Today, many pastors are praying about how to lead their churches through this COVID-19 season of confusion, panic, and even public hysteria. This pandemic response is complicated on various different layers including medical, economic, and social situations that the entire world is seeking to navigate.
As the new language of social distancing is being employed by health officials—President Trump has announced a request for all mass gatherings to basically be eliminated. The new circle has been reduced to the size of a large family unit—only 10 people. Much of the media attention has been centered upon the gatherings of bars, restaurants, and schools—this season presents a great challenge to local churches as well. So, now the leaders of local churches are seeking to lead their congregations in such a way that allows for ministry connections without physical overlap and contact in order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Stop Playing the Shame Game
First, I would encourage people to simply stop playing the shame game online. If you honestly believe that churches not gathering during this virus pandemic is a violation of Hebrews 10:25, please keep that to yourself and stop seeking to shame people by a misuse of the biblical text. It’s essential for Christians to comply with federal and state requirements on mass gatherings—as well as other state and federal laws. That’s our calling according to Romans 13. Furthermore, this is not a situation where Christians are being told to not worship God and that they must turn their back on the gospel in order to bow to Caesar. This is a unique season that requires us to use common sense, wisdom, and submission to our authorities—the very authorities that God has implemented for our good.
Communication, Communication, Communication…
One of the keys to effective leadership is communication. One of the ways to ensure that a church is functioning properly and efficiently is through clear communication. Unfortunately, during a season of disconnect, it’s difficult to get the word out to everyone. It’s likely that the very best attempt to send out church-wide e-mails about the modified ministry schedules misses a specific age demographic who doesn’t use online communication such as social media and e-mail. This is where communication matters greatly. The church must do everything possible to talk, listen, and help serve the entire body—even if that means by taking time to pick up the phone and call people to be sure everyone is on the same page.
One of the ways that we are addressing the ministry adjustments is by sending out a physical letter to the entire church family so that everyone receives a copy and can understand how we are going to function for the next few weeks. They say that in the real estate world everything revolves around location, location, location. In ministry, it’s often communication, communication, and communication. During this season of disconnect, it would be wise to encourage deacons to make phone calls to families in the church to check on the members and especially the elderly. Furthermore, it would be wise for pastors to do the same—while maintaining a study routine that may be altered due to online service preparation.
Technology is a Common Grace of our God
Just as God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45), he has allowed the advancement of information technology which can be harnessed by the Church for God’s glory. This means that tools are available that can greatly help the local church to remain connected in a season of disconnect. Some of those tools include the following:
- Zoom: This service will allow Sunday school classes and small groups to meet together, even if it’s through the mode of screen based technology that employs the use of web cams and keyboards. There is a way for non-tech people to call into the meeting and listen as well.
- YouTube: This is an easy tool for churches to stream their services live and the feed can be placed on the church’s website and social media channels in order for more exposure. You can also use YouTube to location really good songs to use during family worship on a regular basis or to bridge the gap during this social distancing season.
- Online Hymnal: You can make use of the .pdf version of the Hymns of Grace which can be used for families and small groups (of 10 or less) to sing together during a season of fear and darkness—which is a vital part of Christian worship.
- Text Group / Conversations: You can use your smart phone technology to setup a text conversation among your small group or Sunday school class that will enable everyone to communicate and encourage one another during this complicated ministry season. There is also another technology called Group Me that can help here too.
- Online Giving: Churches can harness the power of online giving platforms to help fund the ongoing budget and ministry needs of the church during this season. Today’s solutions are user friendly and super simple to setup. We use one through our G3 app which is fueled by Subsplash online giving. We use another service through our local church called Simplify Give, and within a couple of days a church can have it setup and functional.
- Physical Letter: This is an old technology, but there is great power in the pen that is often missed in a casual e-mail. Take time to write to people within the church! Teach your younger children the importance of mailing letters to encourage the elderly and your leaders during this time.
The church is God’s plan for his people. We are called the body of Christ and the body has a functionality that is greatly disrupted by disconnect. It’s extremely important for leaders to listen, pray, and use the necessary technological tools that will enable the local church to remain connected, serving, worshipping, and caring for one another during an indefinite time period of disconnect.
The church needs one another. We need to encourage one another (Heb. 10:24-25) and we must serve one another (1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11). When we are being told to keep distance between ourselves and to disconnect from gatherings in order to prevent the spread of this virus—we must labor all the more to overcome such challenges in order to encourage one another, build-up one another, and worship our God together (even when we are not in the same room)—remembering that we are one body made up of many members (Rom. 12:4).
May the watching world see the Church of Jesus thrive during a season of unrest and public panic. May we demonstrate resolve rather than fear. May we trust in our sovereign God who created us and sustains us—along with the entire universe. There is nothing too big—or too small for that matter—that God cannot control. There is nothing, including the COVID-19 virus that escapes his eyes and nothing too powerful to overcome his governing providence. It may remain a mystery for us, but we can trust that God is working this whole thing out for his glory.
May the Lord teach us a valuable lesson regarding the necessity of the local church and the importance of assembly during a time where we are being forced to disassemble.
