New Life 101

Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” ~ Galatians 3:3

The foundation of the new life is this: Jesus has sent His Spirit to live inside the believer.

In Galatians, Paul was arguing against teachers who instructed believers that the ability to “live right” lay within the powers of their human selves.

The revolutionary nature of the gospel is not the launching of a “biblical” self-improvement program, but the complete abandonment of doing life in my own strength.

God is not calling you and me to keep trying harder to live better. He is calling us to an entirely new way to live. And that is GOOD news!

In the new life, the Holy Spirit changes a person from the inside out. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control. These are not “rules” kept, but expressions of an inner life (where Jesus is known and loved and followed).

The new life is an all-consuming, personal relationship with Jesus mediated by His Spirit. Paul calls it “walking in the Spirit.” Jesus calls it “abiding” in Him.

The new life is a supernatural life, initiated and sustained by the Spirit of God.

The Way of Weakness

Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Initially, Paul can only think about stopping the pain. He pleaded three times. Strong stuff.

God’s grace is sufficient (here meaning His favor and presence)… Paul discovers this is his only barrier against despair. Knowing God in his daily experience is enough.

Where God is… ALL of God is.

Paul concludes

  • God is not coming to prop up his strength. Human “strength” is an illusion.
  • God often allows our human props to get knocked out from under us.
  • In the experience of his weakness, Paul experiences more of God and what He wants to do in Paul’s circumstances.

Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

He now prefers the highest forms of dependence on Christ. The greatest challenges and difficulties become fresh opportunities to trust Him, experience Him, and pursue His way through those difficulties.

Christ’s power hangs with the powerless.

Following Jesus Takes Guts

…and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” ~ Philippians 1:14

Following Jesus takes guts. It is dangerous. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

We live in a war zone called earth. There are two kingdoms in conflict. You are in one or the other. If you are in the kingdom of God, you will be hated and killed for His name. If you are in the kingdom of darkness, you are serving the interests of the ruler of this world. He is a liar and a murderer. He comes to steal and destroy.

You can lock your doors, but that won’t stop him. You can call on your government to protect you, but that won’t stop him. You can hide, but he will find you. How can you stop the evil one?

A final generation of Christians is coming… and this is what we learn from them about victory: “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” ~ Revelation 12:11

Notice how they defeated the enemy…

  1. The blood of Jesus covered their sin.
  2. They spoke the truth to the world.
  3. They were ready to die for His sake.

Clearly we are to be different. We don’t fight to survive, but to conquer! To win! And we don’t win by living, but by dying. When we carry a cross we know there’s only one way this is going to end.

Our weapons are nothing like Satan’s… we love our enemies, we bless those who persecute and curse us, we feed those who are determined to destroy us, and we overcome evil with good. We are not here to merely survive, but to plunder the strong man’s house, to release the captives, and to let our light shine in such a way that His name is made great by our words and actions.

We will do whatever it takes and give up whatever it costs to carry the message of the cross to every man, woman, boy, and girl on the planet.

Following Jesus is not for wimps or fair weather fans. Pray for a powerful witness, a tender heart, and an unblinking obedience. Stop making excuses and play hard. Love indiscriminately. Laugh in the face of intimidation and hostility. Long for heaven.

How Every Ministry in the Church Can Be a Gospel Sharing Ministry

She had never lived in the United States before moving to our town to teach at the high school. She was unfamiliar with our culture. She knew no one. But when someone told her about our church, she was immediately interested in the choir because of her love for singing. Choir members befriended her. They invited her home for Sunday lunches and traditional holiday meals. She listened to the worship leader’s devotionals at rehearsals and to the preacher’s sermons. She was singing Christian songs and hymns every week. Although in her home country Christianity was suppressed, she soon became convinced that Jesus was the only way to know God. She saw His impact on her choir friends. Several shared the gospel with her, and within a few months, her life was changed forever!

Does this story surprise you? If so, it might be because you’ve never thought of a choir as a gospel sharing ministry. But shouldn’t every ministry in the church be sharing the gospel?

Why Every Ministry Matters

Ministry occurs when we serve others by meeting needs. In a “perfect” church (and there are no perfect churches), every ministry is conducted by members who possess a sense of God’s call and a clear purpose for their work. When the needs within the church or community change, leaders should carefully consider and pray about the launching of new ministries and the “closing” of others. Ministries that meet real needs matter.

