These past two years of the pandemic have undoubtedly been the most difficult of my 15+ years in pastoral ministry here in India. I became the lead pastor of our small urban church in 2009, and since then by God’s grace we have become a cluster of four churches with about 600 members—many of whom come from different faith backgrounds.
In May 2021, our church family was shattered by the deaths of four highly active and beloved church members in just over three weeks. In addition to this, almost all of our people lost at least one relative due to COVID, several of our members lost jobs or experienced pay cuts, many have struggled with post-COVID anxiety and panic attacks, and our children did their schooling online for 23 months straight. Every person in our church has been affected negatively by this pandemic in some way or another, and many have been devastated.
As a church, it’s also been challenging to navigate the unchartered territory the pandemic led us into: not being able to meet physically for almost two years, responding to multiple medical emergencies at once, connecting with people online, and much more. These two years of COVID have truly been a crisis in every sense for our church.
And yet, there is another side to this crisis that has also emerged, one I didn’t really expect: the pandemic has born some amazing spiritual fruit in our church family. Here is some of the good fruit that I have observed in our church as a direct result of the pandemic.
Brokenness and Humility
COVID has taught us that we are not nearly as strong as we thought, in any sense. We have people in our church who occupy high positions and who are very well connected, but several shared with me that in this crisis, for the first time, their position, influence, connections, and money didn’t help them at all.
And it isn’t just those in high positions—all of us have experienced in these two years just how helpless, weak, and small we actually are.
Maturing Relationship with God
The ongoing (and seemingly endless) nature of the pandemic forced us to abandon our breezy and simplistic views of God and his ways. Watching some of our most devoted church members dying from COVID has caused all of us to ask a lot of questions, and finally to stand in awe of the sovereignty of God and to bow down to the mystery of his ways. And despite the struggles we have faced, our appreciation for God’s faithfulness has deepened.
Despite the struggles we have faced, our appreciation for God’s faithfulness has deepened.
Death has a way of making us serious about life. Death reminds us about the brevity of life, about eternity, and about what really matters in the end. This crisis has had a similar effect on our whole church, as we’ve been surrounded by news of death on an almost daily basis. These days it seems that people are thinking and speaking about matters of eternity more than they ever have before.
Earnestness in Prayer
We had been trying for years to move our people to increased fervency in prayer, but this crisis caused record numbers to join our prayer meetings (even though we’ve only been able to meet online for prayer). Not only have our numbers increased, but we have also felt a new intensity and desperation in prayer. This pandemic has made us all much more dependent on God—or, rather, made us realize how dependent on God we’ve always been.
One of the sweet ironies of this crisis has been that even though we haven’t met as a whole church for almost two years now, COVID has brought our people together in a way we have never seen before. I have preached for years about the need to be involved practically and sacrificially in one another’s lives, but it took this pandemic to really make it happen.
Openness Among Unbelievers
It’s not just believers who have become more serious about life and its ultimate meaning, but we have observed the same among unbelievers as well. This pandemic has reminded us all of the fragility of life, and how vulnerable we actually are—no matter how wealthy or powerful we might be. This has led to amazing opportunities to talk about the hope and strength we have in Christ with unbelievers.
All of the good fruit mentioned above has been the consequence of this terrible time of suffering that we have undergone in these past two years. None of us would have ever asked for a worldwide pandemic to ravage the lives of millions, but now that it has come, it’s hard to ignore the good that God has brought from it.