home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > March > WHAT COVID DID TO CHURCHES’ MOMENTUM

WHAT COVID DID TO CHURCHES’ MOMENTUM

As the early effects of the covid pandemic began to be felt, it soon became obvious that this was going to take some time before things could return to “normal”. In fact, it became increasingly apparent that the covid-19 pandemic was going to change the way we did so many things – shopping, socialising, sport, leisure, business, and church — all things that we had all taken for granted for so many years. Change, whether we liked it or not, was foisted upon us. Nearly every conceivable part of the planet where covid-19 had reached was grappling with how to manage it and most resorted to lockdowns which had major implications for how people interacted — including how Christians did one the things central to our Christianity ~ fellowship (“koinonia”). 

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
First John 1:7 

 

COVID-19, A TIME OF SABBATH

Near the start of the C-19 pandemic I wrote a reflection that perhaps the Lord was imposing an enforced sabbath on His earth. Biblically, a sabbath was a time where God’s people came together as they enjoyed rest (a ceasing of work and usual activity), worship, and reflection on God and His Word. Israel was commanded to keep the sabbath as a supernatural witness to the nations that their God could supply their seven-days of need over six-days if they just honoured Him by resting on the sabbath. There were different types of sabbaths apart from the weekly version. One of the required sabbaths was to rest their fields and lands every seven years. Israel failed to do so and slumped into moral decadence. The prophet Jeremiah declared that God would forcibly send the Jews into exile for seventy years to allow the land to enjoy the sabbaths that it was entitled to (Jer. 17:21; 29:10).

¶ Therefore, while the promise of entering His rest still stands,
let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.
Hebrews 4:1

But Covid-19 made it difficult—if not impossible—to enter into a sabbath together because of the imposed, and unfortunately designated, social distancing (which was fortunately later redesignated as physical distancing). Many of our brothers and sisters in the United States reacted quite strongly to State-imposed physical distancing and were even prepared to defy their governments and continue to meet together anyway. Australians generally took a different approach though. When we went into lockdown, our ministry team met and discussed how we could best achieve koinonia while we went entirely online. We had no playbook for this. We bounced ideas around. We considered how we could care and pastor our church community even though we couldn’t physically do koinonia. Pastor Donna mobilised our Care Team who did a wonderful job in connecting with our church family. We worked hard to adapt our livestream so that we could interact live with those who were participating in our livestream.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Romans 12:10

That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
First Corinthians 12:25

 

MAINTAINING CONNECTIONS DESPITE COVID

Our church doesn’t just connect when we meet together on the Lord’s Day. We also meet in small groups within homes. But the Covid-19 lockdown meant that we were not even allowed to meet together in homes. Our Home Groups moved online during the lockdown. Initially, we had some teething problems, but soon we were getting feedback from group leaders that their home group members appreciate being able to continue to interact with each other. Koinonia is best done in person and sometimes that must mean via an electronic screen. From my experience it was actually possible to hear people’s hearts, pray for people’s needs, and study God’s Word together via Zoom. 

That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
First John 1:3

 

A LOSS OF THE INITIAL MOMENTUM

It’s not surprising that when the State Government lifted the lockdown there were still many people concerned about the risks of regathering. Every night on the TV News there were reports of thousands of Covid-19 related deaths. The State Government maintained a media campaign urging Tasmanians to continue to uphold Covid-safe procedures which contributed to our State being Covid-free but also very aware of just how contagious and potentially deadly this virus was. This explains why so many of our regular attending church family were not quick to return to our physical Sunday gatherings and why our Livestream numbers have remained relatively high. When the State Government lifted the gathering restrictions for churches during the Christmas season of 2020 we were thrilled that we were able to have attendances of around 260 for these services. Yet, it was also obvious to us that we had lost the initial momentum we had enjoyed at the start of the year. In February 2020 (before the Covid-19 pandemic hit Australia), we celebrated our First Responders’ Appreciation Sunday, our Thirty-Third Church Birthday Celebration, the public wedding of Chris and Dale in our Sunday morning service, and we had already sold-out of the tickets to the Civic breakfast where Dr. Hugh Ross was to be the guest speaker. But then the effects of Covid-19 began to hit and were felt in churches around the world. Our momentum took a hit.

A week ago the Tasmanian Government lifted seating restrictions on churches to 75% capacity. This is great news and means that we can now have 250 congregational members in one room plus the worship and ministry team. But in Australia most churches have reported that they have only seen 40% of their congregation members return after the lockdowns. The Covid pandemic has impacted the confidence of many believers in returning to their church’s weekly gatherings.

And while our momentum has taken a knock with Covid-19, spare a thought for our brothers and sisters in Victoria. Their lockdowns went for months longer than ours and a week after it was lifted and churches could resume physical Sunday services, the lockdown was reinstated! And now a similar thing is happening in Queensland. I spoke with a Queensland pastor this week to see how he was going and he said that he wasn’t even sure if they would be allowed to even hold their Good Friday service this week. He expected to find out on Thursday! This makes building momentum tremendously difficult!

