- Genesis 50:20
- Romans 8:26-30
- Ephesians 2:8-10
- Philippians 4:11-13, 19
COVID-19 Should Have Killed Our Church
It sounds harsh, but it’s true. Saying it should give us reason to hope and not despair.
At the end of 2019, due to family and health reasons, our pastor of over 13 years resigned. It was messy and difficult and our church has been struggling since then. We had been shrinking steadily for the past 5 years. Our attempts at revitalization had stalled and the plateau had turned into decline. I started “filling in” to take pressure off our pastor and then just to provide stability between other guest preachers. I didn’t plan on preaching every Sunday. I planned to be teaching school 5 days a week and coaching middle school soccer. I planned to be coordinating pulpit supply and leading the search for another pastor. That isn’t what is happening now.
COVID-19 became a worldwide, life-changing, life- and livelihood-threatening pandemic. We are without a pastor. We can’t safely schedule any in-person meetings. We could have just stopped everything. I don’t think anyone would have blamed us.
We live-streamed our worship service for the first time on March 15 with a guest preacher and a smaller-than-our-usual congregation. We met with only about 30 people in a room that could hold 150. We streamed the service with a personal cell phone and about fifty dollars invested in a tripod and external microphone. As the threat grew, we made the hard decision to cancel all in-person services for the next week and until further notice. I prepared a sermon from Hebrews before we decided to cancel the service. Feeling a pressing need to do something, I nervously live-streamed the message alone in our church’s worship hall.
Hundreds of people have viewed each of our streamed services that would have otherwise only been heard by dozens, or never heard at all. People have started contacting our church and our church members personally to find out more about who we are and what we believe. One of my friends, for whom I have prayed for three years has said she now believes in Jesus and wants to be baptized as soon as possible.
I bought an FM transmitter because I could not stand the idea of an Easter without some kind of church gathering. We began hosting live-streaming and drive-up worship simultaneously. The small team working to lead these worship services spans multiple generations in age. I am not trying to boast in our results, but I do want us to rejoice because of them. I have long made use of whatever leadership and theology training resources I could access, but I still don’t feel ready for any of this.
“Many people are hearing and seeing the gospel preached and celebrated by our church that have never or rarely been to our building.”
Most of our congregation is older than me. I am now almost 40-years-old. We have less than half of our congregation coming to the drive-up worship but many more are watching online. Many of our people are still nervous even sitting in cars with windows rolled up. I understand. Many people are hearing and seeing the gospel preached and celebrated by our church that have never or rarely been to our building. God is good.
We are cautiously optimistic, but eternally hopeful. Our church might still not survive this season. It is possible we will lose some people we love to this virus. And God is still good. We pray for God’s mercy and trust in his grace. I know that God is good because he is God. I know that our church needs to look different coming out of this season than we looked going into it. We already look different. I trust God to make sure we have what we need when we emerge on the other side, wherever and whenever that is.
We didn’t ask for this, but this is what God has given us. Even though it seems evil, we must be confident that he will use it for something good. We know that he is accomplishing his good works in and for those who love him and are called according to his good purposes. He has told us this is how it works.