-home order as of Monday, March 23rd. By then, 89 percent of Protestant churches had stopped meeting. Furthermore, many state bans on public gatherings were amended several times and would have initially applied only to large churches. For example, Maryland initially banned gatherings of more than 250 people on March 12th; its March 16th order banning gatherings larger than 50 would not have applied to churches with fewer than 250 attendees that met on Sunday, March 15th.

This is an easily-overlooked point: Small congregations, which make up the vast majority of American churches, tend to be overlooked in media reporting in favor of megachurches. The Hartford Institute for Religion Research, for example, cites research indicating that half of all churches have an attendance of less than 75, that 59 percent of non-Catholic/Orthodox churches have less than 100 attendees, and that the average church size for all churches is 186. The Hartford Institute also estimates that there are 314,000 Protestant churches in the U.S., of which less than 1 percent are megachurches.

Stay-at-home orders rolled in throughout March: By Thursday, March 26th, 21 states had stay-at-home orders. By the following Monday, March 30th—one day after 93 percent of Protestant churches did not meet in-person—20 states still did not have statewide stay-at-home orders.

The study cited by the Washington Post does not necessarily support the notion that a significant number of Protestant churches were meeting in defiance of government orders.

Are a Large Number of Churches Continuing to Meet?

Less data exists on how many churches are currently meeting. However, despite the implication by the Washington Post story that this is a national phenomenon, the available data suggests that an overwhelming majority of churches are abiding by the CDC’s recommendation and are not holding in-person services.

LifeWay’s report only covers the month of March, but a deeper dive into their data is instructive. According to the report, 64 percent of churches met in-person on March 15th, 11 percent on March 22nd, and 7 percent on March 29th. Significantly, the report also shows that only 45 percent of churches with more than 200 attendees met on the 15th, fewer than 1 percent met on the 22nd, and 0 percent met on the 29th.

In other words, more than half of all churches with congregations numbering 200 or more had ceased meeting in person by the middle of March, 99 percent of them were not meeting by the fourth Sunday, and a statistically negligible number were meeting by the last Sunday of the month.

Clearly, churches still meeting after the end of March are statistical outliers. Yet the Washington Post story suggests that a significant number of churches are still meeting in defiance of government orders, despite strong evidence to the contrary. The very few churches that are still meeting are attracting outsized attention from the media.

How are Churches Adapting?

Instead of flaunting the government’s orders and continuing to meet in large groups, churches across the country are adapting to serve their congregations and communities in creative ways. For example, many churches are using live-streaming technology such as Zoom, YouTube live, and other streaming platforms to hold weekly services and prayer meetings with their members. Others, such as 3D Church, in Lithonia, Georgia, Genoa Church in Westerville, Ohio, and Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, are holding “Drive-In” services where members stay in their cars and listen to a message delivered by their pastor from a small stage (or even from a forklift!) near the front of the parking lot. These services allow churches to meet while still maintaining social distance and honoring the government’s ban on public gatherings.  

Churches are also looking outward, seeking ways to serve their communities in tangible ways despite limitations on public meetings. For example, Faith Life Church in New Albany, Ohio, has delivered lunch to nurses and doctors and has provided meals to needy people in the community. Resurrection Lutheran Church, in Juneau, Alaska, and Canyon Hills Friends Church in Yorba Linda, California, are running food pantries in their communities, and I-Town Church in Fishers, Indiana, set up a pantry at a local school. Trinity Church in Temple, Texas, set up a “prayer tent” and prays and ministers to anyone who pulls into the parking lot. OpenDoor Church, in Burleson, Texas, created a national hotline for people to call in to receive prayer or to submit requests for help with grocery shopping. Even smaller church plants, such as the Oaks Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, are providing free childcare to healthcare workers and buying groceries for those in need. 

Other churches are focusing on helping vulnerable people groups. St. Paul Lutheran Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is serving refugees with their food bank, and River City Church in Montgomery, Alabama, is providing showers and laundry services to the homeless. Still others, like the Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama, are serving their community by opening a virus testing site at one of their church campuses.  

These stories, and many others like them, represent the response of the vast majority of churches to the pandemic. Although the hearts of believers around the country are heavy because they cannot meet with their brothers and sisters on Easter, it is encouraging to see so many congregations walking in obedience to our risen Lord while also obeying Scripture’s mandate to honor governing rulers (Rom. 13:1-7).

