Jeffrey O. Brown, PhD, is an associate secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association and the associate editor of Ministry.

I looked at my online tithe and offering envelope—and was tempted. A voice inside my head said, You need your money for your household. Our son Jamel and his wife, Sarai, have my wife, Pattiejean, and I locked up in the house. It’s not elder abuse—and it’s not all bad. They do the shopping. We get three meals a day. They let us out for walks. For our health. Not too far, now. Just around the neighborhood. We go. Like good pets.

But I can’t go to the shops as before. I can’t go to church. I can’t go to work. I can’t go to restaurants. I find myself asking, Can I get back to normal? Yet another part of me dismisses the normal. As I feverishly surf the channels, craving something hot off the press, I find myself asking, Can I get some breaking news?

What’s normal?

Maybe normal news should be breaking news. Years ago, I read a book by Watchman Nee called The Normal Christian Life.1 The title caught my attention because we are enamored by the unusual. Perhaps breaking news should be hearing that, even in a crisis, Christians are just doing what they normally do.

I looked at my online tithe and offering envelope—and was tempted. A voice inside my head said, The church is not open. Why give? Then I thought of all the work my church was doing to stay in contact with its vulnerable members. I thought of all the time-consuming, thought-provoking online programming my church was doing to provide inspiration to its members, young and old.2

I thought of the various ministries of other churches. I heard about one jurisdiction announcing that all places of business and leisure should be closed except for essential agencies such as fire departments, police stations, hospitals, grocery stores . . . and the New Haven Seventh-day Adventist Church. People asked, “What’s so special about this church?” They discovered that this church regularly takes in drug addicts and prays them through withdrawal. This church ordinarily provides temporary housing for the homeless. This church normally feeds scores of people every week.3 The county needed this church to stay open. It became breaking news.

What’s breaking?

Breaking news could be that, in this financial crisis, Christians are modeling sacrificial principles of giving (Mal. 3:8–12), as they had before. Breaking news could be that, in this health crisis, Christians are living out sensible principles of health (Rom. 12:1, 2), as they had before. Breaking news could be that, in this isolation crisis, Christians are carrying out selfless principles of caring (James 1:27), as they had before. The Wesleyan Bible Commentary says, “This is the normal Christian life—after the Spirit. Man may be so accustomed to imperfection and failure that this may seem extravagant and ridiculous. But not so. It is God’s plan and provision.”4 Pursuing the normal—in abnormal times—may just make the news cycle.

Panic, no; pestilences, yes. Pandemonium, no; pandemic, yes. Seasonal Christians, no; reasonable Christians, yes. Extraordinary believers, no; ordinary believers, yes. Great generals, no; good soldiers, yes. End of time, no; time of the end, yes. Business as usual, no; business as normal, yes. Breaking news, no; normal news, yes.

A voice inside my head said, Keep doing what you normally do. I looked at my online tithe and offering envelope—and clicked Continue.

  1. Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life (London, UK: Victory Press, 1975).
  2. Emmaunel-Brinkow Seventh-day Adventist Church, emmanuelbrinklow.org/.
  3. Don Jacobsen, “Where’s My Church?” Hope Heals, March 24, 2020, http://hope-heals.org/2020/03/24/wheres-my-church/.
  4. Charles W. Carter, ed., et al., The Wesleyan Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965), 54.
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Jeffrey O. Brown, PhD, is an associate secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association and the associate editor of Ministry.

May 2020

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