April 12, 2020
How can a church fulfill its mission when it is not allowed to meet together for worship and Bible study?The resilience of the church is amazing. In the words of an old adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Another proverb is, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” During the past three months, preachers have preached to cameras and streamed their messages to congregants via the Internet. Others have produced videos and posted them on Facebook and YouTube. The Metro congregation in Gresham, Oregon is currently a drive-in church. Worship services are conducted on the parking lot, and members worship while sitting in their cars listening to everything on their FM radios. Before we pat ourselves on the back, however, we should know that churches of Christ in other nations are just as creative. Take, for example, the church in Korca, Albania, a city near the Greek border. We just received a newsletter from Albert Cepi, preacher for the church there. In his newsletter, Albert describes how God has used him and his wife, Jona (pronounced “Yōna”) to keep the church alive and growing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Albert writes,
“These last two months have been both challenging and hopeful. The government announced the isolation in March. People could only go out for necessities—with formal permission from the government. Many families have been impacted by the closure from lack of employment. We have tried to help by providing food boxes for the blind community and other needy families. “I was able to get special permission during the quarantine to meet people/families, to talk with them and to help strengthen and encourage their hearts and souls.”Albert reports that in May, members of the church worshiped together online. When the restrictions were lifted, they worshiped in the church building but maintained social distancing. They wore masks and gloves, tested their temperatures, and used hand sanitizer.
“It was a great joy to meet face to face and worship God together again. We are created to have fellowship with God and companionship with one another.” “Jona has been teaching and counseling the younger ladies and mothers at our apartment. Sometimes they go for a walk and talk about the virtuous woman. We have tried to use every opportunity to connect with people and share the hope, assurance, and promises that we find in God’s holy Word.”The young people in Korca have been greatly impacted by the pandemic. Their schools closed and they studied their lessons at home alone. To encourage the youth group, Albert and Jona plan activities, such as volleyball, and spend time with them walking and talking while hiking up the hill. In June, Albert and Jona met with small groups, sitting on the grass under towering trees, studying the Bible together. Such activities served to relieve stress and to connect people with God’s word and God’s people. Editor’s Note: Satan probably thought he had won a great victory when he made it virtually impossible for God’s people to assemble for worship and Bible study. But God is full of surprises, and he has brought good out of bad. Millions of people, when faced by the threat of death by COVID-19, have turned their faces toward God. Christians who have been forbidden to worship in their church buildings now love God and one another more fervently. During the pandemic, twice as many people as usual have enrolled as students, and twice as many Christians as usual have become Internet teachers. The church has been purified as by fire. In the words of William Shakespeare, “Great are the uses of adversity.” The victory belongs to God.