Being the Church, as Never Before
During tough times, you find out what you’re made of. That’s true for individuals, and it’s true for the Church. And during this tough time, with the pandemic bringing about all manner of disruptions to the life we once knew, the Church is shining brightly. Based on countless examples, the Church — which has always been more about people than buildings — is living out its mandate to be “a city on a hill” (Matthew 5:14).
Here are just a few examples, designed to inspire you to continue offering our troubled world hope and help.
On the field, not the sidelines
Churches may have had to pivot from in-person services to online services, but throughout the pandemic, the Church has never closed. If anything, many churches are more active than ever, holding food drives to help keep food pantries stocked, organizing grocery runs for those in need, making masks, organizing card-writing campaigns for those in hospitals or nursing homes, bringing meals to medical and other front line workers, systematically calling church members to encourage them and see if they need anything, holding COVID-19 screenings and blood drives, paying the mortgage or rent for members who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic, and in countless other ways powerfully being the Church.
“This crisis has actually caused us to do a better job of picking up the phone and checking on our members,” Randal Lyle, senior pastor at Meadowridge Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas told NPR. “It’s made me refocus on connecting individually with people. I have our staff checking on every elderly person in the congregation every couple of weeks to see what they need and how we can serve them. So there are some connections that are probably stronger now than they were before.”
At Riverlakes Community Church in Bakersfield, CA, pastor Angelo Frazier is encouraging people to build ongoing relationships with older or immunocompromised members in an initiative called “Adopt a Senior.” The idea is for younger, healthier members to provide continuing support and communication to someone in need.
“This was a connecting point, a beginning point, to meet with the seniors that you’re already paired up with. And you’re going to stick with these guys and gals for the next, however long this takes,” Frazier told local news outlet, Bakersfield Now.
Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, knows of countless churches that instead of putting certain ministry efforts on hold are redirecting those efforts.
“In local communities, churches who had had missions trips that they cannot now take because of travel restrictions [have taken] that money and instead of putting it back in their pocket, they’re purchasing semi-trucks full of food, putting it in their parking lot, and putting word out to their community, ‘We’re here for you, come and get what you need, fill up those grocery bags.’ Multiple churches that we’re aware of are doing that,” Arbeiter told Fox News.
Some churches are even helping other churches that have seen an unsustainable decline in giving due to the pandemic. In fact, a Barna Group survey found that about one fourth of churches in the U.S. have had to lay off staff or cut their pay since the pandemic began. And thousands of pastors throughout the country are concerned about being able to keep their churches operating after the pandemic.
In response, several initiatives encouraging larger churches to help smaller churches weather the storm have emerged, including one called the Churches Helping Churches Campaign, which was organized, in part, by a group called the AND Campaign.
Those churches are integral to their communities, not just the congregants they serve, but [to] those in the broader community, ” AND Campaign Chief Strategist Michael Wear told WBTV in Charlotte, NC. “ We need to make it on the other side of this crisis with these churches thriving.”
The ultimate good
Many churches are encouraging members to reach out to their unchurched neighbors, posting signs or sending cards, letting people know that if they are feeling isolated or need some type of help, they would welcome a call. Garrett Holmes, pastor of Towers Church in Richmond, British Columbia, told Christianity Today about a note one member received back from a neighbor who received one such card.
“Hi there, my family received your card offering help in our mailbox. I just wanted to say thank you for doing this for our community. Lately, I have lost my faith in God, but this was a nice reminder that he is still there.”
While no one could have foreseen the global pandemic that has upended countless lives in immeasurable ways, no one should underestimate the life-changing, eternity-shaping work of the Church at such a time as this.
How has your church responded to the pandemic?
Matt Bell is the author of four Biblical money management books published by NavPress. He speaks at churches and conferences throughout the country and writes the MattAboutMoney blog.
This article should not be considered legal, tax, or financial advice. You may wish to consult a tax or financial advisor about your individual financial situation.