COVID-19 and the Church
COVID-19 and the Church
On Wednesday, April 8, I participated on a conference call with President Trump, Vice President Pence, Franklin Graham, and other religious leaders including Protestant ministers, Catholic priests, and Jewish rabbis. At that time, the total of infected persons in the US exceeded 400,000, and total deaths were over 13,000. Of course, these numbers continue to escalate. The President stated that in the short term we still need to avoid large meetings. He thanked churches for their cooperation and their ministry to community needs. He affirmed that churches qualify for federal assistance through the newly established Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The Small Business Administration (SBA) has already received 200,000 applications for this program, and the President is working with Congressional leaders to expand it by an additional $250 billion.
Some have questioned whether the government is attacking the church or conspiring to curtail religious freedom. I don't see an attack or conspiracy but a response to a deadly and potentially uncontrollable pandemic. Sometimes there has been an excessive response, such as a city fining a church for having a parking-lot service. In a crisis, governments tend to assume great control and then are slow to relinquish it once the crisis has passed. Therefore, we must be vigilant to protect our freedoms and to monitor the situation carefully. We should engage our governmental officials, voice our concerns, and state our recommendations without being rebellious or needlessly antagonistic toward people of goodwill. (See Romans 13:1–7; 14:16; I Peter 2:13–25.) Our desire is to restart full church services and normal business operations as soon as possible. The crisis may not be as severe or prolonged as projected, and perhaps the social-distancing measures have worked better than originally anticipated. In the meantime, however, the church has continued its ministry. Christians haven’t been persecuted, and the gospel hasn’t been muzzled. Indeed, at a time when major venues of worldly entertainment are closed, such as bars, movie theaters, sports arenas, and even restaurants, it is exciting to see the church expand its ministry. Amid a nationwide shutdown, we are proclaiming the gospel across the world in more ways, with more creativity, and to more people than ever before.
Several of our ministers and ministers’ wives in North America have passed away due to the virus, and others are in critical condition. Our churches in the New York City and Chicago metropolitan areas have been particularly affected. We are thankful to report that many of our ministers and saints have recovered from the virus, and some recoveries have been miraculous. We are getting reports of people receiving Bible studies, being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and being baptized with the Holy Ghost, including children in family prayer meetings.
What the devil intends for evil, God turns for good. (See Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28.) We can already see several positive developments in this crisis: (1) The church is greatly extending its online presence and ministry. Many new people are attending our online services and hearing the whole gospel for the first time. (2) Many new people are turning to God. (3) The church is emphasizing personal devotions, home ministry, small groups, and personal connections. (4) The church is reaching out one-on-one, especially to the vulnerable, needy, isolated, and newly converted. (5) Ministers, lay leaders, and mature saints are uniting in prayer, personal involvement, and giving to support the pastor and church.
Let’s continue to pray for protection, healing, supply of needs, and deliverance. In addition, let’s pray for the following specific needs: (1) For a speedy end to the medical crisis and a speedy economic recovery. (2) For God to give governmental and health officials wisdom to make the best decisions, to balance the constitutional rights to worship and assemble with the steps medically necessary to overcome the pandemic. (3) For God to protect, strengthen, encourage, and guide medical professionals, researchers, and others who are on the front lines of the battle against the virus. (4) For the church to grow stronger through the crisis, perpetuate the positive developments after the crisis, and move forward in unprecedented revival and growth.
May God give you a blessed Resurrection Sunday, as we celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through Him, we have victory over sin, sickness, disease, demons, and death itself. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?... But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57).
Attention Pastors: Reporting of Easter Attendance
During this unprecedented time, we want to record and celebrate what God is doing. We are asking all UPCI pastors to report Easter Sunday attendance, including online views, for their church and any daughter works or preaching points. The results will not be reported for individual churches but compiled and reported only by district. On Monday, pastors will receive an email from me. By clicking on the accompanying form, they will be able to report two numbers: (1) Parking-Lot or On-Campus Attendance and (2) Total Online Views. Of course, total views are a rough estimate, for some represent an entire household while others only a short viewing. We will add up the reports to obtain the attendance for each district. Thank you for your participation.
