Growth in Uncertain Times

“Imagine that the pandemic swept through your part of the world, and that all public assemblies of more than three people were banned by the government for reason of public health and safety.” 

Where we are right now, this sentence doesn’t sound that crazy. But it was written in 2009 in the book The Trellis and the Vine as a way to help church leaders think through discipleship strategy. Their point? Circumstances may arise that make traditional church gathering difficult; but personal discipleship can be flexible and actually lead to growth even in difficult circumstances. 

The early church faced a similar situation that forced them to adjust. After Stephen was stoned, persecution against the church grew rapidly. “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” (Acts 8:1) This persecution forced the church to scatter, but without their leaders, the apostles. This large church in Jerusalem now became a bunch of small, scattered groups throughout the region. 

Guess what happened next? The message of Jesus spread where the disciples went. The persecution meant to stop the church’s growth actually accelerated it. Because the apostles had spent time making disciples, the church was ready for an unfamiliar situation. 

Now I understand our circumstances are different. But what if God is planning to use these uncertain times to actually spread the gospel? What if now is the best time to start discipling others? Immanuel has done a fantastic job of staying faithful to our mission during this time. But that doesn’t mean we stop asking how we can best make disciples in our context. 

And I will confess, it has taken me some time to adjust to disciple-making in these times. The process has been slower because it is simply harder to meet with people. But I am not giving up. 

Think of it like this. We are all ready for things to get back to normal. I want sports back. I want my kids back in school. I want Sunday mornings like they used to be. But what if God is planning to make some things better than they were before. What if God is planning to improve our personal discipleship in this time because so many other options simply aren’t available?

Ask yourself, do these current circumstances provide unique opportunities to share the gospel and mentor others? Maybe you have a chance to talk to the neighbor who was never home before. Maybe you can find time in your calendar that was once packed full. Maybe with all these doors closed, God is opening new ones.

By Philip Jones

Philip and his wife Stacy have been attending Immanuel since 2015. They are blessed to be raising four kids. His passion in ministry is to help others follow Jesus through teaching, preaching, and personal discipleship.

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