Darin Philips, Lead Pastor, Oceanview Community Church, Ladysmith, BC.
“From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.” 1 Chronicles 12:32
That description sounds exactly like what every pastor and church leader should be aspiring to do during this time of the Covid-19 pandemic. God has placed each one of our local churches in unique areas of cities or small towns across Canada. It really does take local church leadership to be like the 200 leaders from the tribe of Issachar and understand the signs of the times and know what course of action churches should take in their own communities. The wonderful reality as followers of Jesus is that we have the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us; it is not simply up to each leader to be brilliant on their own. Thanks be to God!
This past week a woman in our church sent me an email. This woman was born and raised in the Nova Scotia town of Springhill. The horrific shooting rampage in Nova Scotia affected this small town like it did so many others in that province. This woman was conversing with her relatives who still live in Nova Scotia and they mentioned there was a movement to try and get churches all across Canada to ring their bells 23 times at 6 p.m. (Nova Scotia time) Friday, April 24th, in honour of the 23 victims. Our church has a bell so I said, “Absolutely – we can do this for sure.”
It occurred to me that if we were ringing our bell we should get a Nova Scotia flag to hang out front of the church. The woman who made the initial request let me know her cousin would be in attendance. That led me to call up the enthusiastic young editor of our local newspaper. He was happy to do a story on it. Then I thought about my unchurched neighbours on our street who are transplanted Nova Scotians. I invited them to join us the next day. My final step was to send a quick text to our mayor letting him know as well.
Friday, April 24th, saw this small group of people gather (in a socially distancing kind of way, of course) in our church parking lot. We had a microphone set up and the Canadian and Nova Scotian flags were prominently displayed. We welcomed those in attendance, read out the names of the 23 victims of the crazed gunman, prayed and then we all listened as the bell rang out loud and clear 23 times. If that was all the occurred, I still think it would have been the right thing to do because it was a simple gesture of mercy and remembrance to the victims and a moment of collective grieving over an evil tragedy. Churches need to be places where the larger community can express their outrage and grief. As he always does, God brought additional silver linings out of a bad situation.
What were these God-caused results? An exceptional conversation between my wife and our unchurched neighbours (the transplanted Nova Scotians). I had a phenomenal gospel conversation with the newspaper editor. The woman who inspired the idea had an extraordinary faith conversation with her cousin and last but not least the mayor and I had a series of texts that culminated in him watching our church service LiveStream on Facebook on Sunday from his home.
“From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives.
All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.” 1 Chronicles 12:32
Pastors and church leaders across Canada can reflect the heart of the men of Issachar and seize the opportunities God gives us we walk through this Covid-19 pandemic.