by Mike Durbin
PLYMOUTH, MI – It’s unbelievable - church buildings all over Michigan have been closed for weeks. These places where we gather to love God, each other, and the community around us, have been empty of the worship, prayer, community, and service we express to God when we’re together. It’s been hard for us as believers not to be in person with our church families. We have deep and abiding friendships in our church family, and we miss each other. It’s been a surreal time and we are longing to be the church gathered once again.
And yet, closed buildings did not stop Michigan Baptist churches! You worshiped, served, connected, gave, and shared the Gospel during all this. You are the church of the living God. When the stories of what happened during this pandemic are written, they will tell of how you made difficult decisions and embraced new strategies to advance God’s Kingdom. They will tell of how:
You expressed love by making the gut-wrenching decision to stop corporate worship gatherings.
It was an agonizing decision for pastors and churches to make. Little was known about COVID-19 in the early days. It was declared a worldwide pandemic and action had to be taken to “flatten the curve.” For churches, that meant stopping the gatherings that define who we are as the called-out people of God. Closing buildings radically demonstrated your love for each other and your community.
You embraced radical change for the sake of the mission.
It’s incredibly impressive how quickly Michigan Baptist Churches pivoted from worship services in buildings to worship services online during this pandemic. Change is hard. Radical change is even harder. It only took days for churches to embrace a new way of doing things. We adopted the changes necessary to stay relevant and connected. Change—radical change—is possible for the sake of the Gospel.
You reached out to help sister churches.
Churches all over our state are streaming services—many that had never done so before. You helped each other learn what needed to be done. Pastors helped pastors. Churches helped churches. You shared everything from equipment to best practices as you continued being the church. These online services will never replace the church gathered, but they did allow the church to stay connected. They have been a powerful resource for this time and moving forward.
You focused outwardly like never before.
Often, what happens in our buildings becomes the focus of what we are doing as churches. Leading a church takes incredible time, energy, and resources. If we are not careful, churches become inwardly focused. It becomes about what happens when we are together. As important as church gatherings are and what happens as we gather, so too is the mission of the church to make disciples of all people. God designed the church to be inwardly strong, outwardly focused.
COVID-19 has dramatically caused us to get the Gospel beyond the walls of our buildings and the result has been amazing. Churches all over Michigan are reporting that more people are engaging in online services than they had in attendance at their worship services. Some are reporting surprising increases. Stories are being shared of people from across Michigan, the United States, and other countries participating online with Michigan Baptist churches. That’s incredible!
More people are hearing the Gospel and that’s a good thing! People are placing their faith in Christ. Even though the use of our buildings has temporarily not been viable during this pandemic, it did not stop Michigan Baptists. Well done and to God be the glory!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.