But there’s another reason why every ministry matters in your church. When Jesus preached the gospel, He also ministered to the practical needs of His hearers (Matthew 4:23-24). For example, He didn’t simply talk about God’s love for people – He demonstrated God’s love for them through His ministry to them. Ministry was the illustration of His message! Understood in this way, the message of the gospel and the ministry of the church are inseparable. Every ministry in the church becomes an opportunity to share the gospel.

How Every Ministry Can Be a Gospel Sharing Ministry

What ministries are you involved with in your church? Whether you greet people, work in the nursery, teach a class, or sing in the choir, God has placed you in a vital ministry that has the supernatural potential to help others come to know and trust Jesus for salvation. How can you be a part of what God is doing through the ministries of your church?

Pray. Slow down and begin this journey by renewing your fellowship with the Lord. James encouraged us to “draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). As we spend time with Him, His presence begins to affect our hearts, and our hearts begin to align with His. Moved with compassion for the lost, Jesus taught His followers to ask the Father “to send out workers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38). The Father “sends” those whose hearts have been touched with the same compassion Jesus has for the lost. Pray also with others involved in your ministry area, asking the Lord to give you opportunities to share the gospel.

Trust. Evangelism can be scary. We fear not knowing what to say – or worse – saying the wrong thing. Jesus never intended that we serve Him in our own strength. In fact, He said, “you can do nothing without Me” (John 15:5). He is not counting on you to produce results. He is calling you to rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-29; John 15:4-5). Trust Him.

Learn. Become a student of the gospel message so that you can respond to someone asking the question, “how can I be saved?” Your focus should be on the content of the gospel and not on a technique. No one is going to be saved by your carefully memorized presentation, but by the power that resides in the simple message of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18). Consider asking your pastor to lead a basic evangelism training session for all ministry leaders.

Connect. As you serve in the church, notice the people God brings into your area of ministry. Greet them warmly. Try to learn their names and identify their family members. Invite them to sit with you in worship services or to join you at lunch. Every effort you make to connect with someone can potentially create many new and unexpected opportunities for spiritual conversations!

Care. Luke made a powerful observation about Jesus when he wrote that “all the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to him” (Luke 15:1). Why did so many secular and irreligious people feel so drawn to Jesus? They felt loved and cared for when they were around Him. They wanted to hear anything and everything He had to say! Similarly, as we genuinely care for the hard-to-love personalities God brings near to us, He will give us remarkable opportunities to share the gospel.

What happened to the young woman who was saved through the choir ministry? When the school year ended, she returned to her home country. As a fearless and vibrant witness for Christ, she was able to lead her parents and others in her family to the Lord. Notice that she didn’t connect with all the ministries of our church… just one. But it was enough, because it was a gospel sharing ministry!

For further reading:

Laurie, Greg. Tell Someone: You Can Share the Good News. Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2016.

Scroggins, Jimmy and Steve Wright. Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations. Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2016.

(Written to encourage deacons, this article was originally published as How Every Ministry in the Church Can Be a Gospel Sharing Ministryin the Spring 2020 issue of Deacon Magazine, a publication of LifeWay Christian Resources.)

Eleven Days or Forty Years?

Can it take 40 years to complete an 11-day journey? It will when any people refuses to trust God. The result is that forward movement towards spiritual maturity gives way to a wandering, aimless existence.

It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea. Now it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel…” ~ Deuteronomy 1:2-3

Deuteronomy is the account of Moses restating the law of God before Israel entered the Promised Land. But he is not speaking to the generation set free from Egypt. That entire generation faded in a 40-year journey to nowhere when they failed to trust God, shying away from entering the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14). God took care of them in the wilderness. They were still His people. But they lost everything associated with the promises of God… and those losses were real.

So in Deuteronomy, Moses is addressing a new generation. The children of those who refused to trust God. And as a cautionary admonition, he mentions that where they are standing is only an 11-day journey from the spot where their parents began their journey to the Promised Land — 40 years ago.

And just like that generation in the wilderness, any generation that consistently rejects a life of active faith — trusting God as He leads, step by step — is losing the life God intended for them… a life of wonder at the mighty acts of a living God.

It’s not a loss of personal salvation. He is a promise-keeping God. The soul that hears the message of the cross and responds by placing his/her trust in Jesus is completely forgiven and their sins are carried away (John 3:16, 1 Peter 2:24, 1 Cor. 1:18). He sends His Spirit to indwell the new believer. And He is there to transform that soul into the likeness of Jesus, guiding him/her into a life of trusting His rule and offering simple devotion to Him.

