When the pandemic ends, some churches will emerge weaker, and some will emerge stronger. One of the consistent themes that I see with churches that are growing and strengthening during this season is that their leaders are optimistic, energized, and willing to try new forms of ministry and adapt to the rapidly changing conditions of our mission field. Pastor Shawn and the other leaders at Victory LBC in Jamestown, North Dakota are an example of the type of leadership attitudes needed during COVID. I pray that you’ll find encouragement and inspiration from Pastor Shawn’s article.
Dr. Ryan Nilsen, Associate Director North American Mission
Turbulent times, national unrest, worst pandemic in a century… our time. These times will cause one to consider their faith in God. Looking back through our Church history, we have been here before. So now would be a good time to ask, “How did our forefathers of the Lutheran Brethren respond?”
The ministry and writing of Hans Nielsen Hauge, who was imprisoned no less than 14 times for his preaching of the gospel, had a profound influence on the spiritual lives of people in Norway. As Norwegians immigrated to North America in the late nineteenth century, the Haugean influence impacted the founding of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.
Men and women of God had a fervent love for the Law and Gospel understanding of the Scriptures. Believers preached and taught this to the hearts of unregenerate persons—and watched them blossom in faith. The CLB embraced one-to-one witnessing, revival meetings, sermons, and Sunday School as means of converting souls for life in Christ. Missions to unreached people groups and mission to the next-door neighbor was considered a high call—and still is.
The distressing events unfolding in our nation today may calm down or may become much worse, but either way, now is a time of great opportunity! Never in my lifetime have I observed such a hunger for truth and a willingness to listen to the gospel. People are in need. The Church has a mission to fulfill, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:20-22. Mission can be as simple as leaving a bag of groceries on the doorstep of a COVID-19 sufferer, calling shut-ins and praying with them, or starting an online devotional. These are grand opportunities to carry a gospel light in your community.
Many of our CLB churches are small, so perhaps it is tempting to believe that the mega-church across town has all the fun of amazing ministries. But as I reflect on the heritage of the Lutheran Brethren, it is our size that has been a source of strength. The small congregation nurtured faith through deep love for the Word of God and love for each other. Pastors would walk, ride horse, or share rides if needed, to bring a carton of eggs and communion to the rural shut-in. Our size was never an excuse; rather it served its purpose for building community.
During the history of our Church body, people have suffered hard times and world wars. Turmoil has often caused us to focus attention on prayer. As the Church prays, great fruit is produced. As the Church reaches out through its own suffering, evangelists emerge from the faithful body of Christ and the Church community fulfills its commission.
Now is our time. Share your faith! Start praying for opportunities to help a neighbor, and then listen to their fears. Love them by offering to pray for them, and when the time is right tell them your faith story. Then stand back and watch the Lord create their faith story. It is as simple as that. As a believer you need to know his story and share your story, so that your neighbor can have a spiritual story of their own and experience conversion from darkness to light.
The time for outreach is now. Instead of pulling back, why not step up and step out like young David as he stood before Goliath? David didn’t worry about his size or ability; he simply trusted in God’s promises and completely believed that God would be glorified. By applying his basic shepherd skills, he experienced God’s miraculous deliverance from the lion, the bear, and a giant warrior. The Lord’s mighty arm is strong to deliver many more victories through the small, the weak, and the simple. This is your time.
Rev. Shawn Bowman is Pastor of Victory Lutheran Brethren Church in Jamestown, North Dakota.