Prayer Point #7: Pray for a Spirit of Generosity

by David Closson

April 8, 2020

The world is reeling from the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, our entire way of life has been upended by a novel virus that health experts say presents a particular risk to our elderly and immunocompromised friends and neighbors.

As Christians, we know that one of our greatest spiritual weapons is prayer (Eph. 6:18). But what exactly should Christians pray about amidst these trying times? FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, recently released nine prayer points to guide us in prayer. Each point provides a specific way for Christians to pray during the ongoing crisis.

Over the last few weeks, churches have responded to the coronavirus in heroic and creative ways. Across the country, churches have hosted “Drive-In” worship services, purchased meals for nurses and doctors, provided groceries for needy families, and ministered to their hurting neighbors. In this dark hour, God’s people have sacrificially served one another and their communities and demonstrated remarkable faith. As the pandemic continues to disrupt our normal rhythms of life, opportunities for the church to meet practical needs are increasing. While the government is providing support to churches in the form of forgivable loans (for more information about these loans, see our full analysis), churches are beginning to feel the pinch as charitable giving and tithing declines. Therefore, especially over the next few weeks, Christians need to pray for a spirit of generosity. Here are a few specific ways to pray.

First, pray that Christians will be faithful to give to their local churches. According to a recent poll from LifeWay Christian Resources, 52 percent of pastors have already reported a decrease in giving due to their church’s limited ability to gather. Of those who have seen a giving decline, 60 percent say it has dropped by at least 25 percent. This decline is significant because, according to a recent LifeWay study, 26 percent of churches only have enough operating reserves to cover seven or fewer weeks. For many churches, a sharp decline in giving represents an enormous challenge. Therefore, during these trying times, Christians should commit to praying for and financially supporting their churches.

Second, pray for ministry opportunities. Many people have fallen on hard times: unemployment claims are up, workers are being let go or furloughed, and there is a pervading uncertainty in many communities. As tens of millions of Americans comply with stay-at-home orders and practice social distancing, many are finding themselves lonely, afraid, and uncertain about the future. Amid this social context, the church has an opportunity to serve people and share with them the hope of the gospel. We should pray for Christians to think of creative, outside-the-box ways to generously meet the physical and spiritual needs of their friends and neighbors.

Incredibly, in many places, people are coming to faith as the result of church members thinking outside the box. For example, Trinity Church in Temple, Texas, has seen people put their trust in Christ after a member of the congregation suggested setting up a “prayer tent” in the church parking lot. Over the last two weeks, members of the community have pulled into the parking lot for prayer and counsel. As Senior Pastor Ed Dowell recently told me, “People have given their life to Christ” as a result of the prayer tent ministry.

Third, believers should remember what the Bible says about generosity. In the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi spoke for God when he said, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Mal. 3:10). A similar promise is found in Proverbs 11:25: “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” In the New Testament, Jesus tells His followers, “[G]ive, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Of course, Christians should reject the empty promises of the “prosperity gospel,” which falsely guarantees financial blessing in exchange for sowing a seed in a particular ministry. However, Scripture is clear that God honors the generosity of His people. Although some churches and ministries have tragically misunderstood, abused, and exploited these promises, we should not blunt the message of Scripture, which is that God honors and blesses those who are generous. As Christians are able, we should strive to give to our churches and other ministries engaged in gospel work.

Finally, in his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul addresses the issue of generosity and financial giving. He says, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

As the country grapples with the realities of the coronavirus, Christians have opportunities to serve their neighbors and communities. In many of these communities, churches are on the front lines of meeting practical needs. Let’s pray for a spirit of generosity among God’s people, so the courageous, creative, and winsome witness of the church may continue to go forth during these uncertain times.

Prayer Point #6: Pray for Honest Reporting

by David Closson

March 31, 2020

The world is reeling from the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, our entire way of life has been upended by a novel virus that health experts say presents a particular risk to our elderly and immunocompromised friends and neighbors.

As Christians, we know that one of our greatest spiritual weapons is prayer (Eph. 6:18). But what exactly should Christians pray about amidst these trying times? FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, recently released nine prayer points to guide us in prayer. Each point provides a specific way for Christians to pray during the ongoing crisis.