But if we go on from there to a daily life of unbelief, the losses will come. If He calls you to take a step of faith, and you refuse, you lose whatever He was about to accomplish with that step.

He already has a plan for your life. It is a plan to be lived out one faith step at a time. It involves…

  • daily fellowship,
  • knowing and enjoying Him,
  • recognizing when He is speaking,
  • a joyful obedience to what He says, and
  • a continual repentance, a daily turning from doing life without Him and setting the heart on doing life with Him.

There are many times when we have to wait (by faith) on God’s timing. But how many other promises is He prepared to give sooner than later? In 11 days instead of 40 years? Only those who walk with Him by faith will know the answer to that.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they saw My work. For forty years I was grieved with that generation, and said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways.’“ ~ Psalm 95:6-10

Disaster Relief Thoughts: Staying Refreshed Under Stress

Every few days I’ve been sending out a disaster relief update to our Northshore Baptist Association ministry leaders regarding the ongoing work and opportunities to serve in those areas affected by Hurricane Laura. Ways to plug in. Ways to get involved.

But it’s a “long run” effort. And it can get exhausting. There are many discouraging moments. Like much of life. Here’s a note I shared with His people on Thursday evening…

Mission Strategist Update 9.3.20

As the days turn into weeks, disaster relief work has a way of draining all of the resources and reserves out of the persons involved. Organizational errors are made. Frustrations can overflow into tense conversations. People who are hurting can be hurt further by the inefficiencies and inflexibility of well intentioned leaders and groups. It’s just hard. Everyone gets exhausted. What can you do?

  • Check your heart. How are you? Are you exhausted? Are you taking care to grab moments to catch your breath before launching on the next task? If your cup is empty, step back and take time to pray and be alone with Jesus. You can’t give away what you don’t possess.
  • Rely on His Spirit. Jesus in you possesses a limitless supply of patience and love. Rest in His ability (not yours) to meet the needs of those you are serving. Submit again to His authority and rule in your life. Ask Him to grant you a fresh filling of His Spirit.
  • Encourage, encourage, encourage. Look for words and ways to bless every person you meet. You can’t do this naturally… but you can supernaturally!
  • Save it for later. Some issues don’t need to be solved today. What went wrong and what needs to be fixed can be addressed between disasters… but rarely during.

Please pray for those who are hurting and for those who are helping.

Why We Should See One Another “in Color”

As the American church continues to struggle with the issue of racial diversity, one popular catch-phrase suggests that the church should somehow become “color blind” — ignore our differences and treat everyone in the same manner. While I most certainly affirm our need to love every person with His love, “color blindness” is not the antidote for the latent (and blatant) racism that clings to culture. Let me explain…

When Peter was led of God to carry the gospel across the barrier between Jew and Gentile, he explained how his heart was changed: “But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” (Acts 10:28) When Peter said “I should not call” he meant don’t say it, don’t think it, don’t joke about it, and don’t ignore it. Why? Because to declare “any man common or unclean” is simply not true. No man is “common” (i.e., profane, worthless) or beyond God’s desire to love him. Similarly, no man is “unclean” or beyond God’s power to purify him.

Let me offer four reasons why we should explore (and not ignore) our differences:

  1. our God-given differences are beautiful – we need to remember Who made us different! What makes us different from one another is bound up in the creative intention of our Father, and consequently something to recognize, affirm, and value!
  2. our God-given differences are missional – “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Mt 28:19) Our differences are “borders” to be crossed with the gospel, not obstacles we should fear or avoid.
  3. our God-given differences are essential – “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” (1 Cor. 12:17-18) Diversity in the church reflects the purpose and provision of God – just another of His wonderful ways of supplying everything the church needs to accomplish everything He has called them to do.
  4. our God-given differences are eternal – “And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.‘” (Rev. 5:9) Notice that eternity is not “color blind.” Our God-given differences do not disappear and dissolve into some new kind of angelic uniformity. The unique and beautiful way that God made you and me becomes a tapestry of praise in His presence. Believers on earth are already “citizens” and participants in the culture of heaven. He has set us free (together) to become fully and exactly what He created us to be… today!

There’s no need to ignore differences or pretend they do not exist. Those differences are not threats to be feared, but real and God-given expressions of His creative love and wisdom.

Leadership Expectations as a Source of Pastoral Pain

I’m old enough to recall when “leadership” became the latest buzzword among pastors. The key to being a good pastor was to become a good “leader.” I won’t bore you with the history of how it happened, but gradually we replaced “discipleship” with “leadership” as a primary pastoral objective. (Ironically, the seminary that pioneered secular leadership studies for pastors shifted their focus within a decade, and moved on. But the damage was done.)

