EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is part of an ongoing series exploring faith amid the uncertainty of the global pandemic.
The novel coronavirus COVID-19 global pandemic has allowed God’s people to spend more time reading about Him and his teachings, according to Dr. Clint Miller, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Milledgeville.
“It’s allowed us to spend more time reading our Bibles and some time contemplating and spending time with our families, and focusing on what life is really all about, because when you strip it all away and your family is messed up, what really do you have,” Miller said.
During the pandemic, Miller said he and Dr. Terry Quick, associate pastor of First Baptist Church, have shared devotionals during the week with church members. Miller said he delivers his on Wednesdays, while Quick shares his on Fridays.
“For the first month or so, we tried to do some messages of hope and encouragement surrounding COVID-19, but for the last month, we made a decision to move forward and have started a new series in Acts,” Miller said. “In that series, we’re looking at the birth and growth of the church. Even though we’re in a different situation now, we’re still the church, and the gospel is still the good news of Jesus, and the kingdom of God is still what we’re about.”
Miller said leaders of the church simply said enough was enough and it was decided they would begin a series about the church and growing it, based on how God grew the church in the Book of Acts.
The senior pastor explained that in the first century that the enemy seemed to be the Roman Empire, and sometimes the Apostle Paul had run-ins with the Jewish people.
“But here in the 21st century, this enemy is a microscopic virus, but the work of the church is still the same,” Miller said in a Tuesday afternoon telephone interview with The Union-Recorder.
He pointed out that the work of the church involves proclaiming the good news of Jesus and his sinless life, and his sacrificial substitutionary death and his victorious resurrection.
Miller said the work of the church also includes telling others about how Jesus transforms lives, saves sinners, and restores all to a right relationship with God.
Asked how First Baptist Church in Milledgeville has reached out to members and unbelievers, Miller said the pandemic has made that part of their mission more challenging.
“The pandemic has definitely caused our contact with people [to be] significantly limited, so it is more challenging, but the good thing about technology is through the internet, videos, devotionals and sermons, those kinds of teachings can go literally around the world,” Miller said. “The personal contact is now a little less than it used to be. But you can still encounter people and tell them about the hope you have in Jesus.”
Miller said the pandemic won’t last forever.
“This is hopefully going to last just another few weeks,” Miller said.
For almost three months now, evangelism has been more challenging, he added.
And sometimes, people need time to refuel and recharge their batteries, so to speak, Miller said.
“Hopefully, our people have been doing that during this pandemic,” he added.
Now that a lot of businesses are reopening in the area, some churches are planning to do the same soon, including First Baptist Church in Milledgeville.
Miller said First Baptist Church plans to reopen its doors to in-person worship service on Sunday, June 7. Worship service will begin at 9:30 a.m.
“We have taken lots of measures to ensure social distancing,” Miller said. “We’re not doing any small ministry. We’re just simply doing a corporate worship service at 9:30 a.m. on June 7 with no Sunday school classes.”
The senior pastor said the church was not preparing bulletins for the service and also removed all the pamphlets and other items from the pews for safeguard measures.
“We’re going to encourage people who worship with us that day to social distance themselves,” Miller said.
This will mark the first time that First Baptist Church in Milledgeville has opened its doors since they closed back in early March.
“It will end up being close to three months that our church doors have been closed to in-person services because of the pandemic,” Miller said.
Miller said he wanted to leave believers and unbelievers alike with scripture from Psalms 46.
“I am thankful that we can always find help, strength and refuge in the Lord,” Miller said. “God is sovereign. This virus did not catch him by surprise. And it is certainly not larger than the hope we find in Jesus.”