The Meaning of Church in the Days of COVID-19

By Rosette Mansour

For years, we’ve been hearing that the church is not the building, it is the people. Now the time has come to walk the talk! How are churches reacting to this pandemic and what adjustments have been put in place to ensure the preservation of the congregation? We spoke to some of the Middle Eastern pastors who have been affected by the pandemic to see how they’ve had to react as the Church. Here are some of their answers:

Rev. Mazen Hamati
Pastor of Redeemer Baptist Church
Safita, Syria

A new reality has been imposed upon us by this pandemic, a reality that has separated us as family and church members. It was not easy at first to get accustomed to a new manner of worship, and we first had to overcome our fears: the fear of separation, loneliness, sickness, death….

However, in the midst of these bewildering feelings, the people of the church came together to seek answers from the Word of God. As a church, we were searching for God’s purpose in the midst of the virus, and we found that we needed to adapt to this new approach in order to meet the new needs.

Besides taking our services online, we encouraged members of the church to check on the elderly, the sick, the disabled and those who lost their jobs. In effect, while taking all necessary precautions, people were delivering food and medicine and helping those who could not leave their houses.

Not being able to attend church made people realize that the church is in fact in our homes. The church is not a place but is rather the act of caring and helping those in need. It can be as simple as a phone call to lift a spirit and say we’re thinking of them and praying for them.

Rev. Hafez Desta
Pastor of an Evangelical Church in
Khartoum Bahri, Sudan

The church is undergoing tremendous changes during the time of the Coronavirus, mostly in these two ways:

– Instead of one packed church we now have multiple churches in a number of different houses. The family is gathering to worship the Lord, bringing meaning to the verse “for where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them”. Family bonds are being strengthened, and I believe that once the effects of this virus diminish, there will be a revival because each family has grown spiritually.

– The church is also investing in caring for our brothers and sisters who are going through this tough economic situation. The church is being the hands and feet of Jesus, caring for others and sacrificing from their own needs to help those who are more in need. This does not mean that the church is not suffering but instead we are seeing how God is blessing us through sharing.

Rev. Milad Haddad
Pastor of Baptist Church
Riak, Lebanon

“I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18

Is the Church dormant or active during the time of the Coronavirus pandemic ? Has it fallen back or grown and matured? Many questions wander our minds about the direct and indirect effects of stopping physical church services. I can honestly say that the spread of the Gospel during this time has increased exponentially. All the messages that reach the members of the Church are transmitted to their families and friends. We have noticed that the number of those attending the meetings online has increased vastly. Perhaps God has permitted this for purposes that we do not yet know but will understand later. Just as we have experienced the Lord in times of peace, war, and disasters, we will certainly continue to experience Him in the time of Coronavirus. Equally important, with the widow’s penny we are able to expand our help to those around us, showing the love of Christ that is above all understanding. Our prayer is that God completes His work and is glorified through His church in all circumstances.

Rev. Ara Badalian
Senior Pastor of the National Evangelical Baptist Church Baghdad, Iraq

In response to the virus, we felt as though our church will need to take on a different form than what we are accustomed to. Keeping in mind that the church is not defined by its physical location but rather by the people, our emphasis has been to continue to virtually meet with as many members of our church as possible. Through creative means, we are ensuring that our congregation continues to meet and spread care in a number of new ways. In times of Covid-19, the Word is still spreading, not from the altar surrounded by four walls but instead to a wider community and their homes, teaching us daily that the place means nothing without the people in it.

The True Center of the Church

In brief, we have come to the realization that the situation is not in our hands. The church has been relying on God now more than ever! It has realized that God already sent a savior and it is not us. We realize that the center is not the worship service, the children’s camp, nor even the relief work, but it is Christ.

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