Discipleship in a Pandemic: Possible and Necessary!
By Scott Stedman
In March 2020, when the governor of Virginia shut down the state due to COVID-19, the first question I asked myself is how does a church disciple in a pandemic? If we are to “go and make disciples,” and proclaim the gospel in our communities and outward, how do we do that when we are locked in our houses? It was a question that began to produce creativity in how to serve the church and community.
During the summer, we had a blow to our community as two heavy showers of rain caused major flooding in Staunton, devastating small businesses and people’s homes. Immediately, Staunton First Church of God got a team together to help anyone who needed flood assistance. Other members in the church began helping neighbors and small businesses with their clean-up and rebuilding process. During the church’s weekly prayer walks, we prayed over the homes, businesses, and workers who were trying to do their best while being protective in the pandemic. It was on that walk, where the Lord revealed that it is possible to disciple in a pandemic but the church has to be proactive.
Since that walk, we were able to minister to a family who accumulated four to five feet of water in their basement by removing flood-damaged items, praying with them, and checking up on them to see how they were recovering from the damage. I have been counseling a family whose son is struggling with depression with suicide idealization by equipping the family with tools to help their child and be able to feed light and truth to the client to navigate the darkness of depression. The church was able to donate candy so our ministry team could pack up a hundred bags of candy [pictured above] to give to children at the local mission, and a battered woman’s shelter, and I filmed a five-episode cooking show to help families in our area cook meals that can last for a few days, while church members donate grocery gift cards to give away to families who watch.
In church life, the elder board has been diligently in calling and ministering to people to check-in, check-up, and encourage the body in the pandemic. The student ministry has been meeting monthly for a game night, by playing a tabletop RPG, that way we can stay distant and everyone has their owns dice to use, so we can be together but still be socially distant. We’ve improved our online presence when it comes to Sunday mornings, where others in our community (and out of state) have sent messages, e-mails, and texts on how they are finding hope in this world through God’s Word being proclaimed.
Finally, we are working towards a huge undertaking to better equip and disciple the church, regardless if they are attending in-person services or online. Even though the body may be physically separate, we can still be unified in the spirit of God by discipling and loving each other.
So, can the church disciple its members and its community in a pandemic? No matter the time or season, the church has been called to disciple and be the light of Christ. It will take hard work, creativity, breaking down (and rebuilding) old traditions, but most importantly, full trust in the Lord, and being guided by the Holy Spirit as he gives life and creativity to navigate the uncertainty.
Scott Stedman is the lead pastor of Staunton First Church of God in Staunton, Virginia. Republished by permission.
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.