Restating the Foundations of the New Covenant

The scroll penThis is the third in a series of articles aimed at edifying the church in the current season of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown. The first article focused on doing church in the crisis of coronavirus. The second one focused on drivers for effective life in the current season of the pandemic. In this article, we focus on restating the foundations of the New Covenant (NC). The New Covenant was ushered by the Lord Jesus Christ through the sacrificial act of the Cross. Not only did His death serve as a ransom and a penalty for our sin, offering us salvation through grace, it also nullified the ineffective Old Covenant (OC) of law, which represented a whole philosophy of relating to God and of doing ministry. We therefore must see the Cross not only as a mechanism of human redemption, but also as a doorway into a new dispensation of life and ministry. The Cross represented a massive reformation of systems of ministry – a replacement of one system by another.

Matt 27:50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. NIV

The picture that we get when we read the story of the crucifixion and its impact on the system of Moses (the Law and the Temple) is one of sovereign and violent confrontation as God was nullifying one system to establish another. Hebrews states, “by calling this covenant “new”, He (God) has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” (Heb. 8:13). The word “obsolete” defines that which is worn out or that which no longer has utility in life. On the other hand, the word “aging” literally speaks of old age – it speaks of being wrinkled, frail and weak. We know that God does not want His church to be wrinkled (Eph. 5:25-27). To be wrinkled is a spiritual condition. We can be the most “advanced, modern and trendy” church and still be wrinkled in the spirit. To identify the wrinkles, we don’t look at how contemporary is our buildings and worship songs or how technologically advanced we are (needless to say that the absence of these components does not automatically constitute a healthy church). Remember, the idea of being wrinkled must firstly be understood in the very nature of the world – we do live in a world that (although currently leading the 4th Industrial Revolution) is wrinkled and decaying. We live amidst a humanity and culture that is progressively decaying and from which we are exhorted to escape (2 Pet. 1:4). The decay is not in technology; the decay is in the values and arrangements of life. In the same way, to assess whether we are a wrinkled church / believer or not, we must look at (a) our doctrine, (b) the content of our vision and inspiration towards the future, (c) values, culture and or our very humanity as the church (or our quality of life) (d) and philosophy of ministry. The emphatic point we are making here is that the Cross violently confronts wrinkled and ineffective systems of ministry.

The curtain was a partition that separated God and man. It created a system of representative spirituality and ministry in which one priest represented the masses of people. The emphatic value of the system of Moses was separation and limitation. Every church represents a value, and it’s important especially for elders or pastors to consider carefully the main value that the churches they lead represent. It is important to note that through the Cross, the Lord nullified the system of law without consulting any priest – i.e. He acted sovereignly. This is the confrontational nature of the Cross towards systems of ministry that activate old ministry approaches of law. The “tearing of the curtain” is an act of divine violence towards any ministry that operates as a hindrance between God and man.

Before we itemize the foundational values of the NC, let us consider key components constituting the framework within which a church must operate:

Church requires leadership: there must be elders in any biblically constituted church. Although church was established through the act of Holy Spirit baptism to all believers in Acts 2, but this did not nullify the principle and requirement for leadership. Paul planted churches and appointed elders (Acts 14:23). Not only was eldership appointment simply Paul’s “approach to ministry” but he established this as doctrine or a “standard operating procedure” for all churches (1 Tim. 3:1-7). Paul referred to absence of leadership or leader-lessness in the church as a form of crookedness that needed to be straightened out (Tit. 1:5). But what does the presence and function of leadership mean in the church? It means that there must be oversight, guidance, care and accountability.  It means that leaders must give prophetic direction under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and believers must (willingly and voluntarily) submit themselves to their leaders, under the witness of the same Holy Spirit.

Church requires doctrine: the duty of elders is to instruct the saints in the way and purpose of the Lord. It is to shepherd the saints in Christlikeness. Paul said, “we teach everyone with all wisdom” (Col. 1:28). The early church devoted themselves in apostles’ teaching, among other things (Acts 2:42). Doctrine means that in the church, there must be a common and shared belief system that guides every believer in the way of the Lord. The absence of doctrine produces (a) lawlessness and (b) disunity of life and purpose. It is through doctrine that we can be “perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Cor. 1:10).

