The local church elder on the phone was a friend: “I cannot wait to get back to the church building for worship so I can talk with people face to face.” Earlier in the week I had talked to another friend, “The COVID pandemic has helped me get my Sabbaths back—instead of leading in programs I am doing Bible studies with my family and spending time in reflection with God in nature. I’m not sure I want to be in the church building as much.” Another friend emailed, “I like meeting in small groups on Sabbath more than going to the big church service. I participate more, am growing spiritually and know the others in the group better.” Others have shared, “There are great sermons on the internet. I don’t need to go to church to worship God.” All of these friends are very faithful Adventists but see the pandemic’s affect on the church and themselves quite differently. The Church in the SPD is not going to be the same as it was before coronavirus.
Church leaders are discussing the effects of the pandemic on local congregations. The church has been agile and creative, but we don’t want it to become screen-dependent. The closing of church buildings has reminded us that #weRtheChurch and we cannot be stopped. Ministry to the needy will increase, people will be more open to scriptural truths for a time. Perhaps God is giving us an opportunity to resemble the early New Testament church—as recorded in the book of Acts—where people were a mighty disciple-making movement, a network of family-centred house churches who gathered to worship God, fellowship and encourage each other, and to serve and be witnesses for Jesus. More than ever Hebrews 10:24,25 provides valuable insight: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”