Since June 2020, by God’s grace, we have had the privilege of baptizing over 100 believers, many of them recent converts, some of whom trace their salvation to worship services that we held during lockdowns. We have a couple more new believers lined up to be baptized this Sunday at our church, Lord-willing. One was saved at church during a lockdown in April 2021 and the other was saved this past fall. There are still a few more baptism interviews to go yet in the next couple of weeks. The stories of the more than 100 people that have been baptized during COVID are all unique and yet in one sense, they’re all the same.
- Some came because they were desperately looking for hope and light in the midst of this present darkness…and then they found Jesus.
- Some came to seek help with their addictions…and then they found Jesus.
- Some came because they were looking for answers and seeking truth, having become disillusioned with the world…and then they found Jesus.
- Some came to attend the baptism of a loved one…and then they found Jesus.
- Some came looking for in-person community…and then they found Jesus.
- Some came because they wanted to ‘resist’ with us…and then they found Jesus.
- Some came because they were intrigued as to what was compelling us to endure fines, public ridicule, and confiscation of property…and then they found Jesus.
- And some came because saw us in the news and were curious to check out what all the fuss was about…and then they found Jesus.
The journeys are all different, but their climax the same: they found Jesus. And now all of them are continuing to come because of Jesus, not because of whatever reason originally drew them out. They found Jesus. And now they’re staying for Jesus.
Admittedly, I’ve historically been reluctant and uncomfortable publicly sharing “stats” like these, lest it ever come across as some kind of a boast or promotion for the church. Indeed, Christ must increase and we must decrease (John 3:30). But over the last year, I have tended to be more vocal about what God has been doing in our midst. Why? Not in any way to say, “Look at us!” That’s not my intention at all. We are nothing and can do nothing apart from Christ (John 15:5). All that we’ve experienced and all that God’s graciously brought us through over the last two years doesn’t really make sense apart from him. To paraphrase Luther, “We are nothing more than a bunch of poor beggars telling other poor beggars where we’ve found bread.” So it’s certainly not in any way to say, “Look at us!” Rather, it’s to say:
“Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” – John 4:35
I want to encourage and embolden like-minded Christians, elders, pastors, and churches during a time in which the costs associated with following Jesus only seem to be increasing: the harvest is plentiful. God is at work! So resolve to stay faithful no matter what. Remember, God is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.””- Matthew 9:36-38
We have a constitutional challenge coming up in the next few days. And whatever the outcome of these legal proceedings, we have no regrets. After all, we didn’t keep the church open to win a court battle. No. We kept the church open in obedience to our Christ who is worthy. We kept the church open out of love for neighbour. We kept the church open for the least of these. We kept the church open to continue to make disciples through the primary means that we’ve been given to do so—by practicing ekklesia. And God in his sovereign grace has allowed us to reap a harvest of souls. Many have found Jesus and now their lives are forever changed. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Here are a couple examples:
So be encouraged in this difficult time in which we find ourselves. The harvest is plentiful. Christ is building his church. The gates of hell are not prevailing. Stand firm, fear not, and see the salvation of the LORD (Exodus 14:13). Whatever the cost—it’s worth it!
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” – Luke 15:7