Pastoring Amid Coronavirus in Seattle

By Stuart Bell

Editor’s Note: This story was updated March 30, 2020, to remove certain outdated information.

Within a few days, everything changed.

The World Health Organization declared a pandemic. Global travel plummeted. The governor of Washington state prohibited gatherings of more than 250 people. Sports leagues cancelled events.

“Where is the bottom?” folks are wondering. “And what will happen to the stock market?”

Before mandatory social distancing was in effect, a group of 25 Seattle church planters and pastors met to pray. The time of fellowship strengthened all of us, as we considered countless questions.

What are we to think of it all? How are we to minister to our people? What opportunities are available to advance the gospel? How should we comply with directions from the city, county and state?

Ultimately, we asked, “How will our Lord Jesus be glorified in it all?”


We must be wise, responsible and obedient to the authorities—this is no time for foolish daring.

Ministry challenges in Seattle—considered by some to be an epicenter of America’s COVID-19 (the outbreak of the new coronavirus)—are increasingly daunting.

Schools and community center closings present challenges to many churches and plants. Some of our members are facing severe economic effects. For example, Amazon’s decision to require thousands of employees to work from home, with Google, Microsoft and other companies following suit, has a serious downstream effect. Hourly employees are particularly struggling.

How should churches respond to hurting members, who cannot gather weekly?


Our Seattle-area churches seek to be part of the solution. We’re trying to balance witness with responsibility.

What is our response when meeting bans drop to 50, 20 or 10 people? Some churches have begun meeting online, using technology for preaching and prayer. Others are preparing to scatter, implementing a house-church model. One church has resorted to listening to pre-recorded messages. Another pastor spoke of transferring funds saved on rent to meet the needs of distressed church members.

How can we serve the community? Perhaps by offering childcare to support families affected by school closings, going to local coffee shops (if allowed) for small group Bible studies and one-on-one meetings, or offering to provide a deep-clean of a church’s host facility. It is time for creativity, marked by wisdom.


For many, part of the fear associated with coronavirus seems to be a sense of inevitability, along with a lack of control. There appears to be no end to the spread of the virus.

This can be especially unnerving in a culture accustomed to solving problems. Despite Seattle’s culture of creativity, earning the nickname “Cloud City,” many are wrestling with the possibility that some things may be beyond the reach of immediate solutions.

Enter the hope of the gospel!

Our witness is bold: God exists. By His power, for His glory, He created all there is—out of nothing. But humanity, created in His image, rebelled. As a result, brokenness in the world and death has been our norm.

This brokenness takes on many forms—natural disasters, poverty, sickness—and an unpredictable, invisible virus that has jolted the world.

Beginning in Eden, God has pursued reconciliation with sinners, making redemption the story of the Bible, with Jesus’ crucifixion as the focal point of history. On that day, Jesus satisfied God’s wrath toward sin.

Today, anyone who looks to Jesus by faith, in repentance, will be born again, adopted, forgiven, declared not guilty, and indwelled by God’s Spirit. In our redemption, Christ has taken away the fear of death.

Our current challenges have a singular effect on Jesus’ Church—hope! Amid the coronavirus, while doing our part for a hurting community, Jesus’ Church looks up. We find ourselves increasingly longing for His return and serving others as we wait. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Keep up with church planting in Seattle on Instagram and Twitter by following @sendseattle.

Published March 13, 2020