We Were Even More Eager to Wait Until the Coming of the Dawn

Editor’s note: Corey Jackson is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Park Church in Cary, North Carolina.

Back in April and May, as a pastor I was struggling to know how I could serve our congregation here in North Carolina regarding offering them the Lord’s Supper during COVID. This is a hardship all churches around the world have faced. Each church’s leadership has needed to thoughtfully and carefully navigate toward a solution. 

At first I reached out to many fellow pastors here in the States for advice. I’m a minister in the PCA and have great connections with several other ministers here in the Raleigh-Durham area. We were on a Zoom call in April talking about how we might be able to serve the Lord’s Supper in COVID and one of my brothers asked me what my Chinese pastor contacts were doing about this issue. He asked me, “Since they were months ahead of us in figuring out practical, pastoral responses to COVID, perhaps they could be helpful in this?”

The next day I reached out to one of my close contacts in China who pastors a church in Chengdu of similar size and theological background to ours, and asked him how they had approached serving the Lord’s Supper. The options we were considering at our church at the time were: 

1) Serve the Lord’s Supper virtually. I would explain the sacrament online, and then everyone would take the bread and wine/juice in their homes privately. 


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2) Serve the Lord’s Supper in small, in-person services. We would wait longer and take time to think through unique precautions we could employ to bring groups of people from the church together to take the Lord’s Supper, while maintaining COVID restrictions like masking, socially distancing, etc. 

3) Don’t serve the Lord’s Supper until much later. We could wait indefinitely until we were able to resume a worship experience that was similar to pre-COVID days, when everyone could come together to share the common meal.

Honestly, though prior to COVID I would have never entertained virtual communion, at the time I was beginning to consider the value of the first option. Medical doctors were hitting up my email inbox right and left conveying to me that the idea of gathering in-person for this or any purpose was ill-advised. With no end to COVID in sight, I wondered if virtual communion might be the right decision. Was I depriving our church members of a spiritual benefit they needed to be given in order to journey with God through this crisis? I wasn’t sure of the answer. I was hoping my friend’s pastoral experience in China, not just in persecution but now also in pandemic, might be a helpful guide for me. 

When I heard back from him I was not disappointed. Over a secure messaging app, this pastor went deep into conversation with me, with great theological detail, to help me understand why they had not opted to go the virtual route.

Here is a glimpse into the depth of his response back to me:

Here is how we think and how we operate. First, even though we believe the meaning and blessing of the Lord’s Supper are spiritual, yet the elements of true, face-to-face fellowship, served by church pastors and elders, in the context of a church gathering, with careful guardianship over the spiritual situation of members are important to maintain.

Second, as a Presbyterian church, think of how during the persecution years in Scotland there was no Lord’s Supper for many years. This helps people be more eager to wait for God’s glory. As the Chinese house church, during the most difficult years there was no Lord’s Supper, yet we were even more eager to wait until the coming of the dawn.

My friend encouraged me not to do communion in an online service, since that approach had not been one we would have entertained prior to COVID. He exhorted me, telling me that this pandemic isn’t the time to give up on what is and will always be core to our theology of the Lord’s Supper: face-to-face presence with God’s people. He advised me to be patient, to wait until things were better, and then to gather people in smaller groups in a park or a home or somewhere outside, yet still in the context of a church service. 

His advice encouraged me to balance gospel urgency with continued patience. I relayed his words to our church’s elders. His recommendations won the day and guided our elders to make a coherent, faithful decision. 

From that point forward, we began to carefully craft a way where our people could come together after an online service, in groups of 25 or less, to take the Lord’s Supper. The Sunday we planned to take the Lord’s Supper for the first time, I messaged my friend in China to tell him the good news—this was the big day when we would take communion for the first time in over three months! 

He messaged me back immediately that their church in Chengdu had just taken the Lord’s Supper for the first time since COVID hit that same morning, only hours before we did! I was amazed at God’s sovereign timing. 

Those Lord’s Supper outdoor mini-services were moments I will never forget as a pastor. Over the course of three hours, brothers and sisters in the church arrived to take the body and blood of Christ together in 15-minute groupings. We enjoyed embodied fellowship with each other, with Christ’s cross at the center. 

During each small gathering, as I set the context for the Lord’s Supper, I told them about our sister church in China, who shared this same meal with us, 12 time zones away, in a very similar manner that very same morning. Knowing we were connected to the global body of Christ added another degree of richness to a moment that was already enormously rich. The grace of God shown to us at the cross was now conveyed to us, faithfully, in a pandemic.

FOR REFLECTION

Can you think of a time when connection to the global Church has changed the way you did something?

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Further Reading

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Qingdao: How to Pray
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Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
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Qingdao: Good Soil for the Gospel
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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