I believe the shift occurs when we depart from following Him (the core activity of a disciple) and begin to apply secular organizational definitions and metrics to the church. Pastors and staff are expected to “bump the numbers” and get more bodies in the building. If not, they are “failing.” Period. Time to get a new pastor.

The unintended consequences of the shift have been brutal. Pastors now struggle with the weight of crushing expectations from culture, from the church, and from themselves that are unbiblical and untenable. Overwhelmed and desperate shepherds are shamed into silence. Life is endured – it is never “abundant.”

We need to rethink what we are asking pastors to be and do, but most of us won’t. And consequently, I believe that we will be facing an unimaginable, heart-level tsunami of pastoral pain in coming years. This is only the beginning. We’ve got to change the conversation.

Here’s a start. I wrote this in my journal early last year…

We shepherds are bombarded by external and internal expectations that if we are smart enough and work hard enough, we can build a great church. The weight of those expectations is literally killing the heart of our pastors. Jesus never places those expectations on pastors. He actually said He would build His church when we know Him in a way only the Father can reveal! Consequently, the thing I have to remind myself every day can be captured by these phrases… every step from Him and for Him… every step birthed in prayer and bathed in prayer. He has the plan and He calls me to simply take the next step in that plan… a step He gladly gives when I am ready to abandon everything else to follow Him… a daily journey characterized by a moment-by-moment joyful fellowship with my Master.”

3 Considerations for Churches Taking Advantage of the Payroll Protection Provisions of the CARES Act of 2020 (H. R. 748)

Our Sunday offerings have dropped off dramatically.” As church members are unable to work due to the COVID-19 closures of their workplaces and schools, the financial support of church ministries and staff are also being affected. In the past week, many pastors are reporting that weekly gifts have decreased. Although some churches have reserve funds to help cover expenses through the crisis, others are facing the prospect of reducing pastoral compensation or laying off staff.

On Friday, March 27, 2020, President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H. R. 748) into law, making immediate financial assistance available to taxpayers, small businesses, churches, and nonprofits across the United States.

Churches struggling to pay their pastors and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic need to be aware of the payroll protection provisions of the CARES Act. Churches can now apply for a small business loan from a local lender designed to help employers maintain employment levels and compensation at pre-coronavirus levels.

What does this mean for the church?

  • In order to meet payroll obligations and essential operational expenses, churches can borrow up to two and one-half times their average monthly payroll.
  • The low-interest loans are then repaid over a two-year period, beginning 6 months after the loan origination date.
  • If a church maintains their staffing levels and compensation during the crisis, using the loan primarily on payroll expenses, the loan can be 100% forgiven. In which case, the loan essentially becomes a grant or a “gift” from the federal government.

If you are a pastor or church leader, it is likely that you have already heard of the payroll protection loans. Many of us have received multiple messages “explaining” the loans and the requirements for obtaining loan forgiveness.

How can you lead your church through the growing financial challenge posed by the Covid-19 pandemic? Where should you begin? What steps should a church consider before obtaining a payroll protection loan under the CARES Act of 2020?

(1) Encourage Dependence on the Lord

The church should sound a clear message during this crisis: our Father can be trusted! I am not suggesting that a church receiving assistance from the federal government is unethical or unfaithful. Not at all!

Our Father overrules all the nations of the world. All governmental authorities exist to confront evil (e.g. a deadly virus) and to do good for their people (Romans 13:3-4). As taxpayers in the United States, you and I are the reason financial assistance can be offered by our government. But no matter what country you live in, our God reigns! If He is directing aid to the church through secular sources, we can genuinely thank Him for His provision.

However, one of the recurring downfalls of God’s people in the Old Testament was their failure to trust God during times of national crisis. Driven by a desperate sense of self-preservation, leaders were especially vulnerable to unholy alliances with pagan deities and military forces. During the current national crisis, be certain that the Lord is calling His people to trust Him (and nothing else) for direction and power.

In the New Testament, Jesus taught His people not to worry about food, clothing, and shelter (Matthew 6:25-26). God gives a supernatural peace to the person who trusts Him in prayer with their needs (Philippians 4:6-7). The reason we can abandon ourselves and our needs into His hands is because of the great concern and care He has for us (1 Peter 5:7)!

During this coronavirus crisis, we have a time-sensitive opportunity to lead His people to fully surrender to His care and wisdom as families and as the people of God.