For most Americans, life looks very different today than it did two weeks ago. As the coronavirus has spread, tens of millions are now working from home, watching online worship services, and following CDC social distancing guidelines. According to a recent Fox News poll, 92 percent of Americans are now concerned about the spread of the coronavirus. This concern is reflected by the millions who watch President Trump’s daily press briefings. In fact, 57 percent of Americans report an increase in their television intake. Given this heightened media consumption, honest reporting is more crucial than ever. Thus, Christians should pray for the members of the media who are reporting on the coronavirus. Here are a few specific ways to pray.

First, pray that reporters and journalists would accurately report updates about the virus. Pray that they would not seek to peddle conspiracy theories or politicize the threat. This year is an election year, and unfortunately, many in the media see everything, including the coronavirus, through a partisan political lens. In some instances, conservative media personalities have been too quick to dismiss missteps from Republican leaders, while liberal reporters have been too quick to criticize President Trump and his team. We must pray that everyone in the media—conservative, mainstream, and liberal—would put aside their political agendas and commit themselves to reporting the facts relevant to public health and safety.

Second, pray for wisdom in reporting. Admittedly, there is a lot of information to track related to the coronavirus. In addition to the president’s daily press conferences, governors and mayors are also giving daily remarks about how their respective states and cities are combatting the spread of the virus and protecting their people. Each day, the World Health Organization, CDC, and other governmental agencies put out information. There is a deluge of virus-related information released each day, and some of it is more accurate and helpful than others. Pray that news organizations and reporters would have the wisdom to know what they ought to report.  

Third, pray that reporters would employ an appropriate tone when conveying the latest news. We are living in uncertain times, and many people are anxious and fearful. Of course, certain updates and stories require a more impassioned tone. However, the public is not well-served when media personalities sensationalize aspects of certain stories to boost ratings or make a political statement. Pray that reporters, journalists, and producers would maintain a measured, thoughtful, and analytical approach as they convey the latest news to the public. Pray that no one would stoke fear where it is unwarranted.

And fourth, pray for the health of those in the media. Many reporters must leave their homes and venture into public spaces to report updates or cover the latest press conference. Others who work in media such as producers, audio engineers, camera operators, writers, make-up artists, and others must still come into work. Pray that none of these people come into contact with or spread the virus. Finally, pray for the families and loved ones of those working in media; pray for their health and safety as well.

Prayer Point #5: Pray for Health Care Workers and First Responders

by David Closson

March 26, 2020

The world is reeling from the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, our entire way of life has been upended by a novel virus that health experts say presents a particular risk to our elderly and immunocompromised friends and neighbors.

As Christians, we know that one of our greatest spiritual weapons is prayer (Eph. 6:18). But what exactly should Christians pray about amidst these trying times? FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, recently released nine prayer points to guide us in prayer. Each point provides a specific way for Christians to pray during the ongoing crisis.

As the nation continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus, governors around the country have issued stay-at-home orders, telling citizens to avoid non-essential work and errands. Tens of millions of Americans are teleworking, and people are intentionally avoiding public places. But as the majority of our fellow citizens quarantine and practice social-distancing, American health care workers and first responders are on the front lines, providing essential care to those directly affected by the virus. There are five specific ways Christians can pray for these workers.

First, pray that doctors and nurses will have wisdom as they care for patients. COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a new virus, and medical professionals and scientists are still learning about it. Therefore, doctors need discernment when deciding how to treat each patient, especially those with underlying medical conditions. Pray that they will have wisdom and empathy when conversing with the patients’ family and loved ones.

Second, pray for the physical health and well-being of these workers. Health care workers, especially those working in hospitals, are working 12-hour shifts, 3-4 times a week. Many of these workers are physically exhausted, and the virus consumes their thoughts. Pray they have endurance and strength in the days and weeks ahead. Pray their immune systems remain strong and that they will not contract the virus.

Third, pray for their mental fortitude and encouragement. Nurses and doctors are tired, and they are interacting daily with those who have the virus. With no foreseeable end to the crisis, and with all indications pointing to a major influx of positive tests, it is easy to become discouraged. Pray that those on the front lines would fight discouragement and find joy amidst their work.

Fourth, hospitals in states hit particularly hard by the outbreak are reporting a shortage of medical equipment such as masks and ventilators. Pray that local, state, and federal authorities, working together with medical equipment providers, will be able to meet these needs. Pray that any shortages will quickly be met and that hospitals and clinics will have the life-saving equipment they need to meet increased demand.