Church requires to meet for the purpose of fellowship, corporate worship and instruction: we are not to forsake the gathering of the saints (Heb. 10:24&25). In the statement, “where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them” (Matt. 18:20), the Lord is not simply giving us a “comforting scripture” for gatherings that have less numbers. But this scripture declares two powerful values for us: (a) our common belief in Jesus Christ must produce dynamic and ongoing fellowship and intentional gathering, (b) and these gatherings must release and dispense the government of God into the atmosphere (spirit world) and into the conditions of human life. In prior verses (Matt. 18:15-19), the Lord gives the picture of church as an organized community with governmental responsibility over its affairs. This clearly indicates that we are not to be casual about our membership in the church.

Hebrews 2 declares, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises” (Heb. 2:12). Another translation says, “in the midst of the church” (KJV) or “in the midst of the assembly” (NKJV). This verse is taken from Ps 22, the psalm of the suffering of Christ. In Ps. 22:25 it says, “from you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly”.

In Rom. 1:11, Paul declares his desire to meet the saints in Rome in order to impart a spiritual gift to them. And there is evidence throughout the book of Acts of the practice of church gathering for the reasons stated above. However, the scripture does not prescribe where we are to meet. “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together” (Acts 2:46&47). “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 5:42). “On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer” (Acts 16:13). “When Priscilla and Aquila heard him (Apollos), they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26). “He (Paul) took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years…” (Acts 19:9&10). There is no evidence that suggests that there is a particular meeting place for the church that must be adopted as doctrine. If there is a “house church” then there must be a “temple courts church”, a “river church” and a “lecture hall church” according to the scriptures highlighted above. The following things must be considered to sustain a balanced healthy life in the church: (a) we must be clear about the value of meaningful fellowship in the church and we must do all we can to protect this; (b) we must consider logistical and administrative issues in our choice of meeting places. It is reasonable to expect that different people or churches may have different burdens and choices (even from God) in terms of meeting places, to work out a particular divine outcome. But these things must not be taken as universal truth but rather as contextual prophetic directives or even unique logistical considerations.

All in all, church must have leadership, common doctrine and must be able to gather. And where church can’t meet, then we must realize that we are living in extra ordinary times (like this current pandemic which has led to nation-states to institute a lockdown). It is in such times that we must consider and restate the values of the New Covenant, that empower the church to continue to thrive, even in the midst of crisis and limitation.

Let us restate the foundational values of the New Covenant (NC) that must hold the life of the church together, in the current moment of the lockdown where we are unable to have physical fellowship and gatherings:

1. The Spirituality of Direct Access

Eph 2:18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. NIV

Heb 10:19-23

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. NIV

Unlike the OC of law, which was characterized by representative spirituality via the agency of the Levites and the High Priests, a born-again, Spirit filled believer has direct access to God, any and every time. The very heart of the Cross is not only to cleans us from sin, but it is also to remove any hindrance in relationship between God and His people. We can lift up our hands from our homes and worship God. We can flood the heavens with prayers and petitions every time. We may be locked down in terms of movement and physical gatherings, but we have full access and permission to engage our God. The word “access” used in Eph. 2:18 is both a legal and relational word. As a legal word, it defines the right of approach granted to someone by a king or a senior political official. As a relational word, it means “to bring near”. The believer has full legal authority and relational access to have direct union with God.

2. Internalized Faith

Heb 8:10 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. NIV

Our belief system and faith are no longer based on external or cosmetic elements but on a transactional and contemplative experience of our hearts and minds. The law is no longer written on stone tablets (it is no longer “institutionalized”). We may not be having “meetings” but spiritual transactions have not stopped (we must just ensure that good, holy and godly transactions of the Holy Spirit are taking place in our hearts, not destructive transactions of Darkness). The Holy Spirit continues to write and define us within, and He is working in harmony with the doctrine He is establishing in the church.

3. The Altar of the Human Heart

In the OC, worship was expressed from an external-physical altar. In the NC, the altar is the human heart.


Heb 10:22

22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience. NIV

Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. NIV

Not only does the Holy Spirit transact with us in our hearts, to impart divine life, but we also express our worship to God from within our hearts. The song of our heart does not wait for Sunday morning or whatever other day during which our church gathers. But that song echoes before God day and night, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Ps 45:1 My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king… NIV

Let us not be paralyzed by the conditions of life around us but let us allow the Lord to stir our hearts towards a noble theme of the Kingdom of God. The word “stirred” in Ps. 45:1 means to “gush and to overflow”. The word “theme” means “a word, a matter, a speech or a cause”. As the Lord stirs our hearts, we break out in worship and in speech – we worship Him and flood the human environment with a different prophetic narrative.

