Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. – Acts 8:4
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. – Ephesians 4:16
I believe these two scriptures best describe how we have seen God transform the church in Madrid during the COVID-19 quarantine and confinement over the last few months. The physical isolation from each other that we have endured has forced every one of us to work harder for connection and to find our role in the body of Christ. We were “scattered” around Madrid, each of us stuck in our own homes, and were faced with a decision: Will I let the confinement cause me to shrink back and withdraw, or will I take it as an opportunity to grow and give more?
The overwhelming spirit of the disciples was the second response: to grow and give more. We have witnessed this in the collective willingness to serve the church, the equal concern that each part of the body has had for the others, and the faith and vision to look for those who are seeking God and use technology to help them find Him.
Several disciples have stepped up to serve the church and meet two urgent needs that were highlighted as soon as we entered quarantine: 1) create a dynamic and effective online presence and 2) accelerate the response to benevolent needs in the church.
Before the quarantine had begun, we had a very limited online presence as a church. We had a great website and streamed our services live on YouTube, but our social media presence was lacking and our engagement with people online was almost non-existent. When the reality sunk in that we would have to do everything online as a church for the foreseeable future, several disciples stepped up and decided to use their talents and gifts to create a dynamic online presence for the church. Our online presence and engagement have been growing consistently on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, which has led to many new evangelistic opportunities (more on that later).
At the same time, we realized that the economic fallout from people losing their jobs or having their salaries reduced would create a new benevolence need in the church. The board of directors had a meeting immediately after the quarantine was announced to create a sustainable plan for meeting the needs, and the benevolence team created a new and agile process for fulfilling benevolence requests. To this point, all of the needs of the disciples have been met.
Another encouraging development has been the eagerness of the disciples, and especially the family group leaders, to stay connected with each other and see to it that every member is being encouraged and helped. Within a week of the quarantine beginning, every family group and discipling group in the church began to actively and consistently meet on Zoom, which was a platform essentially unknown to us prior.
The third and final way that the church has decided to grow and give more during the quarantine is particularly inspiring as it relates to the mission to seek and save the lost. The disciples had the faith and vision to use technology to reach out to those who are seeking God. It has been truly incredible to see the amount of new Bible studies that have been started during the last three months. Some have been people that had been around the church for a while and decided to use the sudden amount of extra free time to finally start studying the Bible; others have been people from Madrid and all around Spain that connected with us through the church website or social media after watching our virtual worship services on YouTube.
One especially encouraging example is Diego. Diego and his then-fiancée came to church for the first time in September 2019 and began to attend sporadically. He and I began to talk over WhatsApp, and when they were married in November, I was able to serve as one of the legal witnesses to their wedding. We continued building a friendship and talked about studying the Bible together, but we were never quite able to figure out our schedules to meet. That is, until the quarantine began, serving as an immediate and radical stop to daily life. Diego and I both recognized it as the perfect opportunity for him to start studying the Bible in earnest.
Two other brothers joined the studies and we began to talk two to three times a week over WhatsApp video calls. As we studied the Scriptures together, Diego’s attitude, faith and life began to transform in profound ways. He had a religious background but had never dug into the Bible so thoroughly and personally. It became clear to Diego where he stood with God and what he needed to do to be saved.
He wrestled and counted the cost and prayed many times about the decision, and on Saturday, June 6, with a legally-allowed group of just under 10 people gathered at my house, Diego was baptized in a fresh-out-of-the-box inflatable pool, the church’s new portable baptistry. It was a celebration of his new life with God, and also of the fruit of both he and so many disciples viewing the obstacle of quarantine as an opportunity to glorify God and grow and give more.
Please pray for the church in Madrid to continue to grow and build itself up in love as each part does its work, and for the disciples to hold fast to the conviction to preach the Word wherever they go even, and perhaps especially when we are scattered.