A world pandemic gets everyone’s attention. God uses whatever Satan tries to use to destroy people to save them instead, and revitalize the church.
A common saying on the battlefield in World War II was: “There are no atheists in foxholes.” The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our world, our lives, health, families, friends, churches, jobs, finances, lifestyles, governments, and lives as we know them. It has overwhelmingly impacted us, and we realize it is beyond human control. We look to God for intervention and deliverance.
People who would never look at the Bible are now interested in it. They are interested in what God says about the pandemic, plagues, and the end of the world. They wonder if God cares what is happening to them.
People who never prayed are now praying or trying to pray, to ask God to help them in the pandemic. People who had little or no interest in the church are now interested. Those who have drifted away or lost interest in the church are now interested again. People who never read the Bible or who have neglected it are now reading it.
The COVID-19 pandemic has opened the doors of opportunities we did not have before this pandemic. At the very time our churches are closed, more people are interested in coming to our services. At the very time we are sequestered in our homes, more people are interested in having Bible studies and learning about God.
How do we revive our churches and reach those who are now open to receive Jesus when many, if not most, of our ways of working, are not available right now? Is God pressing us to use tools and methods we haven’t used before or haven’t used as much or not as effectively as we could?
We started this Year of Church Revitalization for the Southern Union in the United States with four ReGenerate Conferences. We were planning six more when the COVID-19 pandemic stopped us in our tracks. It forced us to adjust how we can be revived and bring revival to our churches.
Here are some examples of how pastors and churches are making these adjustments and how they’re dovetailing these into what they have been doing.
Clifton McMillan Sr., pastor of Maranatha church in Montgomery, Alabama, increased his church’s feeding program from about 100 to about 600 people because of the increased need. The group has used Facebook Live and Zoom for services. “Our church services have expanded to more people using these platforms. We have people from several states and some even from Africa watching,” McMillan said.
Tina Munson, director of the Beth Shalom Community & Learning Center, a Jewish-Adventist congregation in Cornelia, Georgia, uses Zoom for services. Munson shared that the church is having more attendance than they had in live services before the pandemic. She shared that not only are local people participating in their Zoom meetings but also many from other areas of Georgia and other states. She said she was pleased that those on Zoom could interact during the services and Bible studies. She added they will use Zoom even after live services resume, so they can continue to broaden their outreach.
Jason Carlson, pastor of the Floral Crest church in Bryant, Alabama, a country church on Sand Mountain, said they are having drive-in church services. They are using a low power radio to transmit to the radios of the cars in the parking lot of the school. He said the church is having higher attendance than usual for services. It’s a good way for all the members and guests to come together to worship and yet stay safe during the pandemic, he said. Several people from the community have attended, some for the first time, and one woman has asked for Bible studies. This is also good for involving those who are not using online media like Zoom or Facebook, Carlson said.
Alex Sozinov, pastor of the Madison Boulevard and Franklin, Tennessee, churches, is doing Zoom Sabbath School and an online sermon each Sabbath, as well as Zoom prayer meeting. The churches are also doing It Is Written mail ministry and are learning to do Hope Awakens ministry. In Franklin, they also have an outdoor Sabbath School on the church property for those who want a live Sabbath School.
Marvin Mclean, pastor of Shiloh church in North Charleston, South Carolina, has committed to making 2020 another Year of Evangelism. COVID-19 disrupted many of the church’s plans, but it is still committed to lifting up Jesus in spite of the pandemic.
Jesus showed love and compassion as He preached the gospel. The Shiloh church follows Jesus’ example and ministers to the needs of the surrounding community by distributing food. The church partnered with Soul Train’s Eatery Catering, the Low Country Food Bank and its partners to provide hot meals, dry food, and produce. They distribute more than 600 boxes and bags of food and more than 1,000 hot meals each Saturday (Sabbath) during worship time with the help of church members, community volunteers, and the North Charleston Police Department. Through this ministry, God has opened doors of opportunities to evangelize.
Digital Methods for Church Members
Church members can find digital ways to connect with neighbors and community and then share their faith with them.
Revitalized churches have several common characteristics: growing attendance; sharing the gospel in their community; ministering with compassion to community needs; spending more time with God (prayer and Bible study); and increasing giving.
If you haven’t found your ministry already, I challenge you to pray for and find it. Will you and your church choose to be revitalized? Will you spend more time in prayer and Bible study? Will you choose to impact your community with the gospel and compassion? Will you use your time, talents, and means to reach people in this time of opportunity?