4. The Principle of the Human Temple

1 Cor 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? NIV

2 Cor 6:16 For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”  NIV

Rom 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. NIV

In the OC, the place of worship was a physical temple. In the NC, we (redeemed humans) are the place of worship. Our very lives are the living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1) – i.e. we are the song of the Lord. The song is not simply the lyrics on the screen or on the hymn book on Sunday morning – it is the redemptive narrative of our very lives. Not only so, the Lord indwells us as His temple. We no longer point at the temple but we are the temple that provides a spiritual context for a sacrifice of life that is offered to God as we willingly obey Him right in the midst of our human experiences.

2 Cor 2:15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. NIV

We are the temple, the altar and the sacrifice – the Lord receives us daily, as we walk with Him, as a sweet aroma and a fragrance of life. In the midst of the smell of fear, hopelessness and death, we must release a different and beautiful scent.

5. Decentralized Worship

Heb 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that confess his name. NIV

Ps 103:22 Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion. NIV

1 Tim 2:8 I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. NIV

We no longer must engage an annual physical pilgrimage to a physical place of worship. We can worship God anywhere! We can worship God in our homes! We are no longer confined to a physical place or by a physical calendar.

Gal 4:9-11

9 But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. NIV

6. The Priesthood of all Believers

Rev 5:9-10

9 And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,

because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” NIV

We are no longer confined to a limited representative spirituality. We are redeemed not to be spectators in the process of ministering before God. We are now all called as ministers and ambassadors of the New Covenant. We are serving as priests under our High Priest, Jesus Christ. We can all worship, pray and witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. The work of the Lord can therefore not be stopped or hindered by the current lockdown.

7. Spiritual Formation

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness from ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18).

The NC is not merely driven by the need for weekly activities, it is driven by the goal of producing a people who share a common image of Christ. Value in the NC is not determined by the amount and scope of ministry activities but by transforming lives. Activities only serve as platforms for the church to be trans-formed in Christ. The word “transformed” used in 2 Cor. 3:18 is the biological word metamorphosis, which describes the change of the condition of a thing, the process of changing from one form to another. The word describes a process where one is formed into something that they were not before (spiritual formation). That means that our upbringing and historical origins (no matter how disadvantaged they may have been) have no power to determine who we can be in Christ in the future. It means that Christ is now our new historical origin, determining our potential for the future. The trigger for this spiritual formation is in beholding Christ (the revelation of Christ), it is not in mere routines of ministry. In the OC, there was a lot of activity which however did not produce the image of Christ in the heart of the worshiper (Heb. 9:9). The lockdown must help to revive a contemplative culture in the church, for us to behold the Lord, to put aside the things of the flesh and step into the fullness of His life (Eph. 4:13, Eph. 4:22-24). In the stillness of the activities of life, we must hear the trans-formative voice of the Lord within. As believers, we can sometimes be familiar with hearing the operational voice of the Spirit telling us the ministry things we need to do in this world, but we are not always tuned in the trans-formative voice that tells us who we need to be in Christ. The trans-formative voice of the Spirit fulfills and completes the creation process of God in our lives, which we lost at the Fall and which has been restored through Christ (1 Cor. 15:45-49). If we engage the trans-formative voice of God in our hearts, we will come out of this lockdown a different people. And if we continue in this powerful spiritual process, we shall surely become a powerful church. Let us note this – the world is not simply waiting for a people who will do great things; the world is waiting for a people who can be the transmission of the image of Christ in the earth (a people who can be the “great things”)! What the world has lost is not activities and programs, it is the image of its Creator!


Implications of the Foundational Values of the New Covenant

In conclusion, these values of the NC have the following implications for the church:

  • As stated earlier, these values and positions do not undermine the need for leadership, doctrine and gatherings in the church. On the contrary, we need leaders to equip us so we can be more competent and fluent in the noble goals of the NC.
  • Leaders and churches must refuse the temptation to run as Old Covenant priests who do everything for the people. They must be careful not to reduce the NC believer into a spectator. In this sense, the current lockdown is not necessarily “limiting”, but it provides believers with a golden opportunity to exercise their faith under the guidance and directives of their elders.
  • Equally, pastors must refuse the temptation to derive their value out of ungodly dependence by the saints. Pastors must equip and empower the saints (Eph. 4:11-13). The fruit of an empowered believer is what determines true value of church leadership.
  • Leaders and churches really exist to promote and advance these New Covenant values which were established by the Lord through the Cross. When the church functions like an Old Covenant ministry, not only is she undermining the work of the Cross, she is acting in direct contradiction to the values of the Cross.
  • When the church re-groups post the novel coronavirus pandemic and when she is able to gather, she must do so upon these NC foundations – this must therefore inform the philosophy of ministry.
  • The fact that the believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit and is called to be a priest unto God must not lead to lawlessness, rebellion and chaos, it must produce an even more obedient, submissive and powerful church that functions as a community under the government of the Spirit and Word of Christ.


