By Jacob Lewis
Over the past few weeks, pastors of churches great and small have found themselves buried in teleconferences, web seminars, and strategy meetings in hopes of preparing their churches and serving as good stewards of their flock.
If you’ve tuned in to some of these meetings, you’ll be familiar with several catchphrases that have increased in popularity as this pandemic has grown in strength. While these statements vary in tone and content, they all boil down to the same sentiment, “When the COVID-19 crisis is over, our ministry will never be the same.”
I acknowledge that the coronavirus pandemic will have long-lasting effects on church ministry. I’m thankful for ministry leaders who have the foresight to prepare for the future.
However, these statements can have a certain fatalistic ring to them. It’s true that we live in uncertain times, but it’s also true that we have sure and certain scriptural truths that can steady our shaken confidence.
To that end, I’d like to present three facts about what will never change about our faith and about the church during this, or any other, crisis.
1. The Church Will Still Meet Physically.
During this crisis, pastors and church leadership have risen to the challenge of reaching their flocks in a period of serious isolation. We’ve seen the various benefits of hosting virtual church services online. Some have gone as far as declaring this format to be the future of church ministry.
Online church certainly has the potential to reach more ears and provides a temporary relief for congregations that have been separated. However, this long-distance experience cannot meet the full scope of needs that maturing Christians will certainly feel in the weeks and months to come.
The purposes and designs of church assembly are outlined clearly in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
We assemble as a church to be challenged, encouraged, and provoked by the Holy Spirit through our spiritual siblings. God works through those times of corporate worship in a way that’s entirely unique to any other gathering or meeting experience.
Whether it be in a living room, a sanctuary, or parking lot, rest assured God’s people will, and must, enjoy corporate fellowship again.
2. Ministry Will Still Be Interpersonal.
The key phrase for everyone during this pandemic has been “social distancing.” The sad truth is, in terms of ministry, many believers will find themselves already skilled in this practice.
Too many of us have been practicing social distancing, in terms of ministry and evangelism, for too long. Some have suggested that, once this crisis has abated, Christians may find it more difficult to reach out and connect with people because of this social distancing precedent.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus’ ministry is always deeply personal, service-oriented, and sacrificial. When the dust settles and Christians go back to their normal routines, we must be prepared to get closer in our witnessing.
As Jesus sends out the disciples in Matthew 10, His advice is exactly the opposite of distancing: “Whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it…”
I’m grateful for accounts like Rosaria Butterfield’s The Gospel Comes with a House Key, which testifies to the importance of evangelistic hospitality. Christians must prepare themselves now as fruitful seasons of interpersonal ministry are on the horizon.
3. God Will Still Be Worthy of Our Worship.
During this pandemic crisis, so many Christians have risen to the occasion in terms of giving and serving their communities. Already, I’ve been pleased to see some churches donating masks and relief supplies, while others are establishing relief programs in heavily affected areas.
It’s true that our faith thrives in times of persecution and struggle. As we view the fallen world around us, we hold tighter to those eternal things that make us more like Christ. Christians are daily glorifying the Father with their dedication to prayer and service.
When we re-emerge from our homes, blinking in the sunlight, let us not forget that style of living. Christ tells us in Matthew 22, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
This is a daily call—a daily command. We should search our hearts and consider how we can maintain the same level of commitment and reverence that we have shown during this crisis.
Worship consists of more than songs and prayers on Sunday morning; our service and obedience are worthy offerings as well. God will still be worthy of our worship when things go back to normal.
JACOB LEWIS is pastor of Haw Bluff Baptist Church in Ivanhoe, North Carolina.