How much of the year did you and your church/city spend in lockdown vs. free to have church?
On complete lock down, we were closed for nearly 3 months, but afterward there were partial lockdowns on weekends where some of the congregation could not travel. So it was open the first 2 ½ months and the last couple of months,
(the lockdown of 2021 was for a little longer)
Give me a brief description of your 2020 highs and lows. What went really well and what were some of the challenges you faced?
2020 started out with a spirt of growth and by what was happening I believed the church would have easily been in a building instead of still in my living room. Our largest crowd was 14 and if everybody would have attended it would have been near 20. Then the Covid hit. The very next week we had to learn to do Facebook LIVE, OBS and Zoom . A big learning curve, if one good thing came out of this it was I learned to be more tech savvy.
Also of those who were attending, during the stress of the first lockdown in 2020, some secret sin was exposed that had to be dealt with. So, I believe that the slow growth was better growth, especially at the beginning. I am glad that I had to deal with it early and not in 3 years from now. I believe God was protecting me as well as the church to expose some “bad stuff” early on. God is merciful.
What are some of the good things you witnessed over this past year?
I think people are more open to spiritual matters on the street. People are seeking.
And of course, our skills in social media, have improved.
I have had great times of prayer with other believers with Zoom,
I have also had more time to work on sermon preparation.
We have reached out more to future leadership who will be arriving this year, involving them in leadership meetings by zoom. They have given good advice. I am not so sure this would have happen to this extent if ministry would have been as usual.
What are some of the difficult things you and your church experienced?
Loneliness and isolation, LIFE church is not a body, A body has to be together if it is to learn how to minister as a body. Also, this congregation has been based mostly on men. There is only one family and all the rest are single men or married men, but their wives and families are back in their home country. Waiting for the pandemic to end and the job opportunities to open up to support the family.
Most of LIFE church’s infancy survival has been because we have put it on Life support. Many times I feel like people are barely hanging on. When discouraged they tend to disconnect instead of come in closer.
How do you think this year has affected your church?
AS a body, we are weak. The believers tend to not reach out to each other, because they do not know each other. If we can come together and learn to crawl, someday we will be able to learn to walk. We had a nice group coming together for only a couple of months on Sundays when they were told they could not attend because of Covid. Many of them are in the process of becoming residents and do not have a grasp on the language, so they do not want to jeopardize their process or deal with the Portuguese authorities. It has also cause a certain attitude of mistrust toward authorities.
Also, the pandemic has affected the economy, many are looking for work. And if they have employment, it is at the very bottom of the economic scale. Plus, Portugal is a higher standard of living that most of them can afford.
Almost one year on, what has God taught you through this unprecedented experience?
I need the Holy Spirit power more now, than ever before. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, and not on our circumstances. I often go back to the conversations I had with God before coming to Portugal, it’s the call to obedience and grit that keeps us going forward. I know we are here in Lisbon for such a time as this. Our task is to obey Him and go forward with what is in our hands. Stay until the church is planted. And it will be planted.
I have also taken time during this year to look and study the foundation of what is being laid in LIFE church. I know our growth has gone slower, but my prayer is that the doctrinal and spiritual foundation being put in place will help the growth of the church in the future. Right now, there is lots of sowing, we know that a harvest is coming.