When COVID-19 hit South Africa, and the government imposed a lockdown, it was important for us to comply with the regulations. Although meeting together is an essential part of church life, we recognised the need to temporarily move to online platforms in order to protect the health and the lives of people throughout South Africa, particularly the most vulnerable.
While the pandemic took us by surprise, it is comforting when we reflect that it did not take God by surprise. In fact, he had already spoken clearly to Andrew Selley and the eldership team to put a number of things in place towards the end of last year. These things proved massively beneficial during this period of lockdown. One such example was establishing systems to enable live streaming of church services.
Our mid-week community (home group) meetings have taken place primarily via Zoom (and other online video conferencing platforms). While this has definitely been second best to being in one another’s homes, it has enabled us to remain in contact and to still encourage one another. In a strange way, having not been able to meet physically has given many of us a greater appreciation for our community.
Thankfully restrictions on ‘religious services’ have been partially lifted in South Africa. We have been able to meet together again, in limited numbers, at most of our venues for the past several weeks. In line with government regulations, we are restricting numbers to 50 people per meeting and implementing strict registration, sanitisation and social distancing measures. Face masks are required but the joy on people’s faces is still evident as they gather together!
It is a huge privilege to be able to use technology to connect but there is no substitute for meeting in the flesh. The excitement is palpable as people arrive on Sundays. Our meetings have seen a real outworking of ‘the priesthood of all believers’ as many individuals bring prophecies, words of encouragement and operate in the gifts of the Spirit. We continue to pray both for a further lifting of restrictions and also for those who are at high risk and still cannot meet with us.
This pandemic, and its consequences, have brought great challenges to everybody as well as a large deal of uncertainty about the future. It has been a time where many people have been searching for answers; a time for the church to rise up and proclaim that true hope lies in Christ. We have experienced people from all over the world finding us online and watching our ‘JoshGen Live’ Sunday streams.
A number of them have expressed interest in partnering with us in a variety of ways, including planting outreach communities or congregations where they live – again something that was prophesied over us as a church long before the pandemic began. Others, who live closer to where we currently have congregations meeting have come to visit us and many have committed their lives to Christ. It would be easy to think that a crisis such as this may have damaged the church but God has used it for His own glory!
This has certainly been a difficult and challenging time that has shaken many, however, as Andrew taught us during his Uncorrupted Faith series, God shakes us so that everything that isn’t of Him falls away and what is left is purified and strengthened. We are confident that as we move forward we will, as a church and as individuals, be stronger and better prepared for the next step in the journey that the Lord has for us.
If you would like to visit us on Sundays you are more than welcome to join us. Every Sunday we keep space for visitors and you can find more information about our meeting times and locations here. We are looking forward to welcoming you in person!