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  • Garth Leno

The pandemic changed my church


WINDSOR, ONTARIO – Most of our churches changed significantly due to the Covid pandemic.  It seemed like everything shifted overnight for us. One Sunday morning we had 300 people in the worship service. The next Sunday we closed. Thank you, Mr. Covid!



The virus changed us. The pandemic altered our vocabulary. We started using words we did not use before. Phrases like “social distance” and “frontline workers” took on new meaning. Covid reformed our words, our language, and our expressions.


Furthermore, researchers discovered that levels of anxiety, depression and suicide skyrocketed during the pandemic. There was a sharp increase in alcohol consumption, too. Our cultural psyche was modified by Covid.


The corporate unity in and among many of our churches also took a big hit. The pandemic spawned injurious ideas and attitudes. Instead of respecting one another and loving one another like Jesus loves us, we took sides. Anyone who disagreed with us became our enemy and automatically “cancelled.”


So, yes, much has changed because of the Covid restrictions and lockdowns. We made a lot of mistakes and so did our governments and churches. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He never changes, and we find our greatest hope in Him.


The character of God has not changed


In Malachi 3:6, God says, “For I the Lord do not change…” 


Everyday we count on the unchanging, hope-inducing character of God. He is consistent and utterly reliable. God’s love will always be unswerving and unfailing (1 John 4:7-8).


We can lock ourselves in a dark room to get away from the sun, but we cannot keep the sun from shining. The sun still shines. So it is with God's love. We can reject it. We can walk away from it. We can try to avoid it. But God keeps loving us. No matter what choices you make, God still loves you.


One of the hymns we sing goes like this:


When darkness veils His lovely face,

I rest on His unchanging grace; In every high and stormy gale,

My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;  

All other ground is sinking sand.

All other ground is sinking sand.


Never give up. Jesus is our Rock in times of unprecedented change and turmoil.


The condition of man has not changed


The pandemic changed many things, but the condition of man is still as drastic as it was before Covid. The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The pandemic only exposed more of our sinfulness.  It prompted people to act out of their sinful nature.


We live in a world that is full of brokenness. Broken lives, broken relationships, broken systems, broken governments, broken marriages. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden it set the whole world on a collision course, and we experience brokenness every day now. We need a Savior. We need someone to rescue us. We still need Jesus. The only thing that can help us is the grace and mercy of God through Christ (John 1:17).


The provision of the cross has not changed


Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave to set us free from the power and dominion of sin. He paid the penalty for our sin and bridged the gap between God and people.


Jesus made it possible for us to be saved, forgiven, and free! For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God (1 Peter 3:18).


Years ago, in the Cathedral of Santiago the archbishop was hearing confessions of sin from three hardened teenagers in the church. All three boys were trying to make a joke out of confession, so they met with the archbishop and confessed to a long list of sins that they had not committed. It was all a joke.


But the archbishop knew what they were doing, so he played along with the first two who ran out of the church laughing. Then he listened carefully to the third boy, and before the boy could run away like his friends had done, the priest said to him, "Okay, you have confessed these sins. Now I want you to do something to show your repentance. I want you to walk up to the far end of the church, and I want you to look at the painting of Jesus hanging on the cross, and I want you to look at his face, and I want you to say, 'You did all that for me and I don't care.' And I want you to do that three times."


The boy looked up at the picture of Jesus and said, "You did all that for me and I don't care." Then he stood and stared at Jesus hanging on the cross. He stared at that painting for a long time, and finally, he broke down in tears.


The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). No pandemic can change that.


The mission of the church has not changed


The mission of the church is to go into the world in the power of the Spirit and make disciples by proclaiming this gospel, calling people to respond in ongoing repentance and faith, and demonstrating the truth and power of the gospel by living under the lordship of Christ for the glory of God and the good of the world.


The pandemic has not, and cannot, modify the mission God has given us (Matthew 28:19-20). The task – the mission – of the church has not changed in 2000 years! So, let’s get on with it.


 




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Garth Leno is the Pastor/Planter Care Specialist with the BSCM. He serves in a similar role with the Canadian National Baptist Convention, and he is the founding pastor of The Gathering Church in Windsor, Ontario, a church he planted with his wife, Patty, and a few of their friends.




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