#207. How Pastors See God Working In COVID 19

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

I have been a pastor and church planter for 30 years in Central Kentucky. During this time, I have seen God move, not only in the lives of longtime committed Christians, but also through  ministries to people experiencing homelessness and addiction recovery. 

How do I see God working in the midst of this pandemic?

The last time I remember feeling the things I have been feeling recently was the terrorist attacks of 9/11. But this coronavirus outbreak has been very different. When there is a collective tragedy, it’s almost like the Holy Spirit kicks something into gear. It seems like people are understanding the Holy Spirit in a new way, in spite of all of the anxiety and uncertainty.

During this pandemic, I have noticed a similarity in conversations with church members and non-church members in that their prayer life is deeper and more consistent. Many times, in the past, people have said to me, “I pray but I don’t hear from God.” Now people tell me, when they pray, they are hearing from God — and being comforted like never before.

There has been concern over the financial issues that have come with COVID-19, but many folks are feeling a peace about this. It’s been amazing to see how people want to give during this time. We have actually seen an increase in our giving, which we are using to help people who are struggling. There is a group who just raised $1,500 to make personal protective equipment for health care workers and first responders. They are praying over this equipment before they send it to be used.

I’m also hearing a lot of things about kids. God is bringing them closer to their parents, and they are also spending more time with their siblings. We have become so independent in our culture and within our own families as well, even our young children. Everyone has their own community on their phone. Parents and siblings don’t know the friends of other family members the way we used to. It’s almost like we are being taken back to the olden days when families spent more time together.

I am seeing that families are growing closer to God as a family. Things are being pulled back to the things of God and the Spirit. Even in our own family, for the first time a few nights ago, we just knelt around the coffee table and prayed. It’s like COVID-19 is a loose thread that has been pulled, bringing us all together and closer to God. My prayer is that this closeness continues. 

#206. How Pastors See God Working In COVID 19

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

Ellie and I were ecstatic when we got the text in February.

Do you and Ellie want to go with us to Naples for a long weekend in March?

Uh … yes! After a long and busy season of ministry and parenting, we were thankful that God had provided a space for us to refresh and enjoy some warm weather. We were counting down the days that we would be alone — without kids, obligations or calendar commitments. Just some good friends, delicious food, and Florida sunshine.

By March 13, the day before we left, the world had changed drastically. What feel like staples of American society — NCAA basketball, the Masters, and the NBA — were being cancelled and uprooted day by day. Churches would not be gathering. After a lot of prayer and trusting that God had gone before us to secure this trip, we boarded our plane at Blue Grass Airport and landed in hot and humid Florida.

To be honest, it was hard to settle down. It was hard to fully rest, knowing that our world was in such turmoil. Restful moments were interrupted by task force news conferences and reports on toilet paper shortages. It was clear to us that this brief pause would be followed by a return to a world that was anything but normal. In fact, a world that was even a little scary.
As it always does, God’s Word interrupted the turmoil in my heart, whispering as a father gently whispers to a crying infant, “Hush.”

But the Lord is in His holy Temple. Let all the earth be silent before him (Habakkuk 2:20).
I wish that I could say I understand all that is going on in our world in this coronavirus pandemic. I have questions like, “Why?” and “Why now?” “What are we supposed to do?” “Is it okay to be afraid?”

I don’t have all the answers, but I’m learning to embrace the beautiful reality of following Jesus — the One who does. This Scripture in Habakkuk gives me all I need to know. The Lord is still in His holy Temple. He is still on the throne! Just because society and human activity have been radically altered does not mean that our God has lost control. He is still there, still all-powerful, all-loving, working all things together for our good and His glory.

Because God’s still in control, we can be silent before Him. We can trust Him. Each day can be full of heartfelt worship, devoted prayer, and sacrificial service to our neighbors and loved ones. The thing that drives me most crazy about coronavirus is how little everyone knows. At times, I feel as if I am developing whiplash, listening to all the different voices competing for attention in my head. But because we follow Jesus, the One who is still in control, we can be silent, even in the face of a vicious enemy like COVID-19. We can simply listen to His voice and follow where He leads.

