One year ago, the world descended into uncertainty. After weeks of hearing about the SARS-CoV-2 virus around the world, it finally came to the U.S. Basketball games were suspended at half time. Toilet paper flew off of grocery shelves. Fear gripped the nation. One year later, a lot has changed.
I have been encouraged by the resiliency of our church members throughout the pandemic. They have been supportive and encouraging. They have also been incredibly careful. One year ago, on the day that we suspended in-person gatherings, I told our executive leadership team, “I hope we are overreacting.” One of our leaders responded, “If we get through this without you having to preach a funeral for a church member who has died from Covid, it will not be an overreaction.” One year later, we have not lost a single active church member to Covid!
The Goodness of God
There have been many emotional moments since last March as I have experienced God’s faithfulness. Our membership has remained connected and engaged. They have served the Lord and our community well. We have welcomed guests to our worship service every Sunday since the first of January. When I think about all that God has done, I am overwhelmed.
But nothing prepared me for what I experienced this past Sunday. As I entered the worship center, I was introduced to a couple who were first-time guests. This marks the fifth new family this year. That may not sound like much for some churches. But we had ZERO guests the previous year. This couple lives in our neighborhood and passes our campus every day. Last weekend they looked us up on Facebook. Sunday morning, they showed up.
I turned from talking to this couple and saw a husband and wife that I had not seen in person since last March. My heart leaped with joy. On the other end of the aisle was another member who was back for the first time. Walking back toward the front of the worship center, I welcomed one of our oldest couples. He’s 97. She’s 93. Like the other returning members, they were two-weeks post vaccination and cleared to return by their doctor.
As we started the worship service, I lifted my voice to the Lord as we sang about God’s faithfulness. I lifted my voice. I lifted my hands. And then I broke down and wept. I have seen God move the mountains. And I believe I will see him do it again. Great is His faithfulness.
The New Normal
In our state, the number of Covid infections is plummeting. Vaccinations are increasing. And we are planning our next steps. From the very beginning of the pandemic, I refused to acknowledge the “new normal” that so many talked about. There was nothing normal about it. One year later, I refuse to return to “normal” as it was before last March. Post-covid, I want a new normal!
I want a new normal where we continue to be outwardly focused. There are more than 65,000 people who live within a three-mile radius of our church. And because of our location on the major thoroughfare in our area, a huge number of our neighbors drive past our campus every single day. What an opportunity.
Presently, our staff is discussing several strategic initiatives to launch this summer. We are essentially starting with a blank slate and thinking creatively about how we can become a neighborhood church for northeast Birmingham.
Rob Paul is a church revitalization strategist with over three decades of experience serving established Southern Baptist churches in pastoral ministry. He has helped churches in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia to experience revival and revitalization by God’s grace and for His glory. He is currently serving as the senior pastor of Huffman Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. To find out more about Rob Paul Ministries and the work of church revitalization, visit Church Revitalization Resources.