Online church services offer new opportunities to bring a loved one or friend who has yet to know Christ to “church”. One daughter shares her experience.
Dad had never accepted our invitation to go to church with us, and I could understand why. As a non-believer, why would he want to take the trouble to dress up, travel to an unfamiliar place, sing with a group of strangers, and listen to a sermon he had no interest in? Why disrupt a lazy Sunday morning, which could be better spent watching a favourite TV programme or taking a nap?
COVID-19, however, has removed many of these barriers. Now, with our church service going online, Dad could attend church in the comfort of his own home. He didn’t need to change out of his “home clothes” (which, for a Parkinson patient, required quite a bit of effort), and he didn’t need to make small talk with strangers.
So, last week, my sister and I started looking for a Chinese church that he and Mum could “visit” online. We had long been praying for their salvation, and we hoped that this would bring them a step closer to knowing God.
Choosing a church was tricky: while Mum, an extrovert, is bubbly and loves lively meetings, Dad is an introvert who prefers quiet. So we decided to “attend” a church service which featured softer music and shorter sermons—we figured it would be more palatable for them.
On Saturday, we prepared our parents to let them know about the Chinese church that we had attended recently, and told them that we hoped they could join us the next morning to find out what we did in church. My sister offered to make lunch that day, so that Mum would not be distracted by the need to cook. We also rallied our eldest sister, who is living overseas, to pray along with us.
Sunday came, and so did church. But it didn’t turn out the way we had hoped.
That morning, despite our pleas, Mum decided to go for a hair perm. Dad agreed to attend the church service with us, but he didn’t seem very interested in the proceedings. At one point, he seemed to have dozed off. Later, when we asked him how he felt about it, he just shrugged and didn’t make any comment.
Were we disappointed? Not really. Why? Because we remembered two biblical truths that continue to anchor our hope:
1. God delights to save
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” —Luke 19:10
God is not waiting passively for sinners to turn to Him. He knows that we are lost and wouldn’t know how to find our way back to our Creator. So, He came as a man to look for us. That man was Jesus; His words and actions showed us that God not only delights to save sinners, but He will also take the first step to reach out to the lost.
Jesus made a special trip to Samaria to reach out to a woman who suffered many failed relationships, to show that He was the only one who could satisfy her soul’s thirst (John 4). He also invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house, to show that no one was too sinful to be accepted into God’s kingdom.
I know that while my parents’ heart may have yet to open to Jesus at this point, they are not a lost cause. God delights to save: He is still actively at work in their hearts.
2. God hears our prayers
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” — 1 John 5:14
When bringing Dad to “church” last Sunday didn’t turn out the way we had hoped and prayed for, we naturally wondered if God had heard our prayers. But we know that He has. And we can hang on to the marvellous truth that He has answered our prayers in His sovereign wisdom.
Perhaps, it was good that Mum went for a hair perm, so that she wouldn’t have influenced Dad’s response. My sister and I don’t know how the dynamics might have changed if both of them had tuned in to the service together, but God knows.
And while Dad may seemed to have dozed off, who knows what the Spirit is doing in his heart and mind? Again, only God knows. Hence, we’ve been able to continue praying for our parents’ salvation as we approach God in confidence.
How about you? Do you have loved ones who have yet to know Christ? This time of Covid-19 presents many fresh opportunities for us to bring them to church, without leaving the comfort of their home.
And if your loved ones have seemed to remain distant from the Lord despite your efforts to invite them to church, let me encourage you: Please don’t be disheartened. Hang on to God’s unchanging character and His unfailing promise, and remember that He delights to save and He hears our prayers.
Let’s keep on sowing and watering the seed of the gospel in our loved ones’ lives, trusting in God “who makes things grow” (1 Corinthians 3:7).
Why Should I Believe in Jesus?
This series of short 5-minute videos, in Chinese, address often-asked questions about the Christian faith. Help your Mandarin-speaking loved ones and friends understand more about God, Jesus, and Christianity.