Robert Ntuli

Pastor – LivingStones Agency

Visionary Leader – Kingdom Humanity Fellowship



Drivers for effective life in the current season of the pandemic

GearsThe nature of the spread of novel coronavirus is showing us (a) how small the world is (within a space of 3 months since we first heard of novel coronavirus outbreak in China, the world finds itself in a state of shock, quarantine and immobility), (b) how fragile the world is – with all our technological advances and bureaucracies, we are still vulnerable and susceptible to attack by small and invisible biological agents and elements (c) and how quickly the conditions of life can change around us. Equally, the sting of novel coronavirus has certainly been non-discriminatory, affecting all continents, gender, age and class groups, almost as though we are being reminded of our equality as humanity, regardless of the value of our shelter, automobile or the type of position we hold in society – we are all made up of flesh and blood. Politicians and celebrities have been infected alongside ordinary citizens and the poor.

In particular, the sudden change of conditions of life (even as governments find themselves having to activate regimes or legal mechanisms like the State of Disaster here in South Africa and various measures in different parts of the world) reminds us of this scripture, “while people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape”. NIV (1 Thes. 5:3). This scripture speaks to us about the suddenness of change of life conditions and how human insight will always be limited to predict and clearly figure out the future. They say, “peace and safety” but the resultant outcome is “destruction”, the very opposite of the predicted outcome. This scripture is not speaking even about long term predictions of man, it’s dealing with what is in fact within man’s view. Man’s research and statistical systems even about impending events is still limited to fully and accurately provide insight and intelligence about the future. This as governments scramble to seek this valuable information in order to govern their nations better, like ancient kings who periodically gathered their wise men to seek to understand the unfolding of events of life.

Having noted this reality, and after looking at the question of how to do church in this crisis of novel coronavirus, the question that remains for humans generally and for us who believe in Christ specifically is how exactly are we supposed to engage the current moment? What are the drivers that must inform and shape our behavior and actions? The word “drivers” here refers to internal values and positions that give definition to outer behavior and action. The Scripture tells us that “as a man thinks, so is he” (Prov 23:7). That is, our behavior and actions do reflect something about the state of our inner life – our beliefs, worldview, mindset and attitudes. In a crisis like the one we are going through, you just need to look at people’s actions to figure out their attitudes towards God, fellow citizens, government etc.

Over and above the fact that we all need to respond to the current crisis with prayer (which is still an activity that must be informed by inner drivers in one way or another, and whose effectiveness must be determined by the extent to which those drivers are aligned with the counsel of God’s word), I would like to submit the following three drivers that I feel the Lord pressing in my heart and which can make church’s presence in communities even more effective during this crucial time.

Driver 1: Faith to engage the current Prophetic Moment – the famous word that is used in Scriptures and that is relevant to the current situation is the word “kairos”, which is generally translated as “time or season”. The word kairos means an occasion or an opportunity, a time at which foreordained events take place. Implied in this word is (a) the ability to see the movements of God in the midst of life events and conditions, (b) the ability to figure out appropriate prophetic responses to life’s situations, (c) insight to discover and establish pre-ordained actions in the midst of a particular moment. In the well-known story of David and Goliath (1 Sam. 17), the real issue wasn’t simply the defeating of a Philistine’s warrior by a young Israelite, it was in fact the establishment of young David upon the throne of Israel. It was the events that took place on that day that prepared the way and ushered David to the throne, in accordance with Samuel’s prophecy (1 Sam. 16:11-13). After David fought and defeated Goliath, the women began to sing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Sam. 18:6-7). God was moving in David’s life, from a private ceremony of being prophesied as king by Samuel (1 Sam. 16:11-13), to being acknowledged by the nation as one fitting to be the king. Had David not confronted Goliath that day, not only was Israel going to be defeated by the Philistines, but David’s ascendancy to the throne was not going to be realized. Goliath was “the crisis”, in the same way that novel coronavirus is, but the establishment of David upon the throne was the real moment or kairos. In this sense, a kairos is a circumstance (life situation or event) that creates an opportunity for the fulfillment or realization of the Purposes of God, provided those in the moment respond timely and correctly (like David). In a sense, Goliath’s mocking of the armies of Israel set just the perfect conditions for David to emerge in the scene (1 Sam. 17:8-11). In a time when every warrior in Israel was imprisoned by fear, David was divinely provoked by the Holy Spirit to go to the battlefield – it was his moment (1 Sam. 17:32). We must discern conditions that are terrifying in the eyes of man, but that are creating a platform for us to step into the Purposes of God!