(2) Gather Accurate Information

Your participating local lenders are your best source of information regarding the application requirements and terms of the new payroll protection loans for churches and nonprofits. As you reach out to them for guidance, bear in mind that they are doing business during a life‑threatening pandemic. Many financial institutions have closed public access to their buildings, allowing customers to enter by appointment only. In addition, lenders are being overwhelmed by the sheer number of loan applicants seeking payroll assistance. Whether by phone, email, or in person, watch for the opportunity to minister to your lender personally before you connect with them professionally, offering to pray for their needs, families, and work associates. What information will you need your lender to provide?

  • How can we apply for a payroll protection loan under the new CARES Act?
  • What information and documents will we need to provide with our completed application?
  • What are the repayment terms of the loan?
  • What do we need to do to qualify for loan forgiveness?

In addition, conduct personal research into the CARES Act using online websites and webinars. Use well‑known and trusted sources such as the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Church Law & Tax Report.

(3) Walk with Your Church Leaders through this Decision

Engage and inform your leaders regarding the benefits available through the CARES Act. Pray with them about the decision to borrow the funds. Draw on their expertise and rely on their practical wisdom as you weigh the application process.

Since a loan commits the entire church to a financial obligation, it is important to observe the pre-pandemic, decision-making processes of your church. If your bylaws and guiding documents require congregational approval at a time when churches are unable to conduct onsite business meetings, you may need to alter your normal decision-making practices. What should you do?

Inform and involve as many of your leaders as possible. Communicate what you are doing and why to the entire church. Conform to your normal decision-making process as much as you can, maintaining the “spirit” of the guiding documents.

A Final Word: Focus on Sustaining Ministry with the Funds He Provides

For most of us, our church buildings are sitting unused during the crisis. Our auditorium seats are empty. Our offering plates are not being passed on Sunday. But our ministry was never meant to be limited to a once-a-week worship service. During this season of physical separation, we can still proclaim the gospel, pour out mercy on our communities, and do ministry in a way that changes lives. The Lord will supply everything we need to do all that He has called us to do.

5 Ways Your Church Can Respond to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

(Published by Baptist Press on April 18, 2007)

As the coronavirus disease spreads around the globe, thousands of deaths have forced decision-makers to cancel sporting events, restrict international travel, and discourage common social interactions. Individuals are being asked to self‑quarantine themselves. Financial markets are in disarray. Daily lives are being disrupted. For the elderly and others with weakened immune systems, the virus is more than an inconvenience: it is a deadly threat.

Churches are also affected. Meeting for worship, Bible study, and fellowship, Christian congregations often represent the largest weekly gatherings in their communities. Church members sit near one another. They shake hands. They hug. They share meals. However, those routine interactions can easily facilitate disease transmission from one person to another.

So, what should church leaders do to keep members safe? How can churches protect themselves and spread the gospel at the same time? How can they serve the hurting ones around them without exposing them to further harm (by unintentionally spreading the disease)?

Here are five ways your church can respond to the dangers and disruptions associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

(1) Rely on the Lord for His Provision of Guidance and Power

Natural disasters and global pandemics force us to face our human frailty and mortality. Life as we know it is threatened and death becomes an imminent possibility. Priorities change. Fear becomes a constant companion.

Christians are not immune to anxiety. Apart from a genuine, vibrant relationship with the Lord of lords and King of kings, the average church member will be overwhelmed by anxiety – just like everyone else. Church leaders have a remarkable opportunity to encourage His people to seek Him during the crisis, relying on the Lord’s promise: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18 NKJV). If Jesus is present, then we lack nothing. He will supply all we need to do everything He calls us to do during this coronavirus pandemic.

Lead your church to pray together before making any decision. Ask the Lord to fill His people with His mind and His heart. Wait together for His direction. Read Scriptures together that describe His infinite ability to care for His people (e.g., Psalm 91, Romans 8:31-39). Trust Him to give you the next step as you walk together through this crisis. He is faithful.

(2) Gather Reliable Information

Misinformation and conflicting advice spread faster than the crisis. Just this morning I received an email message that went something like this: “I received this information about the coronavirus from a friend of mine who read that… so, here’s what you should do….” Please don’t waste your time and endanger yourself (and others) with information that may be incorrect or false.

Go directly to the most reliable sources of information and read the announcements and guidance documents for yourself. In addition to the known facts about disease transmission and mortality, the best sources will provide you with guidance concerning prevention, testing, and treatment for the disease. For the coronavirus, that would include the websites for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and your state health department.

