Throughout the centuries, the church of our Lord Jesus Christ has flourished despite challenge, opposition and persecution. We see this in the biblical accounts of the early church in the Book of Acts. Whenever followers of Christ were persecuted and scattered, the church grew. Even in modern times, the church has grown faster in parts of the world where our brothers and sisters in Christ often risk their very lives to worship Jesus.
While I don’t want to make direct comparisons between the persecuted church and the coronavirus pandemic our world is currently enduring, there is no doubt that we are living and ministering in an extraordinary, unprecedented and challenging time in history. In the midst of the upheaval and adjustments we are being forced to make in our lives, I have been encouraged by reports from pastors and churches across our state about how God is moving and at work in the midst of this global crisis.
As pastors and churches made difficult decisions about modifying or canceling their worship gatherings in the early days of COVID-19’s impact on our state, many took their services or sermons online by way of livestream or video recording. For some, this was the very first time they had shared their messages in this manner. Pastors have shared with me that they have seen strong engagement from people accessing messages online. One pastor in western North Carolina whose church typically draws about 200 for worship reported that some 2,000 people accessed a recent Sunday service via Facebook Live. Another pastor told me they had 10,000 people watching their service via the internet.
I have also heard reports from pastors of people coming to know Christ and making other spiritual decisions during home worship with family as a result of these livestreamed messages. To God be the glory! This serves as a reminder that people are looking for hope and assurance in these uncertain times. May we look for ways that we can love and serve our neighbors in these days and be ready to share the hope that we have in Christ with them.
In these days where “social distancing” has become part of our conversation and practice, Sunday School classes, small groups and others are utilizing cell phones and other technology sources to meet together virtually for prayer and encouragement. Families are using these days to start or expand worship together in the home.
I am thankful for all of our pastors, church staff and associational leaders across our state who continue to minister and lead their congregations in these recent days. I want you to know that the staff and elected leaders of the Baptist state convention are continually praying for you. We are also trying to reach out to every pastor of a North Carolina Baptist church by phone to encourage you and see if there are any needs that the state convention could possibly assist you with.
Additionally, we have developed a special web page of resources related to the coronavirus, which is available at ncbaptist.org/covid19. New content and resources will be added to this page as they become available.
Finally, may we continue to take comfort in the fact that the God we serve is in control of this world and none of what we are facing took Him by surprise. Along with you, I rejoice that we know Christ as our Savior, and we can find comfort in the fact that God is with us. He will comfort and encourage us and give us His peace during these difficult days if we look to Him.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” — Psalm 46:1 (NKJV)