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
Romans 5:2-3

 

HOW CAN WE BUILD MOMENTUM PAST COVID-19? 

Despite having a vaccine roll-out underway and decreasing numbers of Covid-19 in Australia, there is still the danger of another outbreak. This threat will continue to have an impact on churches (especially mega-churches) as we navigate further outbreaks and subsequent lockdowns prohibiting our koinonia. This is why it might be an opportune time to take advantage of these nearly-sabbatical moments and reflect on what New Testament teaches about ‘Church’ and perhaps “go back to the drawing board” as we all seek to move past the era of C19. 

And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church,
Ephesians 1:22

 

BACK TO BASICS

The Covid-19 pandemic and its effect upon Churches around the world has caused many church leaders and their leadership teams to reevaluate what it means to be the Church. This leads into some really healthy questions that challenge what many had previously unquestionably accepted as “Church”.

  • What should a church do when it meets together for its weekly gathering (especially if it can’t actually ‘gather’)?
  • How should the leaders and members of a church contribute to the issues confronting society and culture?
  • Should the Church instead be disengaged from ‘the world’ and treat its Christianity as purely ‘private’ matter between the worshiper and God?
  • What do the ministries within a Church — especially that of evangelists — look like when the Church can not actually meet due to ongoing Covid-19 lockdowns?

Perhaps several of these questions might never have even been asked if it wasn’t for the Covid-19 pandemic? But one thing is for sure, the answer to these questions about the church and its mission can be found within the Scriptures and the lessons from Church history and will require that we prayerfully seek the Spirit’s guidance as we apply our best answers. Perhaps it will be then that we can build some fresh momentum and reach the current and next generation for Christ. And perhaps this Easter is an opportune time to once again build the momentum that we were beginning to enjoy just before the C19 pandemic interrupted everything.

 

Your pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CHRISTOLOGY AND CLIMATE-CHANGE

Climate change activists are raising valid concerns about the eye-watering fragility of our planet. As far as that goes, they are more right than they know. Life is only made possible on earth due to a very long list of high fine-tuned at-the-same-time parameters. These parameters are millimetre perfect. Take for example the gas mix of our atmosphere which is comprised of oxygen, nitrogen, argon, carbon-dioxide, methane, hydrogen, and neon. Our atmosphere consists of 21% oxygen. If it was even slightly more than this our atmosphere would be highly flammable and thereby life on earth would not be possible! Naturalists (those who dismiss the reality of the supernatural rule of God) fear that human activity risks a mass-extinction event including us humans, within thirty years unless things change. But they overlook one very important fact! Jesus Christ is Lord!

WHAT CHRIST SAID WAS NOT JUST ABOUT FOOD

There was a time when Jesus was chided by authorities for not washing hands! These authorities weren’t concerned about hygiene or virus control, they were concerned about spiritual purity. What Jesus said in response to them has powerful relevance for how some people feel about the spiritual implications surrounding the current corona-virus, the covid-vaccines, and how authorities are enacting lockdowns and travel restrictions to deal with it.
Both Kim and I have both been doubly vaccinated. We willingly check-in by QR code everywhere we go. We comply with all State and National Governments’ travel restrictions. We do all of this for the sake of our conscience as we strive to love God and to love others. I know that there are believers whom we love who disagree with us. But I also know that there are far more believers who just confused by the whole issue and they too are striving to love God and to love others. For those have concerns about the health implications of the covid vaccines, we strongly recommend that they seek medical advice. But if this is not your primary concern, if the spiritual implications are, then I hope that I have given you some theological reasons not to be fooled by those who assert that all those who are vaccinated will be receiving the mark of the beast, and by so doing will have their salvation revoked. 

THEY SAID IT COULDN’T BE DONE!

What often looks impossible today in the realms of technology, travel, power generation, medicine, and even church, often becomes common-place tomorrow. But it takes those who are prepared to dream and dare — despite their critics. I’m looking for people who are prepared to dream and dare with me. Our city of Launceston has many fine churches but it is yet to see what the God of the Impossible can do with a church that is prepared to dream and dare. When I read the closing book of the Bible I am captivated by the ‘dream’ of God to see people redeemed from every tribe, nation, and tongue that will eventually comprise a number so vast that no-one could possibly count them! (Rev. 7:9). This is God’s grand dare for the Church and I’m in on the dare! Perhaps we too could dream of a church made up of people from an many nations, tribes, and languages as possible! Perhaps we could dare to dream of a church so significant that hundreds come each Sunday just to find out for themselves what God is doing! And when the day comes — and the day will come — that such a church exists in our city of Launceston, Tasmania, we will remember that there many who said “It couldn’t be done!”