Finally, pray for the families of our health care workers. Many health care workers are self-quarantining at home, afraid they might become a carrier to their families. Pray for the spouses and children whose routines have been upended by the outbreak. They, too, are making tremendous sacrifices during these challenging times.

Prayer Point #4: Pray for the Vulnerable

by David Closson

March 25, 2020

The world is reeling from the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, our entire way of life has been upended by a novel virus that health experts say presents a particular risk to our elderly and immunocompromised friends and neighbors.

As Christians, we know that one of our greatest spiritual weapons is prayer (Eph. 6:18). But what exactly should Christians pray about amidst these trying times? FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, recently released nine prayer points to guide us in prayer. Each point provides a specific way for Christians to pray during the ongoing crisis.

The New Testament book of James is very practical. Written by Jesus’ close relative, the epistle gives concrete, down-to-earth advice to the Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Throughout the letter, James encourages his readers to put their faith into action by meeting physical needs and serving vulnerable communities. He exhorts his readers to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (1:22). Elsewhere he asks them, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (2:14). James does not undermine the Bible’s teaching of salvation through grace (Eph. 2:8), although he does challenge Christians to live out their faith in tangible ways. As certain industries and people groups begin to feel the effects of quarantining and social distancing, James’ message of active faith becomes even more relevant and timely.

This memorable verse captures James’ heart for the vulnerable: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27). In a first-century patriarchal context, widows and orphans were the most vulnerable members of society, which is why James mentions them specifically in his letter. As far as James is concerned, it is pointless for his readers to be well-versed in theology if they fail to show God’s love to those most in need.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, authorities have told us that immunocompromised people (those with medically compromised immunities, including surgery patients, transplant patients, and those with some chronic underlying health conditions) are especially at risk and vulnerable during this time. We should pray for these people, specifically for their protection and health.

Other vulnerable people include those with disabilities and special needs, foster children, and those with health care needs who might be negatively impacted by the present strain on the health care system. We should also pray for the unborn, who remain vulnerable at this time.

Additionally, pray for the elderly, who are at an increased risk of contracting the virus. Many who live in assisted living or nursing homes are unable to leave their apartments or receive visitors for the foreseeable future. Pray that God would comfort and encourage them. Also, pray that local churches would find creative ways to serve the elderly in their communities.

Also, pray for students who are being required to vacate university and college housing with very little notice. While many of them can return home to their families, some cannot, and are scrambling to find alternative accommodations. Pray for international students unable to return to their home countries.

We should also remember to pray for hourly workers in retail, restaurant, hospitality, and service industries. Many have lost their jobs or have seen a dramatic decrease in hours due to the coronavirus. Still others, such as grocery store workers, must continue reporting to work and interacting closely with the public. Pray that God will provide for their needs and that those presently out of work will be able to return to work soon. 

Finally, pray for the health care workers and emergency personnel who are all on the front lines of keeping us healthy and safe. Pray that they would have the tools necessary to treat the sick and to protect themselves from getting sick. Pray that they would have health, rest, and encouragement during this stressful time.

Prayer Point #3: Pray for Church Leaders

by David Closson

March 24, 2020

The world is reeling from the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, our entire way of life has been upended by a novel virus that health experts say presents a particular risk to our elderly and immunocompromised friends and neighbors.

As Christians, we know that one of our greatest spiritual weapons is prayer (Eph. 6:18). But what exactly should Christians pray about amidst these trying times? FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, recently released nine prayer points to guide us in prayer. Each point provides a specific way for Christians to pray during the ongoing crisis.

As Americans continue working from home and abiding by the government’s request for social distancing, churches around the country are coming up with creative ways to serve their congregations and communities. These include hosting “drive-in” worship services; live-streaming services and church gatherings through Facebook Live, Zoom, YouTube Live, or other services; sending short videos and devotionals to church members; and using their facilities and parking lots as staging areas for food distribution.

These ideas, and others, can be found on FRC’s new resource page for churches: FRC.org/church 

As the work of the church continues, Christians need to pray for their pastors and church leaders. Specifically, we should pray for wisdom as these leaders continue to evaluate best practices for caring for their members during these anxious times. Pray that they will have the discernment to faithfully shepherd the congregations under their care, even if they are unable to physically gather for the foreseeable future (1 Peter 5:2). Pray also for creativity, as pastors and church leaders think of innovative ways to engage and serve their members.