The enemy that hinders us from engaging the prophetic moment is fear and an escapist mentality. It is when we use religion like a “drug” so that we don’t feel the moment. Let us be encouraged to not “run away” from the moment back into our usual church programs and routines. This is a special time requiring that we consider and reflect life as it unfolds before us. Even as we gather as churches, let not the gatherings and even the things we preach constitute the drugging of our souls. We must be encouraged to engage the moment, not for the sake of the moment itself but so that we may hear the voice of God in the moment. We must be in the human condition with the people, see and track the news and let all these things minister to our hearts to catalyze the voice of God within. Like Nehemiah, we must examine the situation before us – and this does not mean violating the guidelines of social distancing etc., but we can easily do the examination by following the news, statistics, and by talking to fellow believers, friends and neighbours.

Neh 2:13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. NIV

The word “examine” means to scrutinize with an expectation and a hope for newness. Thus, this word carries two dimensions of (a) observation and information gathering as well as (b) developing insight concerning a future that could emerge out of the brokenness or crisis. In other words, this word does not merely speak of “gathering data” and being paralyzed by it, it speaks of being inspired by brokenness that’s before us. In reality, the word describes a process of hearing the voice of God in and through a crisis. If the church is not in the moment of the current pandemic, and if she escapes through her usual programs and routines, and by superficial preaching, we will miss the opportunity to hear the voice of God for life after the pandemic.

In the days of Nehemiah, there were different groups or categories of people that had different relationships with the crisis: (A) Hanani was simply occupied with “newspaper commentary” about Jerusalem (Neh. 1:1-3). (B) Sanballet had an evil interest and wanted to keep the situation unchanged (Neh. 2:10). (C) There were marginalized Jews who were waiting for someone to activate them (Neh. 2:17-18). (D) And then there was Nehemiah, who did not only pray about the situation (Neh. 1:4) but who also took sacrificial action (Neh. 2:1-9). We want to be a Nehemiah in the current moment!

Driver 2: Responsible Citizenship – Romans ch. 13 is one of the scriptures that give us a framework for good and responsible citizenship. It talks about the theology of the State and our responsibility as those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ but who exist in geopolitical spaces under earthly government. We are exhorted to honour the State for the sake of our faith and conscience, not because of fear (Rom. 13:5). The apostle Peter confirms this by stating, “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority among men” (1 Pet. 2:13). The phrase “for the Lord’s sake” is important here – fundamentally, the spirit of Christ and the Cross is not one of rebellion against the State, it is one of submission to legal processes but only to invoke even a higher authority of God for the redemption of mankind. He whom we serve stood before Pilate (a mere earthly authority) and made a good confession (1 Tim. 6:13). We are to follow His example! Romans 13:8 continues to exhort us to “love our neighbor as ourselves”. The context of “neighbor” in verse 8 is not fellow church members, but it’s fellow citizens. All of this speaks about two things, (a) our actions must honour the State, (b) and also honour our fellow citizens. In this regard, if the church aspires to be “the head and not the tail” or a leader in society, then  she must honour the laws, the regime and constitutional mechanisms that have been put in place by our government to mitigate the current crisis and ensure human well-being and justice. We must realize that the current guidelines coming from government and informing how we must engage the current situation are not mere suggestions but legal prescriptions. The state of disaster is informed by the Disaster Management Acts – this is a law aimed at saving lives. As long as we believe that the government is neither overreacting nor using the current legal framework for some other hidden and unjust agenda, then we must cooperate fully in this process. If we as church want government and civil society to respect and take us seriously now and in the future, then we must act responsibly in this current moment. We must advance the Kingdom of God and the faith within the legal framework before us.

Part of fulfilling our citizenship responsibility also involves praying for the government (“those in authority”) and for our fellow citizens (“all men”) so that there may be peace and stability in the land (1 Tim. 2:1-4). It is time to pray for our nation and the nations of the world!

Driver 3: Keep the Fellowship – we must honour social distancing without cutting off structures of fellowship in our hearts. Social distancing deals with minimizing unnecessary public movement.