As we descended through the clouds into Lexington on Sunday, March 15, we landed in darkness. I’ve never experienced such darkness before in my life. As we left the sun above the clouds and entered the cool, gray night in Lexington, it seemed as if everything had changed. Yet, we knew that the One we love and serve hadn’t changed at all. Because our God is unchanging, we can face tomorrow with faith, not fear.

#205. How Pastors See God Working in COVID 19

I think the biggest lesson I’m learning, and maybe a lesson we are all learning in America right now, is the reality of ‘suffering for the Christian faith.

For Christ-followers, the cross is not just applied to us for our salvation, but is the path we walk for our sanctification and growth in the faith. In the words of author C.S. Lewis, “The cross, comes before the crown,” meaning that suffering in the Christian life is not just followed by glory, but suffering produces glory in the Christian life. For a prosperous nation and a generally prosperous church, God is showing us that living a faithful Christian life is much more like a J, than a ladder. Like our Savior, glory and redemption come through suffering, not through comfort. Our call as Christians is to persevere in our suffering by focusing on Christ who overcame on our behalf through perseverance.

As a college minister, I have seen many ways students are suffering, particularly during this worldwide health crisis. Just in the last six weeks, I’ve seen students going through real suffering. I’ve seen how this suffering is producing in them a greater joy and dependence upon Jesus. God is not ‘on pause’ until this suffering passes, but is actually working in and through the suffering to produce something in these students, and in each of us at this time. I’ve noticed this suffering in our seniors who are missing out on their last semester of college and long-awaited graduation festivities. I have also seen this heartache in one of our students, whose mom has been fighting for her life on a ventilator, due to COVID-19.

As day-to-day suffering has increased, so has the glory of Jesus Christ in the heart of these students. This is something that we desperately need to learn and lean into. I’m thankful to minister among college students who have shown me over and over again that, in Jesus, glory and suffering always go together. 

#204. How Pastors See God Working In COVID 19

 Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

I am a chaplain in a state prison. I cannot give names or places per policy. However, I can speak anonymously about what God is doing at my institution through the COVID-19 pandemic. As I told a pastor friend, the Lord has multiplied my ministry through this crisis. Now staff and inmates are gathering in the chapel every morning at 10 a.m. for prayer. This is something that has never happened! Normally staff would never come to the chapel for prayer. Nevertheless, they have been faithful to pray alongside the inmates. Numerous staff have contacted me about anxiety and depression issues. I have been able to openly and compassionately proclaim Christ as King over this entire situation. Also, once a week I send out a short devotional encouragement email to over 500 staff members in two different institutions. Scripture is included and Jesus is exalted in these emails. Again, this is generally not allowed. However, the staff want and desperately need hope, joy and peace that God’s Word brings, so these emails are accepted with thanksgiving.

Our inmate population also seems to be looking to me as chaplain more during these challenging times. The inmates also have received global JPay messages from me. JPay is an electronic machine in the inmate dorms. The inmates send and receive messages from friends, family and others through JPay. As a section supervisor, I also have a JPay account, which allows me to send messages to a single inmate or the entire population. One inmate stopped me recently to ask why I have not sent more messages. Those inmates who come to the chapel seem to be more dedicated and sincere after this crisis.

#203. How Pastors See God Working In COVID 19

I am the pastor of an urban church. Our congregation is made up of young members. The nearly 30-year-old members are the old people at our church!

I have noticed in people that there’s a real sense that life’s not right and that maybe, for the first time, they can’t make it right. People can’t plan their futures. Some have lost their jobs. Some have a deep sense of loneliness that they previously drowned out with constant busyness. We live at a crazy pace and people are coming to the realization that they are exhausted and very lonely. People are ripe for the gospel. The views for our online services are 10 times the attendance we normally have in church. The church members in our small groups are still meeting once a week (virtually), and some are meeting twice a week, with the second meeting being set aside for prayer. We have added people to the small groups who weren’t previously in a group. There is a profound sense of need in people — and that is what Jesus is after — people who are in need.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (CSB)