About a month after the first coronavirus case appeared in South Korea, an infected man attended Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a cult of more than 300,000 that believes Jesus was reincarnated in its leader. This man ended up infecting thousands—in fact, more than 60 percent of the nearly 8,500 cases in the country have been linked to Shincheonji.
Though South Korea hasn’t required a lockdown, most churches voluntarily had closed their doors by March 1. That decision was emotional, since South Korean churches managed to keep services going even during the Korean War, said Steve Chang, a pastor in Seoul.
TGC asked if he has any advice for American churches. Here’s what he said.
Plan for a New Normal
Think long-term, at least twice as long as you think you need. South Korea was well equipped, with technology and infrastructure, to go online. We did it immediately. But most of us thought it would be temporary. So that’s the first bit of advice—don’t think it will be one or two weeks. It will more likely be two months or more.
That way, we can begin to think about how best to minister to our people quickly—through online means such as video calls/visitations, group fellowship, prayer meetings, and Bible studies, in addition to Sunday services—rather than wasting time on “let’s wait and see” thinking.
So some of our group meetings that we planned to postpone until things were better, we realized we needed to just start through online means instead.
Look for Opportunities to Do More than Normal
We had the tendency to think of doing less than we’d normally do in the physical worship setting, because we thought, Why would people want to watch a video of a service for more than 20 to 30 minutes?