Today, the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Jerome Adams, suggested that America should get ready and that a bad week was coming in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic. He urged Americans, “…to be taking the right steps, right now.” The data and the opinions of experts all seem to suggest that he is right, and not only about America, but about the broader world.
Government officials continue to roll out new requests to try and limit the spread of the virus, but it appears that these measures, at least in some places, will come too late to stop a surge of cases. As a Conference, we have encouraged adherence to all federal, state and local guidelines for our churches.
As a conference of churches in North America, we as Seventh Day Baptists should now prepare for a season of difficulty that may last a significant period of time.
Our churches have done a good job responding to the first pieces of this crisis in terms of establishing communication systems and providing for continued worship of Jesus Christ. (If you have not seen it yet, a list of SDB congregations that are providing online worship services can be found here.) We encourage all of our churches to continue on to next steps of communication in terms of caring for their individual congregants and communities, following the lead of those churches who are establishing call trees and other means of connecting to one another. This is an important first step to mobilizing for service to our world and one another in this time.
If you, your family, and your congregation have not taken steps to limit your travel out of your homes, you should consider that immediately, unless the local authorities have determined your travel and work is necessary to the response to this crisis.
What remains for us is to equip ourselves for what is coming. Even in the midst of crisis, we have hope that God will bring some good outcomes out of this, not least through the avenues we have to serve our communities and one another.
The first and most important step you can take to prepare yourselves is to pray. It is very easy to acquire a long list of prayer requests at this point if you have the slightest inclination to do so: for those who may have been infected, for those who are working in hospitals and clinics to treat them, for those who are trying to develop life-saving treatments, for those who are struggling with providing for their families because of the economic consequences of this crisis, and a myriad of others. You should also pray for your pastors. All of these and many others need your prayers. We encourage all SDBs to make use of the communication means at their disposal to communicate their prayer requests to one another, and for all SDBs to “pray without ceasing.”
In addition, please study your Bibles. Connecting yourself to God’s Word in difficult times is one of the ways that God can grow spiritual roots in us which can withstand this and other crises. We have a variety of resources available from the Conference to aid you in this if you don’t know where to start. Our Helping Hand has a digital version, and the daily meditations on Scripture from that resource can be delivered to your email daily. Our Scripture Memory program, created by our Conference President Kevin Butler, could also aid you in studying the word of God in this time. It’s not to late to catch up if you start now to complete this year’s program, especially if you have some time on your hands!
Considering what God has done throughout history can also provide helpful perspective. This is not the first time that a pandemic has ravaged our world. You can search the Sabbath Recorder from 1918-1920 to discover how SDBs responded to the Spanish Flu epidemic. Other hard situations are detailed in the SR’s pages also. Go digging! Reading our other history resources (either online or in print) may also be a way to help you see how God has been faithful throughout all generations.
All of these pieces are a part of a good regimen of spiritual and physical self care. Please remember to care for yourselves and your families, as it will empower your service of others as well.
Beyond all of this, remember that our role before all ages and in all circumstances is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. That includes those who have not believed in him previously and need to hear Jesus making the “follow me” call to them. Be prepared to share your story and to give reasons for the hope that you have in Christ. It is critical in these dangerous times that we fearlessly herald the Gospel of Jesus both in our proclamation of the Gospel and in our demonstrations of it.
It is time for all of us to mobilize to represent King Jesus. The prayers and service of your General Conference coworkers in the Kingdom go with you. If you think of ways that we can assist you, please contact us and we will do our best to aid you! If you are looking for good resources, we encourage you to look at https://coronavirusandthechurch.com/.
Tomorrow night at 8pm Eastern/7pm Central/6pm Mountain/5pm Pacific, I will be running a Facebook Live session from the General Conference’s account around these issues with additional reflections about living “A Day at a Time.” I invite you to join me and other SDBs to consider how we can actively advance Christ’s Kingdom together in this challenging time.
In Christ’s Service,
Nick Kersten, Director of Education and History