For many churches, the interruption in weekly gatherings has impacted giving. While most medium and large churches already utilize online platforms to facilitate tithing, many smaller churches have not used this technology before, or their members are unfamiliar with it. Therefore, pray for the financial well-being of churches and sacrificial giving among Christians. A national crisis presents many opportunities for the church to engage in mercy ministry, but the church cannot do this work without enough financial support.

Christians should also pray for the physical health and safety of their pastors. Many pastors are working around the clock to care for their members. Whether visiting them in-person (while following CDC social distancing guidelines), calling them on the phone, or using other means of communication, church leaders are working hard to stay connected to their members. Pray for their strength and stamina. And pray for their families who are making tremendous sacrifices during this time as well.

Also, pray for clear gospel proclamation. As many churches turn to digital media to broadcast their worship services, pray that preachers will faithfully teach God’s Word and that many will hear and respond to the gospel. Amid the busyness of caring for their members and the changes in their routine, pray that pastors will have enough time in their week to study Scripture and prepare faithful sermons. Pray that these sermons will be the means God uses to save sinners.  

Finally, the coronavirus outbreak has forced churches to hold services in new, creative ways. This interruption in our routine should remind us that the persecuted church around the world is regularly forced to gather in unconventional ways. As we pray for our local pastors and church leaders, let us also remember persecuted Christians and their leaders around the world.

Prayer Point #2: Pray for Government Leaders

by David Closson

March 20, 2020

The world is reeling from the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, our entire way of life has been upended by a novel virus that health experts say presents a particular risk to our elderly and immunocompromised friends and neighbors.

As Christians, we know that one of our greatest spiritual weapons is prayer (Eph. 6:18). But what exactly should Christians pray about amidst these trying times? FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, recently released nine prayer points to guide us in prayer. Each point provides a specific way for Christians to pray during the ongoing crisis. In this blog series, we’ll be unpacking these points for you a bit more as we pray for an end to the coronavirus.

Christians are called to pray for those in positions of authority at all times (1 Tim. 2:2). This is especially true during a national emergency. Pray for President Trump, Vice President Pence, governors, mayors, and all those making decisions related to public health and safety. Pray for a spirit of bipartisanship as lawmakers work together to protect people.

As the world faces mounting social and economic pressure related to the spread of the coronavirus, Christians need to pray for those who are responsible for crafting their nation’s response. In the days ahead, government leaders will have to make difficult decisions regarding public health and safety. They will have to make decisions about the economy, as the markets continue to fluctuate, and businesses and non-profits face an uncertain financial future. Decisions about transportation, education, the use of public facilities, and upcoming elections must be made as well.

Trying times require wisdom. And those making decisions at the highest levels of government need divine wisdom as they make decisions that affect millions of people. As Christians, we know God calls us to pray for our political and civil leaders. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul writes, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Christians should pray for our government leaders every day—especially in the current crisis.  

Christians should commit to frequently praying for the following leaders:

  • President Trump
  • Vice President Pence
  • Secretary Alex Azar (HHS)
  • Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Treasury)
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci (Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
  • The White House Coronavirus Task Force
  • Governors and mayors across the country
  • All health care workers and public health officials

Specifically, we should pray they’ll have the wisdom to process all the information they receive about the virus, courage to make the right decisions, and stamina as they work long days. We should also pray for their physical, emotional, and spiritual health. And we should pray for the families of these leaders who are making tremendous sacrifices as well.

We should also pray for government leaders around the world as they fight the coronavirus in their own countries. We should pray that leaders will work together in a spirit of cooperation. And along these lines, we should pray for a spirit of bipartisanship as American lawmakers work together on legislation designed to help and protect people. Pray Republicans and Democrats put partisan politics aside and unite in common purpose to address a wide range of issues.  

A powerful verse on the power of prayer is James 5:16. In this verse, James writes, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (KJV). James’ encouragement to Christians is that our prayers are powerful and effective. God promises that He hears and acts on the prayers of His people (Psalm 34:15). Claiming these promises, let’s lift up our government leaders in prayer during this crisis.

Be Not Afraid”: How Christians and Church Leaders Can Respond to the Coronavirus

by David Closson

March 19, 2020

At Family Research Council, our mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. This mission guides all our work, including our advocacy for religious liberty, life, and biblical values. It also informs our response to the coronavirus, which, as we are well aware, is now a pandemic.

