Christian faith in Kingsport and throughout the Tri-Cities has truly been a mainstay during these months of the COVID-19 epidemic. Yes, church schedules have been disrupted, but faith is “alive and well.” It is not uncommon for casual conversation, even among strangers, to be heard turning Godward, Christward, and Heavenward. Phrases such as “Keep the faith,” “God’s in control,” “Trust in Jesus,” and “Praying for you” are being spoken with a growing public acclaim.
Crises have a way of drawing faith to the surface of life. Culture and society are at their best when personally held faith percolates and overflows into the public square as a mutually shared witness and testimony about what God has done, is doing, or can do. It may be tempting to limit or confine faith to “church talk.” But with church gatherings hindered, “church talk” is coursing out into the community with new fervor. Faith sharing is becoming an increasingly natural and spontaneous response to living in these times. It is, indeed, a heart-healing, life-lifting, and soul-strengthening respite from a world filled with fear and violence.
The Apostle Paul told Timothy, his understudy, to “Preach the Word in season and out of season” (II Tim. 4:2). In other words, “Share Christ constantly.” Biblically speaking, faith sharing is not intended to be an on-again, off-again proposition. It is, rather, expected to be included in the daily content of conversation, whenever and wherever people cross paths (masked or unmasked). And it seems that is happening right here where we live — yes, even with people six feet apart!
The wonderful backstory is that the “faith talk” and “faith walk” were first planted, nurtured, cultivated and inspired by someone. Oftentimes that “someone” is a faithful pastor preaching, teaching and counseling in a sanctuary or classroom. And that faithfulness is evidenced by the fruit of faithful flocks going forth to share “good news” in a world full of “bad news.”
Every Christian is eagerly anticipating a soon and full “phase-in” of church gatherings. Until then, it is such a blessing to be reminded that the faith we share transcends the church building. In and around Kingsport the Gospel of Christ is “conspicuous by its presence.” It is being spoken and lived with the importance and urgency inherent in its message. What better subject for a community conversation? Let’s keep it going to the glory of God!
Ed Clevinger is minister of Grace Christian Church in Kingsport.