By Victor Castillo, pastor of Rio Grande Bible Church
There is no doubt that the year 2020 has been a great challenge for everyone–for businesses, families, educational and government institutions, and communities of faith, but especially for a church plant that is serving our Father God by sharing the Gospel and making disciples of Jesus while at the same time being directed by government and health authorities to not have gatherings or meetings.
No matter if it is a large or small church, we all have been challenged by restrictions caused by COVID-19. We have had to find ways to preach the Word of God, teach doctrine, provide spiritual counseling, officiate funerals, provide social support for those who lost jobs, and the list goes on and on.
A church plant is in the early stages of establishing a community of faith, teaching the Scriptures and developing disciples of Jesus who make other disciples. But all of a sudden the church was told not to have gatherings, and pastors found themselves challenged to figure out ways to continue ministering and taking care of their sheep.
Things are now slowly coming back to some sort of a new “normal;” church members have missed each other for several months, and thank God are slowly coming back and holding worship services to join their voices and their hearts to praise God and learn from their pastors.
For Rio Grande Bible Church, a church plant in McAllen, Texas, it was quite challenging but we had God, His Word and the Holy Spirit on our side. As Philippians 4:13 (NASB) says: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
We never stopped making disciples of Jesus, we never stopped worshiping God, we never stopped providing spiritual support, because that’s what we were called to do, we just did it in different ways. We used social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube live to provide our Sunday online services, and now that we’re able to meet we provide in-person and online services. During the week, we continue to offer discipleship classes via Zoom Meetings, and all Sunday and mid-week teaching recordings are shared via our mobile app Rio Grande Bible Church, which is available via the App Stores for iOS or Android Devices.
We even went out to area hospitals, making rounds once a week to each and every hospital, to hold prayer meetings in their parking lots with the hospitals’ permission. We also delivered groceries to church families and the community. Our single adults ministry, Growing with Purpose to Serve, has been reactivated. Our Youth Group and the women’s group and other connection groups have started meeting again.
Rio Grande Bible Church also started supporting 15 missionaries and pastors in Cuba for a one-year project in September for a one-year project. We believe that being a church plant does not mean we cannot do missionary projects, and we want to make sure Missions are in our church’s DNA.
We preached a whole month on missions, and at the end we challenged our congregation to a missionary project called “Hasta lo último de la tierra” which in Spanish means “as far as the remotest part of the earth".
We must say this has only been possible by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. We’ve never been in the middle of a pandemic, and we know that we may encounter future crises, but we must never forget our calling as described in 2 Corinthians 5 to be ministers of reconciliation.
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
We are so grateful to our Lord and especially to the Baptist General Convention of Texas that has been with us throughout these difficult times. As a church plant, we acknowledge BGCT as a supporter and thank them for being there for us. We glorify God for what He’s doing through Texas Baptists and for channeling His love towards us.