As a pastor, David Platt understands how discouraging it can be to walk through an empty church parking lot and into an empty church building to preach in front of a camera week after week.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” the McLean Bible Church pastor said in a recent discussion hosted by 9Marks ministry, as churches nationwide stopped gathering and took their worship services online.
He admitted to feeling frustrated as he tried to figure out how to care for the congregation and carry on the church’s disciple-making mission during lockdowns amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite his frustrations, the Virginia megachurch pastor is confident that God is working. In fact, McLean Bible Church has been reaching out to the surrounding community in ways it hasn’t before.
“We kind of turned our main building into a factory, a warehouse for bringing in thousands of pounds of food and distributing it,” Platt said. “Every week, we’ve got thousands of boxes going out with the Gospel … and people professing faith in Christ through conversations from six feet away, and masks, from cars.”
The church has also been reaching Muslim neighbors and sharing the Gospel with them, something “we were not doing before,” Platt said.
“It’s just one example God is doing,” he said. “He’s working. The Good News of His grace is spreading. People are all the more open to it.”
Platt believes more avenues are opening for the spread of the Gospel and disciple making “that were not there before.”
Among his own congregants, he and other church leaders have been going live on Facebook every day at noon to pray together and share God’s Word.
“Why wasn’t I doing that before?” Platt wondered.
When viewing the current situation with travel restrictions worldwide and people unable to leave their homes, for the most part, it can feel as if COVID-19 is a hindrance to fulfilling the Great Commission, noted Jonathan Leeman, editorial director for 9Marks, in the discussion with Platt.
But the Virginia pastor said that is “absolutely” not the case.
“Nothing ultimately is an obstacle to the spread of the Gospel to all the nations,” Platt said.
Yes, there are challenges as it is now more difficult to interact with people and share Christ, especially with those who have never heard the Gospel. But as the Church in the book of Acts continued to grow despite persecution and obstacles, the Gospel will continue to spread today as well, Platt noted.
“God has the whole thing rigged,” he said. “He will accomplish His purpose. The Gospel will go forward.”
When he thinks of China in the mid-1900s when missionaries were expelled after Communists took power, “the narrative was, what’s going to happen? All these people who were working for the spread of the Gospel in China are now gone.”
But people in China continued to come to faith in Christ through underground churches. Today, one missions group, OMF International, believes China is on track to have the largest Christian population in the world by 2030.
“Throughout history, God has used circumstances that we thought were significant hindrances to actually lead to a significant advancement of the Gospel,” Platt noted.
And that’s what he’s praying for now.
“God’s doing things that we don’t see,” he said.