God at Work through the Pandemic: Pastors Share their Experiences
By Jaymie Dieterle
Church of God pastors from around the country have found encouragement through this strange season of a global pandemic. Pastor Tim Gould of Houston First Church of God in Texas captures what is guiding him and others in this time. “None of this was a surprise for God,” says Pastor Gould. “God is still at work. If we could dare look and watch what the Holy Spirit is doing, we would be overwhelmed with thankfulness.”
Pastor Gould has seen that thankfulness firsthand from members of his congregation. “Even if things aren’t what folks would prefer, they have been genuinely grateful. Our staff are hearing, ‘Thank you for your hard work’ and ‘Thank you for going the extra mile.’ That appreciation has been so encouraging.”
Pastor Emily Clark of Faith United Church of God in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has been encouraged by the way her congregation has been stepping up for each other. They are sending cards and being intentional about reaching out to other members of the congregation, so the isolation of quarantine is lessened. “This has been all them. They have been compassionate and kind, supportive of the decisions from our council.” Pastor Clark has also been encouraged by the virtual congregation that has developed over the last couple months. “Adult children who grew up in the congregation but now live elsewhere have joined our online services. We also have out-of-state viewers who have started financially supporting the church.”
“Talking with other pastors who are in the same situation has been so encouraging,” says Pastor Mary Stephens from South Side Church of God in South Bend, Indiana. Pastor Mary also said her state ministry office has been such a help during these days, a sentiment that was shared by several of the pastors. She said hearing from colleagues about how God is moving helps stave off discouragement and exhaustion from the stress of this season.
Pastor Marc Rice from the Montesano Church of God in Montesano, Washington, has been inspired by the frontline workers who are caring for their communities all over the world. “God is in their service, especially for those who put themselves at risk for others.” The presence of the Holy Spirit and seeing answer to prayer has been an encouragement for Pastor Marc and his congregation.
Pastor Paul Strozier of Madison Park Church of God in Anderson, Indiana, has been encouraged to see the church embracing new ways to share the gospel. “We are twenty years into a new millennium, but we have been holding onto the classic ways of doing things. With the pandemic, we are being forced to try new things. It’s no longer optional.” Pastor Paul said this is pushing congregations to simplify and prioritize. Churches will have to wrestle with determining their non-negotiables and figure out how to target staff and volunteer assignments to care for the new online components of worship and the people who are engaging with them.
When 15th Avenue Church of God of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, wrestled with what to do with their food ministry during the pandemic, Pastor Baron Mashack said the congregation members refused to halt the ministry. “We didn’t want to put our volunteers in jeopardy, but the congregation said no. They said, ‘People need us. We can’t abandon them now.’” The congregation has also resumed activities they used to use in the past like prayer partners and prayer and devotional meetings as ways to stay connected and care for one another during the stay-at-home order. Pastor Baron told his congregation early on if they did their part and persevered, the church could “come out of this stronger than ever.”
One of the ways the Community Church of God in Mount Carmel, Illinois, put hands and feet to the call to serve their community is through a food drive. Pastor Joy Sherman was encouraged by how congregation members, and also community members with no ties to the church, showed up in big ways to support the need. The congregation was also able to keep up with their food ministry to local school children even while schools were closed for in-person instruction. “This season has given us opportunities to dream of new ways to serve our community,” said Pastor Joy.
God has been moving through Church of God congregations in this difficult season. God has been faithful to his promise that he would be with us. In a season when we have watched our routines and comforts being stripped away, God is showing his people new ways to meet needs, serve others, and share the limitless love of the Father with the world.
Jaymie Dieterle is a freelance writer with a passion for books, reading, and life-long learning. She enjoys writing adult small group and Sunday school curriculum for Warner Press. Jaymie and her family live in Anderson, Indiana, and they are actively involved at Madison Park Church of God.
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.