President Trump has declared a national emergency and released new guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, including avoiding discretionary travel, discouraging eating out at restaurants, bars, and food courts, practicing good hygiene, and limiting social gatherings to 10 people or less. We believe if the steps recommended by the CDC and the White House are followed, there is a good chance we can “flatten the curve” and lessen the impact of the spreading virus on our health care system.

Over the past week, Christians from around the country have asked important questions about how to respond faithfully to the threat posed by the coronavirus. Specifically, many are wondering how churches should respond to the ongoing crisis. We believe there are a few appropriate responses to all of this.

First, Christians must pray. On Sunday, March 15, President Trump called for a National Day of Prayer in response to the calls of evangelical leaders. We must continue praying that God’s grace and mercy would fall upon us and that we would turn our eyes toward Him in this time of great need. To guide our prayer (which should be ongoing), FRC’s President Tony Perkins outlined several ways we can pray for the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus in the days and weeks ahead. We encourage everyone to read these prayer points and use them to guide your own prayers.

Specifically, Christians should commit to frequently praying for the following leaders:

  • President Trump
  • Vice President Pence
  • Secretary Alex Azar (HHS)
  • Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Treasury)
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci (Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
  • The White House Coronavirus Task Force
  • Congressional leadership
  • Governors and mayors across the country
  • Other officials in the administration and those at all levels of government who are dealing with this crisis
  • All health care workers and public health officials

Second, we should comply with mandates and recommendations from those in authority. Under normal conditions, it would be impermissible under our laws and the Constitution for the government to tell a church when it can or cannot meet. But certain emergencies, such as natural disasters and pandemics, do present temporary but substantial risks to public health and safety. As long as the government is not singling out and targeting religious gatherings for restriction (while permitting non-religious gatherings to take place), it is allowed to enact policies restricting all gatherings of a certain size in cases like this.

Biblically, Romans 13 reminds us that God instituted the governing authorities whom we should obey so long as they do not require us to disobey God. And while gathering for regular worship is not an optional part of the Christian life (Hebrews 10:25), FRC does not believe it is wrong to temporarily suspend corporate in-person meetings if the authorities believe it is in the community’s best interest. In the Old Testament, God gave Moses and Aaron detailed instructions about quarantines in cases of infectious disease (Leviticus 13-14). When there were outbreaks of disease, the priests served as public health officials and imposed guidelines for quarantining people, infected garments, and even houses. In the New Testament, Jesus called us to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31), and we believe in a case like this, the best way to practice neighborly love is by following the guidance of health and public safety experts.

The church can still meet and gather together in different ways. While not every church need adopt all these practices, there are ways we can still “gather” in the days ahead while ensuring we don’t contribute to the spread of the virus:

  • Encourage church members to drive to a parking lot, but stay in their cars and tune into shortwave radios used to broadcast church services.
  • Meet in small groups instead of one large gathering.
  • Suspend larger gatherings but keep the church office open.
  • Livestream services or other church gatherings and use texting or online chat groups to stay connected (churches with more advanced technological assets such as teleconferencing capabilities or other established systems to livestream events may partner with other churches to help them stay connected to their congregants).

Here are some ways churches can think about serving in the current times:

  • Offer benevolent funds to those facing financial hardship.
  • Provide housing for students who are being required to vacate school housing.
  • If possible, keep food pantries well stocked and include cleaning and sanitizing products.
  • Think of creative ways to serve older members, such as picking up groceries and prescriptions. Establish a way to check in on those who may be living alone, the elderly, or other vulnerable people.

Here are some practical tips that churches can implement, and educate their members on, to help prevent further spread of the virus:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Provide and require members to use hand-sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol while on church property.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Thoroughly and repeatedly clean high-contact surfaces and objects.
  • Encourage sick or at-risk members to stay home and seek medical care.
  • Minimize panic by educating members and preparing for disruptions in service.

The Department of Health and Human Services has also released a list of Recommended Preventative Practices for faith-based and community leaders, which we encourage you to read.

We also encourage you not to neglect your regular financial offering to your place of worship. The church as an institution is always crucial to society, but at times like these, its care for communities in need is especially needed. Your financial support helps do that. If you don’t have electronic banking, most church offices remain open, so please drop your contribution off with your church so that ministry can continue.

Finally, followers of Jesus should maintain a posture of trust while taking appropriate precautions. In times like these, when anxiety, misinformation, and uncertainty abound, it is tempting to become fearful. But while it is important to take all precautions and follow the latest updates from the authorities, Christians should not panic. During this time of increased fear, we must remember that we have been given a “spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7).

