Let me be clear up front: I am NOT happy this COVID-19 pandemic has happened. The suffering in terms of life, health, fear, and economic disruption has been enormous. I am not happy this has happened and my heart breaks to see the devastation all of this has caused. I fully understand that quoting Romans 8:28 will not make everyone feel better, and I am very conscious not to minimize the pain many are experiencing. No one would have chosen to have our country and world go through this season.
However, since we are in the middle of this season of the COVID-19 pandemic, I choose to be hopeful. First and foremost, I am hopeful because my hope is in Christ and no circumstances can take that away. I also choose to be hopeful rather than focusing on doom and gloom – plenty of that around! Honestly, I believe that this terrible season of pandemic can be a catalyst for some needed changes for our nation, our families, and our churches.
1. I believe this season can make people more open to the gospel and the truth of Christ. Recently, I read that surveys are showing that Americans are praying much more lately. Times like this make people search for hope and think about life and death. Hearts may very well be more open to the gospel of Christ than they have been in some time. While I do not personally believe that this pandemic will lead to “revival,” I do believe it could have a positive spiritual impact.
2. I believe this season can reinforce the sanctity of every life. The driving reason for taking the measures we have taken to combat COVID-19 is because of the potential threat to life it represents for several vulnerable groups. That is a positive thing. America still values life and that has been reinforced. Now, if someone would point out that the same nation willing to shut down its economy to save hundreds of thousands of lives is the same nation that aborts 800,000 babies each year and thinks that is OK.
1. I believe this season can help our families rethink priorities. So many families were so busy going from one activity to the next that they gave precious little thought to priorities and what mattered most. Now, all of the activities that consumed so much time, energy, and money are canceled. Many of those activities are GOOD and we can’t wait for them to start back. However, it’s been good to be home and learn to treasure one another more. It’s been good to be home and learn all over again that we don’t have to eat out to have a good meal or spend a lot of money to have fun.
2. I believe this season can help our families grow spiritually. All of a sudden, families are worshiping together every Sunday – not just the Sundays they are in town. All of sudden families are praying and doing Bible studies together. As parents engage with their children in spiritual matters, we grow and mature in our own faith.
1. I believe this season will help our people treasure gathering on Sunday more. Some have expressed a fear that “doing online church” will further encourage people to stay at home and watch even when they again have the opportunity to come to worship on Sunday. I choose to believe this season will have the opposite affect. This season of ONLY having online services available has already shown us what a poor, inadequate substitute they are for gathered worship. May we never take the joy of gathering for worship for granted again.
2. I believe this season will help our churches renew their focus on what matters most. We made the decision to cancel our March 15 services late in that week. By the time I gathered with our staff leaders on Monday, March 16 it was apparent we were in for an extended period of not meeting and we had to get a plan together. In one day, we got back to the absolute basics and essentials of being the church. Our focus immediately became BEING the church, not programs. Our programs are canceled, but our church has continued. In some ways, Lakeside has even thrived during this pandemic.
3. I believe this season will help our churches focus less on personal preferences. No one is complaining about the music now. They are so happy to have music as part of the online service. No one is worried about what people are wearing. No one is worried about “their pew” or “their” parking spot. No one is worried about a hundred other petty things that church folks tend to worry about. When we are able to gather in worship again, no one will be worried about those things either. Everyone will just be so glad to be able to gather again. Let’s help it stay that way for a long while!
4. I believe this season will help our churches become more flexible and more effective. In my personal opinion, even when our churches are able to meet again, it is likely there will still be restrictions on large gatherings – meaning that churches of several hundred and larger won’t be able to have everyone on campus at the same time. In addition, we don’t know how comfortable people will be in a full worship center or shoulder to shoulder in the room with their small group. Even when churches are able to meet again, it is likely that many will have to make significant adjustments for an extended period of time. Many churches will step up and thrive during this time because the situation forces them to be flexible and think about people rather than programming.