That’s the number of online weekends we have had together as a Church during the Corona Crisis lockdown. I remember when Massachusetts implemented stay at home orders and I walked over to our Executive Pastor’s office to ask how long this would go on for. What he said shocked me. “Up to 8 weeks.” Immediately I denied it, refused to believe it. I couldn’t imagine not having Good Friday and Easter together. I was overwhelmed. Then God gave me a sense of calm. There was nothing we could do about these governmental orders. The only thing we could do was prepare to minister in ways we never had before. So we went to work. Looking back, I can honestly say, I have reason to be thankful for this crisis.
NOTE: I know most of you cannot share in the gratitude that I have for this. You’ve lost jobs and/or you’ve been stuck at home. I also know some of you have lost loved ones and experienced great stresses and sicknesses because of this horrible virus. It’s no joke. It has been tragic and painful. I’m not celebrating the crisis. I’m celebrating what God did for our Church in the midst of it. And I know that no matter what you have experienced, God’s promises are yours in Christ and good things WILL happen for you as you put Him first and serve His purposes.
With that in mind, I’m thankful for these gifts the Corona Crisis gave us:
1. Our Church has become a 7-day/week operation.
Let me start by telling you something shocking: The Church schedule Americans know and practice (one day a week on Sunday) was NEVER the Lord’s intention NOR was it the model of the First Century Church in Acts. The Church was together all the time doing ministry for each other and those beyond them ALL the time. Yes, they had a worship event one day a week but that was just one SMALL part of what they did. Our Church (and hopefully you if you’ve participated) has been doing ministry every day of the week during this crisis. Gone are the days of “It’s All About Sunday” and for that I’m grateful.
Acts 2:46–47 (ESV) And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Now I know because of the potential dangers for many of you, this was not your experience. But for those who were able to participate, we saw members of our church serving Jesus (7 days of serving Jesus campaign), doing devotions (8 am every day at Waterschurch.tv) and giving out food items at our drive-in food pantries (this past Saturday and more to come). All the while a wonderful couple from our church as worked tirelessly to keep our daily pantry open and organized. We have also been delivering lunches to local hospitals and municipal service stations (police and fire) throughout this crisis. Your tithing and giving have kept our ministry going in these departments. I owe you all a great debt of gratitude for empowering us to make this happen through your financial support.
2. Online Ministry has gone to the NEXT level.
I’m very proud of how hard our media/tech team worked to bring you online ministry during our 7-day/week schedule that is fun, encouraging and helpful. What’s been amazing is to see the adoption of online church from all of you. Easter Sunday had 5,000 unique visits from internet devices around the world. Many of them being several people watching. Moreover, we have important meetings happening without people leaving their house, small groups are happening in a way that’s very convenient and these new methods will affect how we do them going forward. We have people giving online who normally wouldn’t have, we have people engaging with our services at waterschurch.tv who never would before. While in-person gatherings will soon return, virtual gatherings will become a permanent part of who we are in the future.
3. Video Preaching WORKS (we already knew that but it’s even more clear!)
If you can remember back to pre-COVID-19 days (the old days), we had just implemented video teaching at our main campus for the Sunday experience. Woonsocket has been doing this since its beginning. But this crisis has proved that video teaching is just as powerful and just as helpful as in-person teaching. Let me give you one more reason to love it. Video teaching makes the gathering of God’s people instead of the preacher being there the main event of the worship experience. Somehow the American Church has adopted a mindset that church is all about the preacher instead of the people encountering God. Remember the New Testament is filled with letters from the Apostle Paul written to local churches throughout the world. These letters were read in the public gathering of their worship services. They didn’t have Paul with them and they couldn’t even see him but they got the Word from him. And guess what? It worked and we have the record of his writings in our Bibles today because the Early Church knew that ministry can happen through the mediums of technology (writing for them, video for us) and not just through in-person preaching.
4. Creativity has Increased
Our team has adopted new ways to present scripture, worship, and the preaching of the Word. I particularly loved being out in the woods preaching to you this weekend. More of that to come even AFTER this crisis! Our media team was able to produce, direct, and pull-of a multi-sensory experience for the beginning of our experience in a way that would not have been possible with a live audience. Our small groups have become channels of information and demonstration of the church in a unique setting. We have had online trivia shows, fun content shows like “Between Two Church Plants” and “Hot Ones – Waters Church Edition”. We’ve heard from our Pastor’s wives in “Table Talk” and even hosted a live “Call-In” show from the Deep End Studio. Plus our entire Children’s ministry program was online each week! We never would have seen this happen if Corona hadn’t come around.
5. Connection between Campuses has Increased.
The last benefit we have experienced is the one that’s most personal to me. Our campus teams have come together, gotten to know each other, and worked together now for 7 straight weeks. This has boosted a sense of community, cooperation, and teamwork that never would have happened without this crisis. I’m very excited to see the fruit of these new relationships in the coming days as we launch our two new campuses very soon.
So that’s my shortlist of benefits from the Corona Crisis. No, I’m not celebrating the virus, I’m celebrating God’s goodness in the midst of it. His promises are YES and AMEN in Christ Jesus. I know many of you are anxious to get back to work and church. It looks like we will soon. But I want to let you know that Romans 8:28 has come to pass for us. I want to leave this post with that great text as the conclusion of my thoughts on this matter. The next time you face something you don’t want to face, don’t deny it. Receive God’s power for it and trust His promise through it. Better days are always ahead for those who are in Christ.
Romans 8:28 (ESV) And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.