Our God is sovereign. The coronavirus did not take Him by surprise. He is still governing and sustaining the world (Col. 1:17). Human tendencies naturally pull society’s discussion of all this in the direction of panic and fear. But the Scriptures are clear: “Be not afraid.” Bible-believing Christians can model a spirit of trust as they remind each other of God’s promises and character. This grounding will enable us to care for and serve those around us.

Prayer Point #1: Pray for an End to the Spread of the Virus

by David Closson

March 18, 2020

The world is reeling from the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many, our entire way of life has been upended by a novel virus that health experts say presents a particular risk to our elderly and immunocompromised friends and neighbors.

As Christians, we know that one of our greatest spiritual weapons is prayer (Eph. 6:18). But what exactly should Christians pray about amidst these trying times? FRC’s President, Tony Perkins, recently released nine prayer points to guide us in prayer. Each point provides a specific way for Christians to pray during the ongoing crisis. In this blog series, we’ll be unpacking these points for you a bit more as we pray for an end to the coronavirus.

The first prayer point is that Christians should pray for an end to the spread of the virus. The Bible teaches us that God is the Creator and Sustainer of the world (Gen. 1-2; Col. 1:17). Because God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and omnipresent, nothing—including the coronavirus—ever takes Him by surprise or is outside His control. For Christians, this is an important and precious truth to remember in this time of uncertainty. Although the future is uncertain, we know and trust the One who controls it.

The coronavirus did not take God by surprise; He is still governing and sustaining the world (Col. 1:17). Pray for God’s healing mercy and that He would graciously bring this pandemic to an end. Pray for healing for all those affected by the virus.

God Delights in Prayer

Throughout Scripture, God’s people are given constant reminders of His care for them. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” In Matthew 6:26, Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Jesus teaches here that God cares for every single person made in His image. Nothing happens to His children—good or bad—without first passing through God’s gracious hand. 

In addition to stressing God’s care for His people, Jesus often encouraged His followers to pray (Mat. 6:5; Luke 18:1). For example, in Luke 11:9, Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Elsewhere, the New Testament is clear that Christians are expected to pray. Colossians 4:2 says, “Continue steadfastly in prayer.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul exhorts the church to “pray without ceasing.”

But the Bible does more than encourage believers to pray; it says God delights in the prayers of His people. Consider Proverbs 15:8b, which says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.” Because God delights in our prayers, we ought to readily bring them before Him.   

God Answers Prayer

A second truth is that God answers prayer. The Bible is full of examples of men and women who cried out to God and received answers to their prayers. For example, when the Israelites were sojourning in the wilderness, their sin resulted in a severe punishment: fiery serpents released in their midst. In response to the peoples’ desperate cry and Moses’ prayer, God provided a bronze serpent that the people could look at and receive healing (Numbers 21:6-9).

Another example of remarkable healing in response to prayer is 2 Kings 20. In this passage, Hezekiah, the King of Judah, falls ill, and the Prophet Isaiah tells him that he is going to die. Hezekiah immediately cries out to God. Before Isaiah can leave the room, God tells him to return to the king with the good news: “Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you” (2 Kings 20:5). The answer to Hezekiah’s prayer was 15 more years of life. 

There are many examples in the New Testament of Jesus healing people. Often, Jesus healed men and women who asked Him for help. For example, in Matthew 8:1-4, Jesus heals a leper who asks for healing. Additionally, Jesus healed the Centurion’s servant (Mat. 8:5-13), the synagogue ruler’s daughter (Mat. 9:18-26), two blind men (Mat. 9:27-31), a deaf man with a speech impediment (Mark 7:31-37), and the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30) in response to personal requests for deliverance. In one significant passage, Jesus himself prays before raising Lazarus back to life (John 11:41-42). These examples underscore the significance of bringing our requests for healing and deliverance to God. He not only hears our prayers, oftentimes He chooses to provide healing and relief.

Finally, in Hebrews 4:16, Christians are encouraged to “draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” In this current time of need, Christians should pray that the virus would stop spreading, the affected would be healed, and all those quarantined and feeling alone would be comforted. Pray also that doctors and scientists will be successful in creating a vaccine for the coronavirus.

These are difficult times, but Christians serve a God who hears, delights in, and answers our prayers. Let us approach Him humbly yet with confidence, asking Him to graciously bring this pandemic to an end.

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