  • At the very least, (a) we must maintain a greater sense of identification with fellow brothers and sisters in our hearts, (b) and hold them in prayer before God as they do the same for us.
  • We can use several cost-effective technological options to stay connected – we can share our faith, pray together and even share light social moments via technological platforms.
  • Where possible and with appropriate measures of social distancing and hygiene practices (e.g. avoidance of public transport, washing of hands, avoiding handshakes, general sanitation and staying home when sick), we can still visit one another in small scale fellowship engagements, even if it’s for brief moments, so that we can exchange dynamic spiritual energies of faith, prayer and even share light moments together.

Fellowship is one of the cornerstones of the church (Acts 2:42). It is a means by which we share in our faith and inspire one another in the Lord. If there is one thing that must happen post this pandemic, especially to disciples of Christ, it is a greater sense of oneness and togetherness in Christ. We are not called to face these moments alone but together as the Body of Christ.


Robert Ntuli

Pastor – LivingStones Agency

Visionary Leader – Kingdom Humanity Fellowship


Doing church in the crisis of coronavirus



We started 2020 with the news of the outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19) in Wuhan, China. I remember presenting a range of global events to the church during our first 2020 Sunday gathering. These included the USA–Iran military tension, wildfires in Australia and of course the coronavirus, among other things. At the time, this virus was a distant crisis that was affecting parts of China’s society. As we moved into the second month of the year, the virus was clearly spreading across the globe with numbers of infections increasing particularly in Italy and Iran. Then the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a global pandemic and identified Europe as the new epicenter of the outbreak after China. We equally began to see the inevitable reality of infections right within our nation – South Africa. By this time, coronavirus was no longer a distant crisis, it was right at our doorsteps as numbers of infections were slowly but surely going up. At the time of the president’s press statement last Sunday evening (15th March 2020), we had 61 confirmed infections in SA.

All these developments necessitated for the cabinet to discuss this unfolding crisis and chart the way forward. We all watched our TVs and smartphones with anticipation as the president presented to the nation of South Africa the outcomes and resolutions of his cabinet meeting on the outbreak of coronavirus. During this press statement, the president informed us that the Disaster Management Act (state of disaster) had been activated as a constitutional mechanism to help the government manage the crisis at hand. The purpose of this Act is “to provide for an integrated and co-ordinated disaster management policy that focuses on preventing or reducing the risk of disasters, mitigating the severity of disasters, emergency preparedness, rapid and effective response to disasters and post-disaster recovery”. With this state of disaster comes a range of powers and regulations that will help the government to contain the spread of the virus, preventing it from causing more harm to the citizens of the Republic of South Africa. Of particular relevance to the churches is the prohibition of gatherings of more than 100 people. However, it is important to state that the same regulation affects Arts and Culture, Sports, political and cultural gatherings and a range of other sectors, including Education. Consequently, we’ve seen a range of events being cancelled or postponed. Important to also state that this is not only a South African phenomenon, events are being cancelled worldwide.

The church or churches are now faced with making decisions in line with the stated regulations of the Disaster Management Act. The following factors and issues are some of the things that the church has to consider in the decision-making process…


It’s important to acknowledge that church is an apostolic community. The apostolicity of the church means that we operate with the spirit of forward movement that has no reverse gear option. Anything that affects the fulfillment of our apostolic mission to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God can very easily be seen as an interruption and irritation. However, like the early church, we must serve God with faith, but acknowledging circumstances that surround us and that must be considered in the process of ministry. Whenever the early church was faced with such interruptions, they went back to the drawing board to pray. It was in those moments that the Lord directed them. They often discovered God and His purpose in the midst of a crisis. The current time and situation calls for the church to pray. The power of prayer must not be rooted in big public gatherings, perhaps in stadiums or other platforms, but saints must lift up their hands and pray to God from their homes. This is the time to show the reality of the priesthood of all the saints – a church experience that is guided by leadership and that is characterized by the power of the Circle of Life and the bonfire of the Holy Spirit.

It’s equally important to acknowledge the fact that the prohibition of gatherings of more than 100 people is not an attack on the church. This does in fact affect other sectors of society, i.e. Sports, Arts and Culture etc.

The state of disaster is perhaps a good precautionary measure in a country like South Africa with a section of the population with pre-existing underlying health problems.

We understand and uphold the values of human interaction and community as primary mechanisms to impart and transfer the Life of Christ from one person to another (Rom. 1:11). The very mechanism by which this virus is spreading, which is human contact, is the same Biblical mechanism by which the Life of Christ must be transferred. We are to go out and interact with people as we make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). We are to lay hands on the sick (Mark 16:18) – this speaks of human contact. We are to exemplify the Life of Christ before others (Matt. 5:16, Phil. 4:9) – this speaks of access, proximity and fellowship. We are not to forsake (physically) gathering together (Heb. 10:25), for how nice and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity (Ps. 133).

