COVID-19 seems like old news. We’ve been living with the reality of this pandemic for months—and in Australia at least—we can even see to the other side now. When you look back on the recent months, what do you see? Perhaps those months are painted with anxiety or frustration or boredom.
But, we hope you see God’s incredible goodness too. We hope you see his mercy. 88% of our readers report that COVID-19 has presented opportunities for personal spiritual growth. That is a gift from our Father, who never stops forming us into the image of Christ. Along these lines, we’ve heard many exciting stories from churches across Australia this week.
From China to Chatswood
Andrew Sylvester runs Chatswood Presbyterian’s youth ministry. He’s seen God move in remarkable ways during COVID-19. Last week, during a youth group Zoom call, two teenage boys made prayers of commitment to Jesus, publicly putting their faith in him for the first time. Plus, some of the girls in the group had a special request, ‘Our year 9-10 girls decided together that they no longer wanted to play games in lieu of spending more time talking about how they can share the gospel with their friends’, says Andrew.
God is drawing this church family to himself—from near and far. Last Sunday, a couple from China joined the church’s Zoom meeting. This couple shared their testimony and in this virtual space, they connected with a non-Christian couple seeking answers. ‘They were able to answer many questions this non-christian couple had about the faith’, shares Andrew. God used a Christian couple in China to answer the questions of a non-Christian couple in Chatswood!
God used a Christian couple in China to answer the questions of a non-Christian couple in Chatswood!
Hopeful Social Media
One church family in Melbourne, Darebin Presbyterian Church, has been documenting God’s faithfulness to them—via Instagram. Using social media for all it’s worth, Darebin Presbyterian is regularly sharing updates from church members. These stories not only serve to encourage and connect the church community as a whole, but also capture moments of God’s goodness.
‘For me, life with COVID-19 in Australia has meant I am busier and more tired. I feel thankful to have a job that can continue in this time, though I have noticed that my days feel shorter and my mind is distracted. I have found it hard to consistently read the Bible and reflect on the great truth that Jesus loves me and died for my sin so I could truly know God. Darebin Presbyterian Church’s Spotify playlist has been a real help to me. Our God is a good God, the God of true peace, I am thankful music can help us remember this. God is awesome!’.
‘I’ve never been much of an early riser or a morning person, but I’ve been encouraged lately by the effect that making my daily Bible reading and prayer my first activity of the morning has on my perspective throughout the day. Across Biblical stories, songs, letters and prophecy throughout history it’s comforting to see that God is consistently good, holy, righteous and loving. Ultimately all these things point to Jesus and I find that when I start my day reminded of his grace and mercy toward me I feel encouraged to reorient my heart away from it’s inclination to make my day all about me and toward serving our good God’.
Determination to see God’s hand at work is evident through their social media presence, and we can be sure that this hopefulness is a work of the Spirit.
This church family—like us all—has been hit with the realities of COVID-19. They have given up their rented space and transitioned to filming church in a shed. There have been real moments of pain and anxiety for many in their church community. And yet, they have seen God’s Spirit encourage them. They have found new opportunities to grow in knowledge and love of God. Their determination to see God’s hand at work is evident through their social media presence, and we can be sure that this hopefulness is a work of the Spirit.
Church Plant Emboldened
Rick Zylstra pastors a new church plant on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Aura Church is just nine months old. ‘COVID-19 certainly wasn’t what we were hoping or planning for’, shares Rick, ‘but we’re resting in the fact that our God is sovereign and that he has a wonderful habit of bringing good things out of tough stuff’.
This is exactly what he has seen God do, ’In God’s providence, the very last physical gathering of our church family was to baptise two blokes who have put their faith in Jesus. This was a super happy occasion celebrating God’s saving goodness!’.
Right now, lots of Christians are unusually bold, and lots of Non-Christians are unusually bored
The church family at Aura have enjoyed the ease of inviting people to church online, ‘Plenty of visitors have been showing up at our online services, some who have simply found us online, but many who have been invited by their church friends’, says Rick, ‘We are so thankful to God, that our congregation hasn’t lost their evangelistic enthusiasm at this time, they are simply re-calibrating it to meet the current circumstances. Right now, lots of Christians are unusually bold, and lots of Non-Christians are unusually bored’.