Music is medicinal for the the troubled soul. When King Saul was troubled, he would have David play the harp as a means of soothing his weary soul. When we find ourselves going through trials and seasons of terror—the people of God should turn to the songs of Scripture to be reminded of the greatness and majesty of God. The purpose of the Psalms is to exalt and magnify God. Through the different Psalms, we may encounter:
- People Worshiping
- People Crying
However, in all that we encounter in these beautiful poetic songs, we must turn our attention to the God who is ruling and reigning over his creation at all times. Martin Luther, commenting on the Psalms, once said that the Psalms are “The Bible in miniature.”
The 46th Psalm is a wonderful song that puts on display God’s robust sovereignty and reminds us of the fact that God is with his people and upholds them by his divine strength. When Martin Luther would go through intense struggles and trials in life, he would often gather his friends together and sing this theologically rich song to comfort his soul.
God Is Our Refuge in Times of Natural Disasters
Even if the earth shakes and the mountains are moved—according to the Psalmist—God is our refuge. Some of the most terrifying times in life are in the midst of a natural disaster. From the high winds of a tornado or a relentless hurricane to mudslides and forest fires—people find themselves at the breaking point emotionally as they endure through such calamities.
In recent days, we have watched hurricane Harvey, a category 4 storm, smash into the coast of Texas on August 25th 2017. It caused over 180 billion dollars in damage and took more than 70 lives in the process. Not long after Harvey came Irma, a category 5 storm that ran up the coast of Florida causing more than $100 million dollars in damage and claiming more than 75 lives.
Where can we turn during the midst of such powerful storms? According to the Psalmist—we can turn to God. Not long after the hurricanes hit, the earthquake in Mexico City caused massive buildings to crash and it claimed more than 350 lives in an instant. Where can we turn in the wake of such tragedies? We can turn to our God.
God Is Our Fortress When Nations Rage and Clash
Certainly God’s people understood what it was like to experience the horrible pressures of war, famine, and threats of national enemies. According to the Psalmist, God had saved his people. According to Psalm 46:6-7, “he nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” We are not told what the exact situation was, but in some way, God devoured the enemies and saved his people. This gave birth to this Psalm where the people of God would sing and remember the great work of God.
When nations flex their military muscle and clash in war—what power do they display that can compare to the power of God. The Psalmist writes, “he utters his voice, the earth melts” (vs. 6). When enemies of our nation flex their nuclear muscle—we can trust in our God. When terrorists plot against God’s Church—we can trust in our God. He is with us!
God Is Our Fortress—Be Still and Know
Whatever the circumstances were that the Psalmist seems to be alluding to in this psalm, we are not sure. However, what we are sure of is the fact that God has delivered his people. That has been the case all throughout the history of God’s people!
- God delivered Moses and Israel from Pharaoh
- God delivered David from Goliath
- God delivered David from Saul
All throughout the OT – we see that God is constantly delivering his people from their enemies. Just do a quick word search regarding “enemies” in the Psalms and you will see that there are 56 occurrences of this word. God will be exalted among the nations. Everyone is to know that He is God. We are called – as God’s children – to be still and know that he is God.
We are to consider the great works of God. We are to be still and consider these things. We are to know that he is God—and by direct contrast—there is no other. In the days of Martin Luther, in the wake of his bold stand before the Diet of Worms in 1521 and the translation of the German Bible—the Black Death hit Europe. While approximately 33% of all of the population of Europe was taken by the plague, in some local areas, the numbers extended as high as 50-70%. Luther opened his home as a hospital to care for people. With the looming pressures of the Roman Catholic Church and the stench of the Black Plague surrounding him, he would turn to Psalm 46 in song. It would be during this time that he would pen the words to his famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
For Luther, he understood that God was bigger and more valuable than anything this world had to offer him. God was bigger than his enemies. God was stronger than the Wartburg Castle. God was more powerful than the Black Plague.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.
Today I spent the day delivering water, food, and other items to the tornado victims in Macon County Tennessee. The pictures below reveal the severe damage to homes and churches that were destroyed. As I surveyed the damage and delivered supplies, the only words I could think of that describe the amount of damage was to compare it to a war zone. It is mass destruction. Many of the houses look as if they had bombs inside that exploded.Please pray for these people!
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/YD3vv_09UYw" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]A woman died in her home above as she sought shelter from the storm.Above is what is left of a Baptist church building. They heaped everything up and started burning the remains today.The piano above is one of the only things salvaged from the church building. The entire church building and everything inside is gone.As you can see above, this family is now homeless! We were able to provide them with water and clothes.You can see our van loaded down with water. This was one stop we made at a Baptist church that was destroyed. I spoke with the pastor, he was preparing to preach the funeral of one of his church members who died in the storm.This home was completely leveled as the storm raged down the Akersville Road area.————————————————————–Dear Heavenly Father,As these people seek to rebuild their homes and rebuild their church buildings, I pray that you will strengthen their faith in this process. For those in Macon County Tennessee and other areas affected by the severe tornados in recent days who are not Christians, may you reveal the frailty of life through these events and demonstrate their need for salvation. As people ask you why these things occurred, may you reveal to their hearts that they are living in a fallen world that is cursed by sin. With this knowledge, may you turn them to you by the faithful preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ – all for your glory.Oh God, please send faithful Christians to provide more food, clothes, and supplies to these people in need, but also, please send people to share the gospel with people in order for them to be saved.For your glory!AMENRev. Josh Buice