Coronavirus effect: Churches are essential

Gene Mills is president of the Louisiana Family Forum, an organization that is devoted to advancing life, liberty and limited government in Louisiana. LFF is one of 39 other state-based policy councils around the country that are associated with Focus on the Family. 

Gene is often on the front lines and took some time to answer a few questions about family, churches and politics in these unique times.

  1. How has the coronavirus event changed life for you, Blanche and your family?

A Sabbatical season has settled upon our home and our family. Perhaps long overdue- now welcomed- as we slow down, prioritize what we value and communicate in brand new ways with our extended and immediate family. Today is a day to lean into God’s goodness, providence and promises instead of ‘what we do’ it’s become a time of reflecting on ”who He is!” It has been a very healthy season.

2. Louisiana is obviously a focal point on so many fronts right now. From New Orleans, to churches in the media limelight and other states (e.g. Texas, Florida) cutting off exit routes from the state, what are 2-3 things that the national media are NOT covering that stands out to you.

The fact that once again the church has proven to be not just a first responder but an essential provider of all things needed right now. On Rez Sunday we hosted drive-in church to celebrate a risen savior. It grieves my soul that so many are still so preoccupied with science, medicine, facts and even news reports, to the extent that we forget the real pain suffered by so many in the trenches. Pastors who want to run into the place of grief, uncertainty and even in the shadows of death, are being told ‘not possible’ or ‘too dangerous’. Today we must realize that the good shepherds which God has placed here need free access to minister in all the places of need. We also need to begin talking about an exit strategy to turning the lights of our churches, economies and culture back on. I hear very few discussing the return!

3. You work with churches and in the realm of politics in your role. Can you speak to the unusual circumstances of churches that are still meeting in Louisiana and across the country, despite government leaders recommending that groups no larger than 10 congregate?

It is a very unusual season to minister these days. For many larger churches, this has been a very productive season because of technology and creativity, many flourish. For smaller, somewhat older congregations this has been a very challenging moment. The covenant people who claim Christ are a high-touch people. In Louisiana that often means a greeting one another with a kiss on the cheek instead of a kiss on the lips during this season of social distancing! It is difficult to rearrange habits, cultural and old ways, especially when we can’t see the invisible threat or quite understand its unusual nature. For some, that means moving forward as before. I have not criticized that, but I have advised that while the church has left the building, its essential mission continues unimpeded. I also have advised pastors that while many of these ‘executive orders’ may be unenforceable, they are nonetheless advisable. So we honor the spirit with which Louisiana’s order was employed.

4. Gene, you are a big advocate for families, life and churches in the state. How are you staying connected and helping those groups stay connected, viable and influential?

We are zooming a lot more these days. Conference calls and virtual town hall conversations are filling the void for the critical questions and communications before us. At LFF where I serve we are calling through our friends checking on and praying for each other.

5. What is one thing God has emphasized to you over and over during this time?

This is an unprecedented, global event and the response has been as impactful as the threat itself. I have lived my Christian life as though this life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last!  I am a firm believer in Christ’s return. I am persuaded that these ‘seasons’ of reflection, uncertainty and search are intended to capture our hearts’ attention to refocus our lives on things which matter to Father. Heaven’s treasure if you will….things like faith (in the finished work of Christ) our family and freedom. I believe these could occur at any moment.

6. This coronavirus event is going to bring many changes, and Louisiana is a unique state. What will be the biggest change coming once we get through this current crisis?

How creative the culture will be as it seeks to return to the familiar patterns of life,  and life at large..we will inevitably fist bump more, zoom more and there will be a huge harvest of people won who have never darkened the doors of a church. This will require special effort to bring them into and introduce them to the House and family of God… 

7. Obviously, first responders across the country are the heroes of the day right now. Who are some other unsung heroes you’ve come across in recent days in Louisiana that you have noticed?

Little simple acts of thoughtful folks like my neighbor who on Holy Thursday and the beginning of Passover attached this palm branch made in the form of a cross w/ red ribbon to my mailbox- as a witness to all who drove by that this home has been marked by the Savior and anticipates His soon return. I also commend Louisiana public officials -like our Governor JB Edwards who on a conference call with our -LFF pastors network- was asked;”gov how can we pray for you?” His answer; “pray I have the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it!” 

8. What one scripture most often comes to your mind about where we are and what we are experiencing today?

If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, repent from their sins and seek my face, I will hear their prayer; and I will heal their land! Chron 7:14.

In fact, we are partnering with thousands of believers worldwide as part of the unite714.com prayer initiative started in Baton Rouge. Twice daily at 714 a.m. and 7:14 p.m. in houses everywhere. Our homes have become houses of prayer!

9. Politics is tough right now, has been for a couple of decades. This is going to bring out more crazies and extremes, though, even more so. What should we expect going forward from national, state and local politics?

Crazy raised to the next power! But you will also be able to see just how clearly the lines have been drawn on matters of morality and which side all involved stand on! 

10. How can people follow you and keep up with Louisiana Family Forum right now? (e.g. links, email subscriptions etc.)

Go to louisianafamilyforum.org and request our weekly communications. That is the single lifeline we offer as we attempt to build a future where God is honored, life is cherished, families flourish and freedom reigns. Pray that LFF is successful in challenging believers to think and thinkers to believe! 

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