JACKSONVILLE—Florida Baptist pastors were encouraged to cling to God’s peace and acknowledge His sovereignty as COVID-19 disrupts every aspect of life during these turbulent times.
In a March 26 statewide videoconference call, Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, called the more than 140 Florida Baptist pastors into prayer.
Citing Jer. 32:27, Green said, “We come to the One who is in control and is Lord of the past, present and future. We know he is able, and we call upon him in one heart tonight.”
Four Florida Baptist pastors promised their fellow pastors that they were not alone during the hour-long call.
“God is with us. We are in the midst of a chaotic culture, a chaotic world where everyone is looking for direction,” he said, “but we all know we can depend on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Referencing Phil 4:6-9, Cummings said, “With instability in our world and in our culture, we need a peace that goes beyond what we can do and what we can produce. We need a peace that is divine.”
He told them to recognize that anxiety is the opposite of peace. “The peace that God gives is the perfect peace in midst of the storm—this too shall pass.”
“We can despair and panic, or we can adjust and grow.”
Noting that he has been in isolation the past few weeks, Tim Maynard, pastor of Fruit Cove Baptist Church in Jacksonville, reminded fellow pastors that the “Church has done quite well in the past in exile. The Church has experience that throughout history and certainly even continues to do so today in persecution.”
“This is not stopping the church,” he said. “The form of church may be changing some, our delivery system and our meeting abilities in some ways may be altered, but the church is alive and well. God has not lost control.”
“This is not lost time. This is God working. We just have to keep our eyes open; our hearts open to what God is doing in these days.”
Willy Rice, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, urged the pastors to see how God is using this moment to bring a spiritual awakening to the nation.
He referenced Acts 8, when believers remaining together in Jerusalem were hit by a wave of persecution. Saul was “ravaging the church,” entering homes, putting men and women in prison.
“Those who were scattered went on their way preaching the church,” said Rice. “What the devil meant for evil, God used for the expansion of his Kingdom,” he said.
“A season of ravage forced them into a new chapter that caused the church to advance and grow,” Rice said. “This present season is absolutely forcing us to do ministry differently.”
While some say they want to return to “normal,” Rice discourage that desire, reminding the pastors that normal is plateaued and declining churches.
“Our culture was running at breakneck speed away from God. Do we really want to pray to get back to normal or do we want to pray for God to use this for a great spiritual awakening? If God was going to send a great spiritual awakening, did we believe it would happen through business as usual?”
“Maybe America is a little less rich, a little less proud and a little more ready to hear a message,” Rice added.
Money hasn’t worked, sensuality, pride, acclaim and false Gods have “failing them us,” he said. “We’ve got the hope America needs. We have the hope that transcends troubled times.”
“God is work in this crisis….be faithful and do the best you can.”
Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, reminded participants that “everything in your life, my life, and your church and my church has changed. Here’s the good news…it was always His church it’s never our church.”
“God has done something. He’s interrupted all of our rhythms. Now we are doing church without the building because I believe God wants to send a message.
In the book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah laments over the destruction of the Temple. In fact, the was Temple destroyed twice. Yet the church still grew.
“Who else but God could shut down all the idols in all the world,” Whitten asked.
“I believe this could be one of the greatest days of the life of the church,” said the Tampa-area pastor. “I think this could be our finest hours.”
Statewide prayer meetings will be held each Thursday night. Watch the Florida Baptist Convention website and social media posts for details. A recording of the prayer time can be found on Florida Baptist Convention’s Facebook page.