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God Is Able: How Small-Town Churches Might Grow During COVID-19

Is it possible Christ’s church will grow during this time of crisis?

As a pastor in a small rural town in Vermont I am concerned about how the flock I shepherd will make it through this time. Giving will likely go down. I find myself pondering, “Will we be able to continue to support missions and benevolence at the same level? Will I get paid? When we are able to meet again will people have formed new habits and therefore not show up”?

But what if God chooses to bring growth to his church during COVID-19? What if one of the good things God accomplishes is spiritual and numerical growth?

I have prayed Ephesians 3:20-21 for the 17 years I have served as a pastor in Vermont: 

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21

God is able to bring church growth during COVID-19 and I think this is how he will do it:

1. We Learn To Pray 

We may already know our prayer lives are weak. If so, we need to confess this, and perhaps read a book on prayer to help us grow in prayer during this time. Praying Scripture will help us learn more what it means to live lives and have ministries filled with prayer. Chapters 1 and 3 in the book of Ephesians are great guides to prayer as we seek God’s kind of church growth.

2. We Learn To Serve

Social distancing will never exempt us from Paul’s words, “…through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). There are lots of ways to serve during COVID-19. Call someone, point them to Christ, and pray over the phone with them. Write a note. When it is wise, meet with others and serve in practical ways. Apparently everyone needs toilet paper, so bring your neighbor a roll, or a case.

3. We Learn To Share Christ

Christ is sufficient as our hope, so we need to learn how to more easily talk with people about the gospel. Personal evangelism may be much easier and natural as we see and hear of hopelessness and fear. Believers need to be reminded that “In Christ alone my hope is found,” so share, sing, and remind one another of the amazing implications of the gospel. In a time when people are looking for hope, give them Christ.

4. We Learn To Long More For the Gathered Church

I cannot wait to meet again with my brothers and sisters to worship the Lord Jesus. After missing the first Sunday of corporate worship, my wife who is an introvert commented on how much she missed the time of worship with her church family. Let’s expectantly long for the time we will worship again physically gathered on this side of eternity.

5. We Learn To Long For the New Heavens and New Earth

Oh brothers and sisters, there is a day when there will be no more COVID-19 and I am so looking forward to the place which Christ has gone ahead to, the place that he is preparing for us. Isaiah 65:17 whets our appetites for all things made new, “For behold, I create a new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”

May this be our prayer as we learn and as we wait on our sovereign and gracious God:

Our Father in Heaven, You spoke out of nothing and it came to be. By your amazing grace, you recreate men and women through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. We as your children come to you at this hour asking you to awaken your bride, fueled by your Spirit, to boldly pray, serve, proclaim, and await your coming.

You are able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or imagine so Father we ask that we would grow in our love for the Lord Jesus and others. We ask that we would become more like Christ and proclaim his great name to the ends of the earth as we wait for you. We ask you to bring significant growth to your church in this hour. Amen. 

It is possible that God will bring significant growth to His Church during COVID-19. Let us purpose in our hearts to joyfully fulfill our responsibilities as we watch him work through us and around us, in a way that displays that he is able.