(3) Cooperate with Your Local Authorities

Local municipalities and county/parish governments are working hard to protect the people within their jurisdiction. Consider contacting them to learn what they are doing and what you might do to help as a church. Ask them how you can pray for them. Help get the word out concerning any community initiatives or protective measures being implemented. In order to prevent exposure to the virus, government officials in some parts of the country are asking churches not to meet for several weeks. Although churches have a constitutional right to meet for worship, a warm and cooperative spirit may help to spread the gospel during the national effort to stop the spread of the disease.

(4) Develop a Response Plan for Your Congregation

What is your church going to do protect your members from the coronavirus? LifeWay Christian Resources has prepared four brief videos and multiple downloads to help pastors and church leaders develop a response plan. Guidestone Financial Services has additional resources to aid you in preparing your response plan.

Consider gathering a study group composed of deacons, teachers, greeters, childcare volunteers, and staff. After watching the videos and reviewing the downloaded materials, list the actions you need to incorporate into your church’s response plan. Do this together and do it quickly.

Key questions your plan needs to address include:

  • What changes do we need to make to our schedule and services, and when do we need to make them?
  • What materials do we need to purchase and make available to our members on the church premises? (e.g. hand sanitizer “stations”)
  • How will we communicate this response plan to our members?

If your church is putting together an international mission trip, your response plan needs to include a timetable for continuing or postponing the trip. The International Mission Board (IMB) has a website to assist you in your decision making. You will also want to consider the latest notification from the U.S. State Department.

(5) Plan for ongoing ministry

In response to Peter’s confession of faith, Jesus said, “…on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18 NKJV). When Jesus is building His church – when His people are yielded to Him and following His direction – nothing in heaven or hell can stop the forward advance of His church. The routine activities of the church may be disrupted by the virus, but there’s no need to hit “pause” on the Spirit-led ministry of the church.

Numbers of people are having to stay at home during the active phase of the pandemic. Advised to stay home and avoid potential exposures to the virus, the elderly are especially vulnerable and do not need to be in public spaces like grocery stores or worship services. If someone has been exposed to the virus, they are voluntarily embracing a “self-quarantine” at home lasting up to two weeks. Colleges and schools are closing, forcing students to continue their studies at home. International students may have nowhere to go and may be financially unable to travel back to their home country.

Those forced to stay at home may need assistance picking up groceries, basic household items, or prescriptions. You can encourage them with an occasional phone call to see how they are doing, offering to pray with them before concluding the call. You might also consider ways to include them in the worship services of the church with recorded options on CD, DVD, or online.

Consider ways to minister to those serving on the front lines of the crisis. Healthcare professionals, first responders, and government leaders could use your prayers and words of encouragement in the weeks ahead. Ask them what a group of volunteers could do to help alleviate their workload. Express appreciation for their efforts in writing, sending emails or cards. Given the opportunity, pray for them in person. Prayer walk around local hospitals, fire stations, police stations, and municipal buildings.

What if you have to cancel?

If the church needs to cancel Sunday services, consider putting a service online, or publicize your church’s online options already available. A single instrumentalist can lead worship for a virtual crowd watching from their homes. Pastors can preach a message, delivering God’s Word to His people at a pivotal moment in their journey as a church. By setting up and offering an online giving option, members can continue to contribute to support their church.

Relatively easy options for putting your service online…

Some options for online giving…

The Lord Has a Way Forward for Your Church

Whenever a church faces a new crisis, the Lord always has a way through the crisis with often surprising outcomes. For example in the book of Acts, every crisis that threatened His church actually resulted in more people coming to know Jesus. Some historians believe that part of the remarkable growth of the early church came through two deadly epidemics that struck the Roman Empire in the second and third centuries.

In his book The Triumph of Christianity – How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion (HarperOne 2011), sociologist Rodney Stark describes a suspected smallpox epidemic in 165 AD that killed 25-30% of the population. People fled the cities in fear, refusing to care for ailing family members. Christians provided much needed care for the sick when no one else would. Stark believes that was one reason the church grew from an estimated 45,000 adherents during the first epidemic to over 1.1 million believers by the time the second epidemic struck in 251 AD.

The coronavirus pandemic is a dangerous and disruptive force in the world today. The Lord is not in a panic and He has not been taken by surprise. He has a way for you and your church to not only survive this crisis: He has a plan to use you to minister encouragement and truth in a deeply troubled period of our history.