Church has a moral duty to cooperate with the State in promoting human well-being. This is done out of recognizing the State as the agency of divine authority with a mandate from God to administer justice (Rom. 13:1-5). In 1 Tim. 2:1-3, the mandate of the Church (which is to bring salvation to man) is put alongside the mandate of the State, of establishing peace and prosperity. Although Church and the State work independent of each other, one with the mechanism of grace and the other with the mechanism of law, one with the vision of eternal life and the other with the vision of earthly well-being,  they do share a common interest in the human enterprise. They are the two streams of God that must come to a point of confluence, for human well-being to be effectively realized. This is despite the fact that history shows a hostile relationship between Church and the State – from the times of Moses and Pharaohs, through the Prophets, to the time of Jesus, the early church and the Roman Caesars. History does equally show times of cooperation between kings and prophets like Joseph and the Pharaoh of his time. During this time, God released His blessing upon mankind (Gen. 50:20). So when the relationship between these two dimensions of government (Church and the State) is established according to God’s order, the result will be peace, cooperation and harmony.

Equally, church has the moral duty to do ministry in a Biblical and responsible way, and to ensure the safety and well-being of believers and congregants. Surely that duty should not have to be imposed by the government on the church.

Church is called to be a community and not just a Sunday morning congregation (Ps. 133). And the principle of community must originate from internal structures of the faith, and not from external elements like physical church buildings. We associate with Christ and the community of fellow disciples, and not with church venues and buildings. If our inability to access the church building results in a crisis of faith and or of church membership, then we have a problem deeper than the coronavirus.


It is time for church to realize that whilst we desire for more people to get saved, simply because this is God’s desire, but what makes us strong as churches is not public gatherings, it is the Acts 2:42 pillars of doctrine prayer, fellowship and the breaking of bread.


We equally must realize that the five-fold duty to equip the saints in the faith and in life is going to become important, as we face more sudden interruptions in our church programs in the future (Eph. 4:11-13).

In the context of the current state of disaster, the “gatherings of 100” should not be followed legalistically as a way of “conforming to law”. It should be understood to mean that currently, there is a risk in holding public gatherings of any scale. This risk is obviously minimized with lesser numbers. Moreover, the profile and nature of lifestyle, professions or careers of people gathered should be carefully considered and understood. It is possible to have a meeting of 20 but with a high-risk threshold simply because of lifestyle or careers of those gathered. It is equally possible to have the meeting of 90 people with a low-risk threshold simply because of the profile of those gathered. These dynamics and nuances must be considered. And this further calls for pastors to intimately know their people.

Just like the early church was able to use the technology of the pen and paper to dispense the life of Christ (e.g. letters of Paul to churches), we must be able to use current technologies available to us, to advance the Life of Christ in our day. We must however ensure that such technological mechanisms do not replace the fundamental principles of human interaction and fellowship.

The principle of quarantine is not modern or strange. It was practiced in ancient societies. Miriam, the prophetess, and Moses’ sister was quarantined for 7 days because of leprosy, until she was healed (Numb. 12:1-16). The inspiring story of the faith of the four lepers reveals another situation of humans being quarantined (2 Kings 7:3-4). Jesus also healed the ten men who were quarantined because of leprosy (Luke 17:11-19). When these men saw Jesus, they stood at a distance and asked him to heal them. Standing at distance was a clear observation of self-isolation and avoidance of physical contact. Quarantine is a health protocol that has been followed since ancient times, in order to avoid transmission of disease. As we continue to pray that those who are infected and quarantined will meet the healing power of Jesus like the ten lepers, we must equally promote this health protocol where necessary, for the containment of this disease. If God instructed for Miriam to be quarantined for a while, saying, “confine her outside the camp for seven days”, who are we to stand against this practice?

We cannot impose our convictions on others. And we are to identify with the weak. This is a fundamental principle of the faith (Rom. 14). If people do not feel comfortable attending meetings (where we continue with meetings within the framework of the state of disaster regulations), others in our ranks must have freedom to stay home if they so wish.

Faith vs. hygiene protocol: just like we eat every day for physical health and well-being, we drink water when thirsty and we wash our bodies for cleanliness – we do not neglect these daily physiological practices in the name of faith. That is, we don’t say, “I’m hungry but I believe I shall be filled by faith or I haven’t had a bath but I believe I shall be clean by faith”. So must the frequent washing of hands and the following of hygiene protocols not be seen as lack of faith, but an exercise in proper and responsible humanity.

