The issues with COVID and church closing have been so challenging for each one of us who lead a church or who are a significant part of church leadership. I think a lot of church leaders, pastors, and lay leaders have been discouraged because attendance was not near what it was in pre-COVID days; that’s been our case, too, when we see our attendance on the lawn.
But what I’ve been encouraged by is this idea that God is still at work. God is still moving in the middle of COVID. God’s not surprised; it doesn’t catch him off guard. The church isn’t canceled. We aren’t closed down because we couldn’t gather in person in our building. God is still in the movement, and we’re the people of God on mission in this bonded relationship with Jesus together on mission to the world. That mission hasn’t changed.
We usually do baptisms in the summer at Lake Michigan, and we had to cancel our first ones that usually happen around the July 4 weekend. We were able to do another baptism service at the end of August. Honestly, we didn’t know if anyone was going to get baptized or not. We ended up having 14 people baptized! But here’s what was really encouraging to me: we had three people who were baptized who’d never been to a service in our physical building.
Ashley is someone who’s walked through some difficult things in her life. She was in a second marriage; she walked through a lot of depression and struggle. Her in-laws attend The Journey, but she really had no interest. When COVID hit, Ashley started looking for some hope, and she began to watch online. Eventually, Ashley gave her life to Jesus. Her in-laws have invested in her, some others from The Journey have invested in her, and Ashley and her daughter, Ashton, both were baptized in Lake Michigan. In fact the first time I ever met them was at the baptisms at the beach.
The same is true with Kayla. She’s in her mid-20s and grew up feeling like she had to be perfect. She had some semblance of religion but no real relationship with Jesus. She’s never been to a service at The Journey in person but has watched online faithfully throughout this season. She joined in a Zoom New Beginnings class where people were discovering Jesus and trying to figure out what they believed about him. As she took those steps of faith to follow Jesus, she got involved in a virtual small group with some other 20-something young women. One of the people that baptized her was one of those women who was leading that group, and she had accepted Jesus and been baptized at The Journey some years ago.
We were so excited that Ashley, Ashton, and Kayla were willing to take that step of faith and acknowledge Jesus as savior and leader, never having darkened the doors of our building!
Our building has been closed, but God is still opening the doors of people’s hearts. He’s still at work, and his kingdom is still on the move. Our methods have had to change just like yours have, but God’s kingdom is still advancing, and Jesus is still changing lives.
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