No one anticipated this. Even when we first heard of COVID-19, I do not believe any church leader anticipated being unable to assemble for as long as we have up until this point. As a mobile church plant (launched in October of 2017), our church has faced some unique challenges since the first of March.
While many see these challenges as obstacles, we have chosen to see them as opportunities. Maybe it is because we got accustomed to being unable to meet in our location for a variety of different reasons. But God has taught us some valuable lessons as we navigate these uncertain times we see as opportunities. These are opportunities for me to learn and grow in the grace of God.
The Art of Waiting
By nature, many pastors, especially church planting ones, do not specialize in patience. We tend to aggressively attack every problem with our (sometimes) well thought out plan. But God is teaching me to wait. We simply do not know. The future is only His. Isaiah tells us that “those who wait on the Lord will have their strength renewed. They will run and not grow weary, and they will walk and not faint,” (Isaiah 40:31 paraphrased). God is teaching me the beauty of patience.
The Art of Relying
As of this writing, our church is homeless. We are holding services online only like many churches; however, our lease with our local public school has been canceled indefinitely due to COVID-19. I feel so much like Abraham in Genesis 12. God is saying, “I want you to pack up your belongings and move…” And the only details we have are, “to a place I will show you.” I am a problem solver by nature. Maybe God is breaking down that prideful area of my personal life by presenting a problem that is imposible for me to solve. We are 110% reliant upon Him to provide a home for His Church that we named Keystone Church.
The Art of Creative Outreach
We cannot do “regular” outreach at this time. Going into all the world looks a little differently than usual. We have been forced into live-streaming services which we had not done up until this point. We have been able to provide food for low-income neighborhoods, medical professionals, and grocery workers. This coming week we are donating money for a local restaurant to drive customers to their take-out area. I know some of this is indirectly sharing the love of Christ, but some is directly sharing His love with our community. We have seen new, local engagement on our Sunday services (where I make the point to give a clear Gospel presentation woven throughout each sermon). We have had conversations with those whom we have blessed. God is expanding our outreach. I hope that we are aware that it is He who commands us to do these things in every possible circumstance—with or without pandemic.
The Art of Anticipation
As many church planters, I thought I had my whole process and organizational “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed when we launched over two and a half years ago. I have used these weeks “off” to reassess our strategy and ministry structure. When we finally gather in-person again, we will do so with a clearer, smoother mission and process. This will make it easier for new families to be fully engaged in the mission of God at our church. I feel as if we were starting a brand-new church, only this time with well over 100 people who already call it home! I absolutely cannot wait to gather again. I am anticipating it like a “kid’s first trip to Disney World.” God is teaching me to continue to have that fire in my soul which caused me to plant the church in first place!
As people of the Book, these are the times where our theology matters. I am resting in the providence of God. He is sovereign in my life and life of our church. No matter what life throws my way, great is the faithfulness of my God. My eyes stay lifted up and focused on Him. My spirit stays encouraged so that I may be an encourager. My mind stays sober so that I may lead with spiritual wisdom and discernment. I pray the same over my fellow servants of Jesus.