COVID-19 Pandemic and Its Impact on Communities of Faith

The COVID-19 Pandemic continuous to have a tremendous impact worldwide.  It may forever change how we interact with one another. While federal and state officials announce the reopening of various businesses, spiritual leaders are formalizing plans to ensure the safety of their parishioners. For most Believers, fellowshipping and worshipping in a church sanctuary is vital. While some spiritual leaders have long embraced spread the Gospel through social media and live platforms, others did not.  Regardless of their apprehensions, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused spiritual leadership to re-evaluate their positions regarding online ministry.

On May 22, 2020, President Trump declared “places of worship” essential then order each governor of every state to reopen them immediately.  This announcement caused the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to release interim guidelines for communities of faith.  While it is clear that CDC is not attempting to infringe upon our First Amendment rights, their recommendations will dramatically impact how we engage in worship.  The recommendations include the following:

  • Upholding social distancing
  • Promoting healthy hygiene practices
  • Cloth face coverings
  • An increased routine of intensified cleaning and disinfecting of places of worship and their ventilation systems
  • Minimize the use of shared Worship Materials
  • Additional guidelines for Nurseries in places of worship

All of these recommendations (with the exception of promoting healthy hygiene habits) are contrary to how parishioners interact with one another in church settings.  Spiritual leaders now have the task of identifying how to navigate worship services while adhering to CDC recommendations to ensure everyone’s safety. Let us consider some of the worship practices that may need to be modified.

  • Holy Communion: For those churches who do not purchase prepackaged communion wafers and juice, this may become a requirement. Instead of using cloth gloves, the disposable glove may be considered more hygienic.
  • Discontinued Use of Community Bibles and Hymnals: CDC discourages the use of shared Worship Materials.  Churches may be going to a BYOB/BYOH (Bring Your Own Bible/ Bring Your Hymnal).  Not every church is equipped to provide a projected displays of Scriptures or Hymnals to be viewed by congregants.
  • The ritual of “Laying on of Hands” which is both a symbolic and formal way of invoking the Holy Spirit during deliverance, baptisms, healings, and ordination services.  This is rite is considered vital in some denominations and is a Biblical practice.
  • “Love Time” encourages greeting one another usually hugging and/or kissing one another along with other gestures with your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Post-pandemic, we force to express love from afar and differently.
  • Baptism, a Christian rite symbolizing the regeneration and admission to the Christian Church, will need to be reviewed.  Most baptisms consist of immersion of the body in water whether that is a baptismal pool or a natural body of water.  Anti-bacterial agents may be required to be used in water for baptismal pools especially if there are multiple candidates for baptism.
  • Parishioners with underlining health issues, especially respiratory-related, may want to continue to “stay at home” for now.  The fumes from intensified cleaning and disinfecting along with maintaining face covering can prove to be challenging.
  • Sanctuary door ushers may be replaced with nurses using “no-touch” thermometers to greet parishioners and check for elevated temperatures along with identifying parishioners exhibiting symptoms. There are many who are asymptomatic and may not know that they are infected.
  • Upholding the 6” social distancing requirement will prove to be problematic in smaller places of worship.
  • For more charismatic denominations, sheets use to cover parishioners when “slain in the Spirit” will not be able to be reused on other parishioners.
  • The CDC has issued additional guidelines for places of worship with nurseries.

It may be wise for smaller local assemblies to maintain having services online due to the additional expenses.  If places of worship do not perform the tasks outlined by CDC they may be liable if their location became ground zero for an outbreak.  Our celebratory worship practices and how we engage with one another will need to change. Parishioners are now   challenged to express our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ differently and hopefully in more meaningful ways. While the CDC guidelines appear to go against every segment of our worship, there are some positives for us to consider. 

  • Worship services are no longer limited to a building.  The Universal Church is called to stand out. We are ordered via The Great Commission to spread the Gospel through all nations. Now that more local assemblies have started using online services there are more options available.
  • To me, the best part is that COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have not been able to suppress or stop people from accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
  • Refreshing transparency in ministry is unfolding.  Spiritual Leaders take to online platforms and have very open and transparent conversations about ministry and how to proceed forward post-pandemic.
  • Based upon the spiritual leaders that I have spoken with Tithes and Offering are up as a result of taking to an online platform.
  • Spiritual Leaders are forced to think of innovative ways to engage their congregation and explore alternative worship experiences. 
  • More people have been able to attend alternative services such as Bible Study from the comfort of their homes.
  • Due to the social distancing restrictions, it has given Christians to seek God through spiritual discipline for a refreshing and identify the next steps in ministry.
  • The pandemic has been for many a test of faith causing us to rely on the promises of God.

