God Fulfills His Promises (Even in a Pandemic)
In anticipation of our annual conference in October, we will be offering monthly articles that center on this year’s theme, The Promises of God. Now more than ever, when there seems to be no solid ground beneath our feet, we stand on the promises of God. In Christ we receive a new heart and a new spirit, becoming citizens of a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Join us at Rooted 2021 as we celebrate the One whose promises to us are trustworthy and true: For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV)
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly more difficult to follow through on our promises. With flights cancelled, trips delayed, and virtual reunions, much of life has been radically changed by this sickness. Yet, the promises of God are not stopped, or even slowed down, by a pandemic. Even on college campuses, God is fulfilling His promises.
In the first days of my freshman year of college, a few friends and I started a Bible study that slowly turned into a campus-wide ministry. Our ministry, Multiply Groups, helps students experience transformation through a commitment to scripture reading, prayer, personal holiness, and evangelism in community. We are a network of accountability groups across our campus that seek to be marked by unity, diversity, and maturity. With a heavy emphasis on confession, repentance, and vulnerability, so much of our ministry was dependent on gathering together. When we were restricted from meeting, our ministry was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the semester leading up to the pandemic, my Multiply group walked through John’s first epistle. When we came across 1 John 1:9, which reads, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” we did not spend much time to pause and reflect on what it meant. For many of us who had grown up in the Church, we had heard this verse hundreds of times. Yet, even as we have continued to endure this pandemic and it has been increasingly difficult to feel connected to one another, God has continued to display His kindness towards us through His forgiveness and sanctification.
Before the pandemic, Multiply was entirely based out of dorm rooms, but due to the pandemic, our entire model had to change. In a lot of ways, I idolized the dorm room model and hated that we had to change it. Before the pandemic, our groups featured college students meeting in dorm rooms confessing their sins to one another, reminding each other of the gospel, and pointing them to Father. By meeting in dorm rooms, we were able to replicate the feeling of safety that comes with meeting in homes.
Now, many of our Multiply Groups meet in empty classrooms socially distanced with masks on. Some members opt to join through Zoom. Despite these unfortunate changes, our groups have doubled since the pandemic began. It turns out that it was not the dorm room model but the people that provided the sense of safety for confession. Before the pandemic, we had around ninety members. Today, we are just under two hundred members. God has been incredibly faithful to meet us where we are and continue to bring new students to our ministry.
Growth in breadth is meaningless, and can actually be hurtful, if it is not matched by a growth in depth. During the pandemic, I have had the privilege of watching friends of mine experience freedom from pornography addictions, gossip, substance abuse, and anger. When college students confess their sins to one another and run to the arms of the Father, He forgives and changes them. In an unexpected way, the pandemic has caused so many college students to run to the Lord, confess their sins, and experience transformation.
During this season, I began to taste victory over the sin of pride and control. The key to remember is that confession is the first step to victory. Of course, we want to abstain from the passions of the flesh, yet when we fall into them, we must turn to the Father. Victory is not limited to abstaining from sin, but includes confessing your sins to one another and turning to God. In my own life, I began to realize that I loved controlling this ministry. After going through a family tragedy, I realized my desperate need for others to lead alongside me in ministry. During this time, my group helped me to relinquish control to Jesus in the midst of my desire to be in charge.
While I value the growth that our ministry has experienced numerically, I place even more value in the improved health of our model of leadership. As we have become more aware of our own sinful tendencies, God has provided new methods of leading Multiply Groups that honor Him. Though our ministry was heavily influenced by Acts 29’s model of plurality in leadership and our groups were led by two leaders, functionally, I was making many of the decisions on my own.
In an effort to create a healthier leadership dynamic, we added an Operations Director to help lead the ministry with me. Additionally, we developed a Church Advisory Committee to provide external oversight over our ministry. By partnering with four local churches to form this committee, we have been able to discuss best ministry practices, support the church, and avoid potential conflict. Because God convicted us of a desire for control, we learned repentance through action. As a result, we have watched as these steps have made our ministry healthier and stronger.
Run to the Father
While much of our ministry was well thought out, my pride and desire for control kept me from realizing the foolishness of leading the ministry on my own without external oversight. Whether you are struggling with pornography, gossip, pride, control, or comfort, confess your sins to God and run to Him, for He is incredibly merciful and will work within you. Even in a pandemic, God fulfills His promises to redeem, restore, and rejuvenate.