Service to Christ’s Church by The Gospel Coalition and The World Reformed Fellowship During the Time of Covid – 19
Dr. Ric Cannada
[Among many other things, Dr. Cannada is Chancellor Emeritus of Reformed Theological Seminary. Some of his other positions are listed immediately below]
I have the privilege of serving on the Executive Committee of the Board of the World Reformed Fellowship and also as an Emeritus Member of the Council of The Gospel Coalition. I was on extended conference calls with each of these groups over the last few days, hearing from strategic pastors and church leaders from all over the US and all over the world. Here are ten things that I heard:
1. Both WRF and TGC want to resource individuals and churches but they do not want in any way to detach individual Christians from their local churches. Instead both organizations are very clear that they want to encourage and help Christians become even more attached to their local congregations.
2. Although both WRF and TGC provide content resources as well as connectivity among churches, TGC is more focused on the content resources and has a wide variety of helpful content available for individual Christians and churches at www.thegospelcoalition.org. WRF is especially focused on connecting Reformed churches with each other to strengthen and bless each other, including listing Reformed churches around the world that offer online worship services in a variety of languages in these difficult days at www.wrfnet.org.
3. Many churches are offering online worship services live or taped but many others are also offering a full schedule of their regular church activities online, including adult and children’s Sunday School classes and small group fellowships that are meeting together online. Some pastors are offering weekly or even daily devotionals for their people either by video or just in text form. Some say that people want to see their pastor’s face and hear his voice speaking to them now more than ever.
4. The people, however, don’t just need content resources; they need fellowship. Some churches are keeping their people close to each other through their small groups meeting together online each week. Other churches invite everyone to join a prayer time each morning, or both mornings and evenings, which begins with a devotional and then includes an extended time for prayer. Some of these churches even open up the live online connection for a few minutes before the devotional/prayer time and for perhaps 15 minutes afterward so that people can see and greet and encourage one another as they speak to each other, having been separated from each other for too long. Although there are a variety of online platforms that are being used for live interaction including Skype and GoToMeeting, it seems that the platform most often being used effectively is Zoom.
5. Some churches are gathering updates and testimonies from their members and then distributing those to the broader congregation several times a week for encouragement and support.
6. God’s people need encouragement and comfort and hope, but they also need to be challenged about their witness and evangelism in these trying times. One church has given instructions how their members can prepare a video testimony and then make that testimony available and distribute it broadly, especially in preparation for Easter. Some who have studied the history of the church in times of plague and pestilence have found that the greatest opportunity for evangelism will come after the plague has passed rather than during the stressful period itself, especially based on the witness of the Christians during the trial.
7. Although it seems that people staying in their homes would have more time, that does not always seem to be the case. For sure, however, most people have more stress.
8. Phone calls from the pastor to individual members of his church are very effective and appreciated today when everyone seems stressed. These phone calls almost seem like personal handwritten letters from the past when we actually wrote letters.
9. Pastors still need a Sabbath themselves, perhaps more now than ever; so, pastor, be sure to get some rest yourself.
10. In critical epicenters where the disease has spiked, many Christian doctors and other medical professionals urge people not to come to the hospitals for any reason except for a dire medical emergency since everyone in the hospital will most likely catch the virus.