The current pandemic will most likely change how we do life from now onward. However, it should “normalize” at some stage. That is, we should recognize the fact that we are in a transitional period of some kind, we therefore need to give ourselves space to “study the times” and to understand the groaning of creation (or mankind) so we can not only be a prophetic voice representing God’s Will to mankind but also  be a priestly voice representing man’s groaning before God. It is time to pause, pray and assess the human condition. So let’s endure the next couple of weeks and months (if we need to) and see how the situation develops, while we participate in the effort to mitigate the current crisis.

The current situation triggers fear and anxiety (especially for those who do not believe), it therefore creates an environment in which church must trade her precious spiritual commodities of – faith, hope and love (1 Cor. 13:13). We believe in God’s divine providence of healing. But we equally believe in eternal life in Christ in case of death (1 Thes. 4:13). These fundamental beliefs must be preached as basic principles of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

We must confront the pastoral paradigm of numerical growth as a driver of ministry and replace it with the drive to display the nature and love of Christ. The paradigm of numerical growth equally triggers the insecurity of losing members and locks us up in this “numbers game”. This is a dangerous Christianity of books and of the bottom line, which in turn blinds us from administrating matters of life beyond the sphere of Sunday morning or devotional activities. The current crisis requires a new paradigm – one of demonstrating the righteousness of God over the human condition.

We must distinguish between faith and testing the Lord. Faith is inspired by fulfilling God’s agenda, not our agenda. Faith is not an exercise in self-induced, self-highlighting ministry practices. We are not to throw ourselves “down the valley of coronavirus” (by being reckless in our actions), to either make a name for ourselves or “to see if the Lord will not command His angels to save us” – this too is part of the enemy’s temptation and it constitutes sin of testing the Lord (Luke 4:9-12). God is the Healer. He is not a Magician – ie. He does not exercise power for theatrical amusement, entertainment or to prove how powerful a man and woman of God we are. Equally, the quoting of scriptures like Ps. 91 as an act of of rebelling against stipulated health protocols does not prove powerful and responsible faith but recklessness.

If some among us fall sick of this disease, faith must be exercised while respecting health protocols and guidelines. Our duty is to believe and pray, but to also respect the guidelines provided by health authorities. If God decides to supernaturally intervene by healing ministry, that will surely not go unnoticed. But if we claim to speak or act on God’s behalf when He hasn’t sent us, this too will be clear to all. This is not the time of fake or superficial ministry. Equally, we must cooperate with godly medical practices and interventions – this too is a gift and revelation from God. This too is God’s hand of healing. This too is blessing to mankind.

Let us be evangelists of salvation, faith, healing, healthy living, hygiene and ministry of care.

It is the time for the church to restate the theology and prophetic nature of human crisis – crisis turns mankind to God (2 Chron. 7:12-16, Rev. 9:20-21), and it is part of the spiritual mechanism that the Holy Spirit uses to purify and establish us in Christ and in His Kingdom (Rom. 5:3-5, Acts 14:22).

Heb 12:25-29

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”   27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken — that is, created things — so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”  NIV

We cannot ignore the fact that every shaking that happens in life removes artificial and ungodly components of life (the dross) and establishes the King and his kingdom (i.e. life as originally created by God) in our lives and environments. In the time of the current crisis or pandemic, we must have eyes to see what it is that is being removed and what it is that is being established. Perhaps the ff. values are being established – true authentic faith in Jesus Christ; community or fellowship centered around Christ and fellow believers, and not on physical buildings; trans-congregational kingdom life and ministry, the priority for nations to be united around true natural human problems instead of being divided by artificial geopolitical agenda (aren’t nations being called around the table to work together in search for a common solution to this pandemic?) Etc.


The duty of leaders is to prepare people to be church in a time when leaders “are not there” (Eph. 4:11-13, Phil. 2:12). This is a fundamental principle in the ministry of Jesus Christ (John 14:1-4). And this was the story of the early church (Acts 11:19-24). We will be seeing more of these “interruptions” as in a woman in labour pains. We must get ready for a coronavirus dispensation of church and ministry!


Lord, we pray for the coming of your Kingdom in our hearts, churches, neighborhoods, cities, nations and continents.

Robert Ntuli

Pastor: LivingStones Agency

Visionary Leader: Kingdom Humanity Fellowship

Durban, South Africa