Rev. David Judge
As we prepare to conclude calendar year 2020 in a few weeks, we’ve asked some of our pastors to answer the question: What did you see in 2020, and what did you learn from it? The second pastor to answer that question for us is Pastor David Judge of First Baptist Church of Cornelius. Here is what he has seen this year:
At the beginning of 2020, it appeared that it would be a good year for the church. We had averaged 65 people in attendance in the fourth quarter of 2019. January attendance was 69. February, 79. Then COVID hit.
Five years ago, we were at the edge of the cliff. The pastor had resigned. His ministry team left with him. Members left also presumably looking for a fresh start. We were heavily in debt and low in attendance with about 45 on any given Sunday.
Five years later, we were strong and growing again. Attendance was up, giving was up, baptisms up, membership up, and salvations up. Zero debt. Then COVID hit.
At first, we weren’t sure what to do. So, we fell back on what had brought us from the edge the first time.
Rule # – Love God. Worship and the preaching of the Word were the priority. By God’s grace we had started streaming the sermons in January, so the technology was all in place to continue. We stayed open while other churches were closing. Our smaller size was a blessing. When the restrictions to indoor meetings were set at 100 people, we stayed open. When those restrictions dropped to 50 and then 10, we thought best to obey the governing authorities and continue streaming only. But as soon as the judge ruled that places of worship were exempt, we went right back to worship in the sanctuary.
Rule #2 – Love your neighbor. Next to resume were outreach and missions. Five years ago, we turned our focus outward. We marked our mission field to be a half mile radius around the church. We built a strong relationship with the elementary school down the street. We developed strategic partnerships with other ministries. As their needs grew with the spread of the virus, we were there to assist them.
We made 100 sandwiches the first day the schools were closed. The lunches were delivered to kids in the neighborhood who wouldn’t otherwise have had lunch that day. We did this every day for two weeks. We stood in the gap until a larger organization relieved us.
When the schools began remote learning, we partnered with another ministry to provide a free, safe remote learning environment with Internet access in our fellowship hall where the children could be easily distanced. We served 30 local kids daily at our camp.
We became a food distribution site. We delivered Thanksgiving meals. Now, we are collecting Christmas gifts for kids in need. All within a half mile radius of our church.
An important question to consider: If you and your church were to disappear off the face of the earth tomorrow, would anyone in the community around you notice you were gone? As I look back on 2020, I can answer that question with a resounding YES. What I have learned in 2020 is this: There are those who will say that the church is not an essential business. In our community, I can prove otherwise.
Watch for more of what our Pastors have seen in 2020 in the coming days.