PRAISE HIM IN THE STORM

PRAISE YOU IN THIS STORM

Storms come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes there’s a gradual build up, white fluffy clouds gradually becoming darker and lower, but sometimes they seemingly come from nowhere. Sometimes storms are foreboding and scary and long. Sometimes they are light and short and finished soon after they start. Sometimes there are strong winds, sometimes rain, sometimes thunder and lightning, sometimes all of them!

Similarly, the storms of life. Sometimes we feel or see them coming and then they are upon us…but sometimes they…

THE OLOGIES

This Sunday I conclude the BECAUSE HE IS series. Each of the six instalments of this series has dealt with a truth about God. My hope throughout the series so far has been that I might introduce those unfamiliar or less acquainted with God to experience a richer, deeper and more intimate knowledge of Him. My motive for doing this has been to lead someone who had never loved God to come to gladly love Him — and for those who were in like of God to become besotted with their love for God. I have repeatedly said throughout this series so far that I have not wanted this to be merely a series of lectures or just interesting information for your fancy. (Added to this, I have confessed that Kim has forbidden me from lecturing this series!) But now, as I prepare to conclude this series this Sunday, I want to give you some of the theological background behind what I consider to be one of the most important series of sermons I have delivered. 

HEARING THE WILL OF GOD

Christianity is a dynamic (always changing) journey with the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit within us who works within us to desire to do and pursue the will of God (Phil. 2:13). It is the illumination of the Spirit that takes God’s Word as we read, study, and meditate on it, and makes it seem fresh and alive to us. And it is the Word of God, which He, the Holy Spirit, inspired men to write so that we could clearly discern the will of God for our lives. You don’t need a word from God to know what God’s will for your life is. You don’t need to attend a “Learn To Hear The Voice of God” seminar, or to read a book on the topic. Instead, you just need to dialogue with God in prayer through pouring out your heart to Him with your requests, petitions, confessions, and thanksgiving; and then, prayerfully read His Word as the light of the Holy Spirit illuminates it to your soul.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Second Corinthians 4:6 

Perhaps if more believers were led by the Spirit like this, less Christian marriages would end, less churches would be split, and less Christians would walk away from Christ and His Church after becoming frustrated by the false belief that since these presumptuous Christians have apparently mis-heard God so wildly, the reason must be that God doesn’t actually exist. This is one of the most pressing issues that needs to be confronted today — especially among those of us who identify as Spirit-filled Pentecostals.

LOOKING BEYOND THE MOMENT

home > Pastor's Desk > 2021 > June > LOOKING BEYOND THE MOMENTLOOKING BEYOND THE MOMENT For anyone who is a fan of aviation, the movie Sully (2016) is one you will have probably enjoyed watching. The storyline is biographical drama based on the 2009...

THE BENEFITS OF A DAILY DOSE OF VITAMIN R

The Greatest Exponent of what vitamin R can achieve within a person was the One who introduced vitamin R in small doses to His twelve followers. There initial dose came from simply complying with the request to, “Follow Me.” This they did for some three years or so. After watching Him intently, they then got a larger dose when they were told to, “Go…and proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” And as every example of those who have ever received a near maximum dose of vitamin R bears witness, just before they received their ultimate dose vitamin R they felt two universally common sensations: inadequacy and inability. Yet, as everyone who has received such high doses of vitamin R from the One who gives the ultimate enabling strength found in vitamin R, somehow they were supernaturally enabled to do the very thing they felt both inadequate and unable to do!

A PICTURE IS PAINTED BY A THOUSAND WORDS

The most difficult challenge you’ll ever have to deal with throughout your life is others. They’ll make you angry, get you frustrated, and hurt you. At the root of these challenges will be miscommunication with others and communication breakdowns. Your ability to understand how language and communication really works could save you from much of this heartache. But the most unrealised — and by far the potentially greatest source of — heartache may eternally shock untold numbers of poor souls when they realise too late that they did not respond to God’s communications.

THE BUSY FOOLS ARGUMENT WITH THE BUSY WISE

What makes our busyness wise busyness? It’s when our busyness is doing what Christ wants for the reasons that He wants it done. It’s when we are busy without neglecting the priorities of spiritual disciplines and our obligations to those we are responsible to and for. This is why, when Christ calls someone to take on a greater responsibility in His Kingdom it is almost certain that they are already busy. I am not at all suggesting that a Christ-follower needs to be frenetic in their busyness for Christ, or that they should never sabbath (two points I have tried to make clear in this Pastor’s Desk by contrasting the busy wise with the busy foolish). But I am hoping that those who have been following and serving Christ for some seasons will recognise the doors of opportunity that Christ will enable them to walk through wisely. And as they do, and we do together, may we begin to see glimpse of the Great Commission being fulfilled in our valley-city.