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Last year I talked to three church planters — Aaron Roeck of Heritage Grace Church (Kitchener), Lendl Salangsang of Life Church (Pickering), and Jordan Wilcox of Emmanuel North Barrie — about what it was like to start a church in a pandemic.

I decided to catch up with them again to see how they’re doing one year later.

It’s been a year since I last interviewed you. How has the pandemic continued to affect your ministry right now?

Aaron: In part it affects everything. Each decision we make needs to consider many factors. On the flip side functionally, we can do a lot of what we would normally do, and so it is not as if there is no effect, but we are far from inhibited from living out the mission of the church. We have been blessed with a flexible and readily available location to gather which has eased much of the pandemic induced burdens on church plants.

Lendl: I’m thankful to the Lord that during this time, we’re able to meet in-person more regularly, welcome more people in the church and continue meeting with our small groups. In the next few weeks, we will be having a baptism service as a group of us are choosing to follow the Lord in water baptism. Although the restrictions are starting to ease, certain ones still limit our ministry, specifically baptism and its process.

Jordan: While the pandemic still poses lots of different challenges, the most significant challenge in this season has been in finding a location. In light of Ontario’s move towards vaccine mandates in certain locations, the movie theatre we had been using was no longer an option for us. In the course of about a week and half we had to find a new location and move from a morning to late afternoon service, and I know many other churches were put in the same position. Thankfully, a local church generously made their building available to us on short notice!

What’s your biggest joy right now?

Aaron: Watching people grow brings me so much joy. Seeing our members praying for one another after the service, seeing young families tote their kids out to our services week in and week out, and watching members have a fire lit in their bones as they plod along in daily Bible reading is so encouraging to me! Another joy is having other pastors to link arms with. For example, another local church planter that I had never met (outside of our denomination) reached out to connect when he read the previous article a year ago. He and many others have been such a gift to me to walk alongside through these strange times. Pastors, reach out to each other; it will bless you both!

Lendl: We recently celebrated our first church anniversary! It has been a year—a year of God’s goodness and faithfulness! It was an encouragement to be in a room singing praises and worshipping the Lord altogether! God has blessed Life Church, not only through the growth in numbers, but also the growth of our members spiritually.

Jordan: One of our greatest joys right now is working alongside our church members to see the Gospel advance in our city. In Philippians 1 Paul tells the church that when he prays for them he does so with joy because of their partnership in the Gospel. For Paul, partnership in the gospel was a cause for joy, and we feel the same!

What’s your greatest challenge?

Aaron: Trying to articulate this may be tough, but one challenge that I’m facing is just the general spirit of anger and aggression that is around. It feels like every new issue or change in variables drives us all to go a little crazy. Of course, there are many upsetting things in the world and there are hills that we must be willing to die on. A significant challenge is either dying on the wrong hill or dying on the right hill wrongly. God has been teaching me a lot about the importance of humility and gentleness (I have a long way to go!).

Lendl: The greatest challenge I’m currently facing is getting more creative with visitations. We still have some congregants who are cautious with having guests over in their homes. Having our outdoor gatherings, hanging out on their driveway or backyard and even catching up at the church’s parking lot after service have been great ways to check-in on people personally.

Jordan: One of the greatest challenges would be fatigue. There’s a certain level of exhaustion that sets in over time from all of the different decisions that need to be made, and from the constant changes that the pandemic has brought about. All of these things on top of normal pastoring responsibilities can wear you down after a while.

What would you want other Christians to know about what it’s like to plant in the middle of a pandemic?

Aaron: Planting a church in the middle of a pandemic has taught me more than this article could hold. Most of it could be captured in how God is faithful, he will build his church! It is so easy to slip into overly pragmatic thinking and see the challenges around us as showstoppers. When this happens, I catch myself with such a small view of the church and God’s mission. Church planting in the middle of a pandemic has made me feel individually weak and inadequate, but his power is made perfect in our weaknesses. This is a reminder I often get and often need! I would encourage anyone reading this to set aside two hours to read the book the book of Acts and be encouraged. That is the same faithful God we serve today!

Lendl: God is gracious. As long as we continually rely on Him and His strength, His plans will continue. Sometimes it may not be what we think it is, but it’s on us to understand and know His will for us and the church.

Jordan: Just that God is faithful to demonstrate his surpassing power through our weakness. Planting in the middle of the pandemic has been one long exercise in exposing my weaknesses again and again, and yet God has been faithful to demonstrate his power and his goodness through that weakness. There is great opportunity for our churches, feeling our weakness, to lean into a God whose power is made perfect in weakness.

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