These are unprecedented times in our lives and ministries in NYC and all over the world. Due to the coronavirus, most campuses we work on around the country moved to online classes and are sending students home.
New York University’s Office of Spiritual Life asked groups like ours to suspend not just large gatherings, but Bible studies, prayer meetings and one-on-one discipleship meetings as well to slow the spread of the virus.
We have moved all of these meetings online. We held our first-ever virtual NavNites , and I challenged students to speak to the emotions in their own souls with the gospel (Psalm 42:5), to press all the more into community, and to find the new opportunities to be missional that this situation provides.
College students today, part of the emerging Generation Z, already had epidemic levels of fear, anxiety, loneliness, and depression. The social distancing and isolation brought on by this virus further threatens their mental, spiritual, and emotional health.
One of our mantras in The Navigators NYC is from thought leader Larry Acosta: “We suffer in isolation, but heal in community.” Please pray for wisdom for us as we lead with the message of hope and peace that comes only with the gospel, and that this crisis empowers students to own the mission of God more than ever before!
What can we do with our own fear? Ed Stetzer wrote in response to the virus: “This might be a good time to look toward our Psalter instead of our newsfeed for support.” After too many draining reports on my newsfeed, I realized that not only did I need to encourage students to turn to Psalms, I need them as well.
Church history is punctuated with examples of crises that ended up advancing the gospel in new ways. Stephen’s martyrdom propelled the first believers out of their comfort zone of Jerusalem, and “those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went” throughout the known world (Acts 8:4).
The imprisonment of the most prolific apostle in church history seemed catastrophic, but Paul wrote from his Roman jail cell that “what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel,” and many other believers “dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear” (Philippians 1:12b,14b).
In 1793, yellow fever ravaged Philadelphia, and Richard Allen, who founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church the next year, led the free black church to sacrificially minister to the sick from the white churches that shunned them, taking a hammer to the “dividing wall of hostility” of racism in the name of Jesus (Eph 2:4).
This virus is driving us into a different way of life, but also into unique opportunities for ministry. Please pray that our students would dare all the more to creatively serve others and boldly proclaim the gospel to their friends and family in this fearful time – without fear.
Pray for our students to rise to the challenge of speaking the gospel to their souls, pressing into community and seeking new opportunities for service and mission in such a time as this. For their spiritual and mental health in the midst of isolation.
For protection, creativity and wisdom for our staff as we discover new ways to minister fruitfully in this unique time.