The highs and lows of lockdown ministry
|Image Source: Jason Blackeye|
It has been five months since my last blog post. This has been the longest break that I have taken since I began Harmony of Grace three years ago.
When our church in Bethlehem decided to close our Sunday services back in March, I committed to sending out daily audio devotions over Whatsapp and Facebook. This has taken up a lot of my time and effort so I decided to take a break from posting written blog posts during this time.
While researching and writing a new article for SUMag recently, I realised how much I missed writing. I am excited to announce that I am going to be posting regular blog posts to this page once again.
I will continue to send out daily audio devotions until our church is able to meet again. If you have not been receiving these and you would like to then please like our church's FaceBook page here: Bethlehem Methodist Church.
This past week, I sent out my hundredth audio devotion and recorded my twenty-seventh online service. It has been a roller coaster ride and I would like to briefly reflect on our church's ministry during the past few months of lockdown.
I have learnt a lot during these past five months and have been reminded of God's grace over and over again.
When the lockdown was implemented in South Africa, like all pastors, I was forced to navigate the terrifying waters of online ministry.
You would think that a minister with years of experience speaking in front of people would find it easy to record audio devotions and online services. This was unfortunately not the case. I was initially incredibly nervous and completely out of my comfort zone doing online ministry. Speaking to a camera or a microphone is different from addressing a room full of people, even if half of them are usually dozing off in their seats.
Dealing with the complexities of technology added an unwelcome challenge to doing ministry during the lockdown. No matter how much I prepared and planned ahead, seemingly small issues would regularly arise and frustrate me for hours before I could work out a fix.
Furthermore, pastorally caring for someone over the phone is not ideal. Phone calls and messages are a weak substitute for physical presence. I still believe that the most heartbreaking part about this pandemic is that people are not able to visit their loved ones when they are sick, lonely or dying. Let me not even get started on the challenges of conducting funerals and weddings for less than fifty people.
Even though I have gained grey hairs navigating the numerous challenges of ministry during the lockdown, I have been overwhelmed by God's goodness throughout this pandemic so far.
God has certainly been working in the lives of His children. During a time where people are clearly struggling financially, generosity is increasing. While people are experiencing trying times, they are drawing nearer to God. Even though we are physically distant from each other, in many ways, thanks to technology, we are more connected than ever before.
This is obviously not the case for everyone. This pandemic has hit some harder than others. Some need more time to get back on their feet and deal with their personal struggles and doubts. That is okay. God is in no rush.
However, the journey through the fires of this pandemic has seemed to refine many in the flames. People are standing up as heroes - serving selflessly, loving unconditionally and fighting injustices passionately. I have no doubt that we will emerge on the other side of this pandemic and experience a better tomorrow if we continue to stand together and acknowledge God's grace in the world around us.
I am sure that God's people are missing physical visits and worship services. We are all longing for the day that we are able to meet together again in person.
But these months apart continue to remind me that the Church of Christ is not a building, but rather, the people of God.
Stay safe, keep well and be blessed.
"Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it."- 1 Corinthians 12:27