The Center for Apostolic Counseling
The Center for Apostolic Counseling has produced new video resources to assist pastors as they work with families in crisis. The EMMAUS Crisis Trauma Model is a framework for providing resources in each step of the journey toward healing and growth in a time of collective trauma, which COVID-19 has brought to the surface. The acronym EMMAUS (Engage, Mobilize, Minister, Assimilate, Understand, and Support and Self Care) outlines how to carry our churches and communities, both on individual and group levels, through unprecedented challenges. Click here to access EMMAUS video resources.
Here is a further explanation of the concept: “They lost their Lord, their purpose, their sense of safety, and everything that they had given their lives for the last three years. They were afraid of what their enemies would do to them. They feared what the future held and considered whether to regret the past. Due to a single historical event, their personal worlds were turned upside down and everything they had ever known was changed. This is the trauma and crisis faced by the disciples on the road to Emmaus, echoing the current climate of trauma we face. Luke, the writer of our Apostolic history in Acts, chronicled in his Gospel how Jesus carried traumatized disciples through crisis. This is the model for how to work with those we lead during a time of trauma.”
The CARES Act created a new $300 above-the-line deduction for cash contributions to a qualifying charity. It allows a charitable deduction for those who do not itemize and thus could help increase giving.
The UPCI Loan Fund continues to experience great growth. Presently it has total assets of $70 million, which is up $20 million from a year ago. This is growth of $1.6 million per month. The Loan Fund comprises 967 active investments of $65.1 million and $4.9 million mostly made up of reserves or margins required by SEC rules. Recently, the Loan Fund approved its 200th loan for a total of just over $80 million in approvals since our launch in 2011. There are 142 loans still active and 58 have already been paid off. The total amount loaned out is $52.3 million with several loans in process and 21 new loan requests from January through March 2020. The future of the Loan Fund is bright.
Resources: Family Ministries Council
The UPCI Family Ministries Council has two resources for Apostolic families.
- Life Line: a series of free pastoral counseling guides for families in crisis. Each Life Line guide contains case studies, statistics, interview questions, biblical insights, resources, and a sermon or lesson on a specific crisis topic. These lessons are written by credentialed Apostolic experts and can be downloaded at no charge at upcifamily.com/lifeline.
- Email newsletter: a monthly publication featuring insights and instruction on issues pertaining to the family. To subscribe to this newsletter, visit upcifamily.com and enter your information in the “Get Our Newsletter” section at the bottom of the homepage.
Resources: Pentecostal Publishing House
- FAITH Devotional
After hearing many positive comments about how PPH's online Sunday school lesson is ministering to kids each week, we’re extending ministry to your entire family as well! Join us on our Facebook page or YouTube channel on Thursday nights at 7:00PM CST for a devotional on FAITH by L.J. Harry. This Discipleship Central Original Series explores how faith is essential to salvation and is the cornerstone of a life that is pleasing to God. For more information and to download the Discussion Guide, visit: http://pentecostalpublishing.com/discipleshipcentral.
- PPH’s Online Sunday School
Can’t get to Sunday school this week? Don’t stress! The PPH team is bringing Sunday school to you. Join us each Saturday morning at 10:00AM CST on our Facebook page or YouTube channel for a lesson built on the timeless message of God’s Word. Kids will enjoy a fun song, Bible lesson, and engaging activities related to the teaching. Downloadable resources for a full Sunday school experience are available at pentecostalpublishing.com/sundayschool. If you missed a week, you can always view the archives on Facebook, YouTube, or the PPH website. View our special Easter lesson preview here.
- Free Easter Lesson
During these challenging times, church leaders are constantly looking for creative ways to engage their members with digital content on a regular basis. PPH and Discipleship Central want to help by providing you with a complimentary Easter lesson from Pastor Darin Sargent entitled “Not My Will, But Thine Be Done.” Please feel free to share this however you would like and invite your church family to watch it together. To download this free lesson and the accompanying social media graphic, visit https://upci.xyz/discipleship-free-session/.
- NEW: Adult Sunday School Lessons
In addition to children’s Sunday school, it’s important to maintain teaching for adults and systematic Bible study. PPH is providing a video series by Tes Stewart based on The Living Word, a Word Aflame curriculum resource. Beginning April 18, you can use these videos to have discussion in your home or a time of reflection and journaling. The series explores the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels and will be available at PPH’s Facebook page or YouTube channel. Visit www.pentecostalpublishing.com/response to access the free accompanying student workbook to correspond with the study.
Sincerely in Christ,
David K. Bernard
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