While I do not believe God caused the COVID-19 pandemic, I do believe that he has allowed it to become a wake-up call to the nations.   It is a test of our faith and an opportunity to draw closer to him.  As each state begins to relax stay at home orders, it is no surprise that there is increase in diagnosis and hospitalization due to COVID-19. 

Evangelism Journeys: The Great Commission

Matthew 28:18-20 (KJV)

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.””

Matthew 28:18-20 is appropriately known as the Great Commission.  It is great due to magnitude, degree, and effectiveness of what is required. It is a commission because Jesus commanded a group of people (all of His disciples) sanctioning a worldwide mission to spread the Gospel. Within these three dynamic verses, there are six key components that are frequently overshadowed with major points of controversy. These six key components are listed below along with clarification of the controversy surrounding them.

Authority

In Matthew 28:18, God has given Jesus all authority of heaven and earth. This means that Jesus has the power to give orders, make decisions, and control over heaven and earth. Based upon this authority, Jesus sanctions the Great Commission.

 Fulfillment of Prophesy

Also in Matthew 28:18, we are able to see the fulfillment of prophesy. Daniel’s dream foretold of this time when Jesus would receive all power. Daniel 7:14 (KJV) states, “And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”

 Worldwide Evangelism Mission Sanctioned

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus sanctions the worldwide evangelism mission.  Jesus itemizes the requirements for this mission.

  • † Proceed forward spreading the Gospel to all nations
  • † Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost
  • † Teach them to be adherents to all the teachings of Jesus

Mark 16:15, 16 (KJV) indicates that the disciples were to earnestly share the Good News.  This Scripture also highlights that everyone will not be receptive to the Gospel.  Faith come by hearing the message and the message is heard through the word about Jesus Christ. (Romans 10:17, KJV) Jesus charged all his disciples with this mission.  There are some who believe that the charge was for those with the gift, anointing, or has the vocation of an evangelist.  We all have the ability to share our testimony about how we have been transformed through our relationship with God.

Evangelism or witnessing about Christ should not stop at sharing the message or a “Sinners Prayer.” New Believers need mentors to provide guidance and godly counsel. Spiritual development is a process that will be different for each Believer and takes time.  In a previous blog post, I identified some requirements and characteristics of a True Disciple entitled, “True Disciple Requirements and Characteristics”. (Please read for more information on the requirements and characteristics of a True Disciple.)

Trinitarian Immersion Formula for Baptism

Jesus provides a Trinitarian immersion formula (“baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”) required for baptism. Baptism is essential because it unifies Believers with Jesus Christ in his/her death to sin and resurrection to new life with no condemnation.  It also symbolizes submission to Christ with a willingness to live God’s way and an identification with God’s covenant people.

Non-Trinitarian Believers reject this immersion formula because they reject the Triune nature of God by citing Scripture references of Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48, 19:5, and 22:16.  While these Scripture References use in the name of Jesus Christ”, they are not used as an immersion formula but reference by whose authority they are operating under.  God gave all authority in heaven and earth to Jesus.  As the disciples began fulfilling the Great Commission they identify that they are doing so by the authority of Jesus Christ.

Triune Attribute of God

In providing the Trinitarian immersion formula for baptism, Jesus is also revealing an incommunicable attribute of God.  Although the terms “Triune” or “Trinity” are not in the Bible, these terms are used to describe an attribute of God.  God is one being who exist in three Persons namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit sharing a divine being. The unity of the three person is the “Godhead.” There are over 60 Bible passages that mention the three Persons together.

 A Reassuring Promise

Matthew 28:20 provides us with the reassuring promise that Jesus is always with us.  After sanctioning the mission, Jesus would ascend into heaven then send The Comforter, Holy Spirit, to reside in us.

Product Review: Understand Baptism – Believer’s Baptism

The Believer’s Baptism pamphlet issued by Rose Publishing is an invaluable resource for New Believers who desire to make a public proclamation of their faith in Jesus Christ. The Believer’s Baptism is an important sacrament to all Believers and symbolizes our new identify with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection thus unifies us with the Body of Christ. In addition, it provides guidelines for those considering rededicating their lives to Christ and some of the circumstances in which people may consider

New Believers can expect to receive an overview of the history to this special sacrament, general information on what to expect during the sacrament, and answers to frequently asked questions. Not only will this prove instrumental to educating on the sacrament, but it with provide a synopsis on the Apostle’s Creed that summarizes the teachings of the apostles passed on to Believers. The pamphlet covers most concern and is a good conversation starter for addressing additional concerns. It is well written in a non-denomination yet biblical sound fashion allowing room for leaders to add emphasis on any unique elements that are specific to their beliefs or local assembly. I would encourage New Membership Class Leaders to utilize this pamphlet as a tool to educate New Believers or those considering being baptized again.