By James Choi
“I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2
In this season of uncertainties, what is the one thing of which Christians can be certain?
In a global pandemic, what can we rely on more than COVID-19 rapid tests and stimulus checks?
We can know that God’s purposes will not be thwarted.
By God’s grace, I had the privilege of planting New Covenant Baptist Church (NCBC) this past July, alongside other brothers and sisters from Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Our desire is to be a faithful Gospel witness in southern Montgomery County, near North Bethesda and Rockville.
The first six months have taught me that church planting in a pandemic is like boxing in a blindfold. Nothing could have prepared me for 2020’s unprecedented challenges as we prepared to plant this church: canceled interest meetings, canceled prayer and praise nights, canceled support-raising meetings, canceled commissioning service, income source termination on the horizon, three young children in quarantine (help!), and core team members’ new job searches at a standstill. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
Through many sleepless nights, desperate prayers, and countless cups of coffee, I praise God for countless answered prayers, graces, and reasons to rejoice in the work He is doing through NCBC, even in these difficult months.
In God’s grace, our sending church has lent us their church building as a temporary meeting location for free, as they have gathered as exiles all around Virginia; outdoors in Anacostia, in southeast Washington, and now in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. This allowed NCBC to covenant together in person as a local church on July 12, 2020, following Washington’s COVID-19 regulations. By God’s grace, members continue to drive down to Washington from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties week after week. And although we have not officially opened for public services, guests continue to join our preview services week after week – coming from unexpected places like Alabama, Kansas, and Frederick, Maryland! God has added 15 new members to our number and has likewise allowed us to celebrate new converts and baptisms!
Did I also mention that the Lord provided new jobs and new living situations for all of our core team members who trusted God, who uprooted themselves out of a healthy church, and stepped out in faith to join our fledgling church planting effort? Can I tell you, the Lord provided for our budget sufficiently this past year through God-sent donors, supporters, and churches? God provided!
I share with you the ways our Lord has provided for NCBC in extraordinary ways only because He alone is to be credited and glorified for it all. I myself, and probably all those around me, know how insufficient and unimpressive I am as a new pastor. This season and its ongoing pastoral challenges have been a humbling reminder as I have wrestled with anxieties, fears, doubts, pandemic fatigue, exhaustion, balancing and managing time, and weekly preaching. I testify because “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
Although we are only six months old, we are hopeful that the Lord will continue to work through NCBC in establishing, growing, and fulfilling our church’s mission “to proclaim Christ’s promises to make disciples of all nations” in southern Montgomery County for many generations to come.
Would you please pray:
- That we would be a Gospel-centered church in our preaching and teaching, in our love and unity within the church, and in our evangelism. We want to aim our Biblical preaching to be the center of our church community. Please pray we would be so!
- That we would be a prayer-full church. Charles Spurgeon wrote that “if a church is to be what it ought to be for the purposes of God, we must train it in the holy art of prayer.” We are desirous to be a church FULL of prayer. Prayer is a part of my spiritual heritage which became embedded through the Korean church’s early morning prayer meetings. One of the reasons why NCBC holds early morning prayers (EMPs) and Sunday corporate prayer meetings is to grow in our private and corporate prayer. Pray with us that we would be so!
- That we would be a multi-ethnic, multi-generational church. In a time of such grievous racial tensions in our country, NCBC hopes to be a glimpse of God’s heavenly kingdom, as according to Revelation 7:9, in the diverse community of southern Montgomery County. There is a serious lack of ethnic minorities leading multi-ethnic churches and there are few healthy Gospel-centered multi-ethnic and multi-generational churches in our denomination. Pray we would grow as one and that we’d be a model for other churches seeking to raise up the next generation as they reflect God’s kingdom!
- For a suitable meeting location. One of the most difficult challenges of a church plant is to find a suitable permanent meeting location. We desire to root ourselves in southern Montgomery County and to partner with an existing church looking to pass off the baton to the next generation. Pray with us!
As our church has been studying the Gospel of John, I want to share with you a word of encouragement and reminder for you and me. “This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).
Furthermore, I pray the following words of Spurgeon and Grimke will be a blessing to you as they experienced pastoring and laboring in the Gospel through similar seasons in history.
“God takes not away the trouble which He sends unless He has answered His design by it. If you ask me what I think to be the design, I believe it to be this – to waken up our indifferent population, to make them remember that there is a God, to render them susceptible of the influence of the Gospel, to drive them to the house of prayer, to influence their minds to receive the Word, and moreover to startle Christians into energy and earnestness, that they may work while it is called today” (Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Voice of Cholera”).
“Anxious as I have been to resume work, I have waited patiently until the order was lifted. I started to worry at first, as it seemed to upset all of our plans for the fall work; but I soon recovered my composure. I said to myself, ‘Why worry? God knows what He is doing. His work is not going to suffer. It will rather be help to it in the end. Out of it, I believe, great good is coming. All the churches, as well as the community at large, are going to be stronger and better for this season of distress through which we have been passing’” (Francis Grimke, “Some Reflections Growing Out of the Recent Epidemic of Influenza of 1918”).
James Choi is the lead pastor of NCBC. All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Bible.
Cover photo by NCBC Member Melanee Kate Thomas