It seems like ages when businesses were told to close and people were told to stay home. That mandate seemed like the end of the world to many churches. While the church exists beyond the group that gathers, the Christian identity involves being an active part of the larger whole. Communication, caring, encouragement and love — each involves meaningful person-to-person interaction.
So, as the churches closed their doors, most of our hearts were crushed. Many churches shifted to various online endeavors, and while perhaps better than nothing, it’s just not the same. Our church tried that too, posting weekly songs and sermons. Then we decided to try drive-in services, following the mandated rules.
We began Easter Sunday with two drive-in services. We met at a perfect location across from our church building, in a park-like atmosphere centered on a gazebo surrounded by lawn and shade trees. Cars were directed to park properly around the gazebo, and roll down windows to hear the songs and sermon. They sang along in their cars if they wished to, and honked loudly for “Amen!”
Our Easter services were a remarkable success. We continued with a drive-in Sunday service each week, and each week the overall attendance, both in the number of people and the number of vehicles, grew. Each week enthusiasm and joy grew, with people enjoying the beauty of nature and the company of other human beings, albeit still in their cars. Each week, more and more people come to be a part of what God is doing.
As a church, we were astounded by the response to this ministry. It was obvious that God was doing a new thing in our midst. The shutdown was sad, but it also opened up a new movement of God’s life. As people attended, sorrow was turning to joy, darkness to light, and death to life. Rather than our church declining, it began enlarging. We were graciously allowed to use the land for our services, several people made donations to help us with the sound systems, staple groceries were collected for the needy in our area, many people lent a hand to expedite the services, and folks invited others to drive to the Island to worship with us. It is a “God” thing.
Rather than the church dying, it is more alive than ever! As a pastor, I am thrilled over God’s faithfulness and amazing blessings.
What was happening in this situation was similar to what we see in the book of Acts during the early days of the church. The disciples met behind closed doors, apprehensive and uncertain about their future, their safety and the new Gospel message. It appeared that Jesus and his church were crushed out of existence.
But, on the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Passover-Easter, the Holy Spirit broke in to their gathering with the sound and force of a mighty, rushing wind. The disciples who had been down and out, were now running into the streets, sharing the good news of Jesus’ death-defeating life with anyone who would listen. Thousands gathered at the Temple as they spoke there, and that day God added 3,000 new believers to the church.
In Acts 2:46-47 we read: “They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
The leaders in Jerusalem thought that Jesus and his movement had been crushed and defeated since they had Him crucified and frightened the disciples into seclusion. But then Jesus came roaring back, as did His church.
When we are discouraged, or overwhelmed by things beyond our control, we sometimes forget that God specializes in turning downers into uppers, shutdowns into openings, and apparent defeat into victory.
Most of our lives have been decimated in so many ways during this pandemic. We have been saturated with fear, and can’t envision life getting back to normal. But, my friend, God can bring life from death, growth from decline, and hope from despair. God is alive and active. He can resurrect you, your hopes, your business, your mindset, your optimism. Join God as He reopens what has been shut down in your life.
Commit your life and future to Jesus, join your life to Jesus. He never loses in the end, and if you walk with him and live in him, your life can go viral, and that which was shutdown can be opened up to a whole new level of joy and living.
Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.