Better than before

Frontlines: Our church is flourishing in spite of the coronavirus

Pastor Nathan Ensz records a Sunday morning service at Kingwood Bible Church, Salem, Oregon, during the coronavirus shutdown. Photo: KBC/Instagram

I had a clear calling to serve as pastor at Kingwood Bible Church in Salem, Oregon. Some ministry opportunities seem as though a yes or no response is justified either way. When this calling came, I knew I needed to respond affirmatively. I continue reminding myself of God’s distinct call to lead the people he has put under my care.

Two and a half years into this new ministry a global crisis struck. The national goal of slowing down the spread of the coronavirus shut most of society, including churches. What a flurry of emotion this thrust on various people, me included! The Kingwood family has grown in vision and mission over the last few years. When the pandemic hit, maturing believers, with greater clarity, quickly embraced appropriate responses. Leadership teams, strengthened and established in the early season of ministry, stepped up. While COVID-19 took us by surprise and quick adjustments required our attention, the leadership teams did not despair.

Immediately, our elders expressed their commitment to helping me carry this new load. Our current five elders divided the church family equally, reaching out weekly to those within the body.  They also contacted me weekly, offering assistance and personal care. I see this leadership team flourishing in ownership over ministry and believe this crisis accelerated their growth.

Other leadership teams followed suit, taking ownership of reaching out. The Operations Board, which oversees the facility, remained busy painting, pressure washing sidewalks, weeding and installing a permanent basketball hoop in the parking lot for the neighborhood families to enjoy. The Women’s Ministry Team delivered care packages to the doorstep of every Kingwood lady, and the youth leaders dropped off pizza and soda to every teenager.

The typical American church tends to fall a generation behind when it comes to technology, and Kingwood is no different. Current technology will likely be utilized 20 years from now. The speed at which the church embraces technology is normative and silently tolerated, but this pandemic required rapid adaptation for the church to remain relevant and continue to see impact. In God’s goodness, he brought people into our church family at just the right time to help technologically accelerate our methods. While Kingwood still has room for technological improvement, it has come very far in the matter of months.

This crisis accelerated one more area: the younger generation. Guess who shows up to “run” church? The very generation absent in most churches—20- to 40-year-olds. When I look at the volunteers who come to help with the livestream Sunday worship gathering, I easily see the next generation stepping up. They are the ones who quickly told me they would serve however possible and show up without hesitation to serve.

In an email exchange with our elders I said, “When this is over, I want Kingwood healthier than we were before.” I understand the difficulties in this season of ministry, but I refuse to waste what God can teach and accomplish through this crisis. It will pass. Will the church evidence itself stronger? God remains faithful and will use this for the good and growth of the church, ultimately for his glory!


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