Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee; fear not, neither be dismayed.” These words were spoken to the House of Israel 3000 years ago, but they remain significant to God’s people today.
The narrative for the 2020 General Conference actually began when the Apostles met in November of 2019 and established a technology advisory group. The group was initiated by several young men who volunteered to help the church reach those who primarily use technology. Named “Advisory Group-1830 Media Team,” the team supports the mission of the Apostles through modern, digital media outlets. Team members are: Tony McIndoo, Cody Fann, Stephen Kimball, Kevin McGhee, Daniel Malone and David Andrew Vogel. Although it was not understood at the time, by forming this group of young men, God was orchestrating the means to execute the 2020 General Church Conference.
The annual Church Conference was scheduled to begin April 5th. However, in January of 2020, news outlets reported about a serious virus called Covid-19. The new virus quickly became a pandemic. On Sunday, March 15th the Apostles met via a conference call and decided to postpone the General Conference. On March 16th the City of Independence announced that “gatherings of any size are discouraged.” By the end of March, to inhibit the spread of the virus, most countries had closed schools, non-essential businesses and issued “stay at home” orders.
On April 8th the Apostles determined to have a virtual conference, and asked the 1830 Media Team to provide the digital resources to implement an online conference. The General Conference was set for May 30th. Church of Christ members were provided an online platform to pre-register, make nominations, and vote before the Conference began.
On May 30, 2020 the Church of Christ General Conference was held online with Apostle Jeff Oldham in charge. There were 85 attendees from four countries: Canada, Mexico, Honduras and the United States; attendees in the US were from 16 states. During the 3 hour and 32 minute Conference, members received the voting results for the church officers and committees, heard missionary reports, and approved a 2020-2021 budget. The Conference was accomplished through the efforts of the 1830 Media Team and Apostle Jeff Oldham, Apostle Joel Yates, Elder Dan Lawrence, Bishop Jim Case, and General Church Secretary Rhea Housknecht.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought challenges to the Church of Christ worldwide. Yet, we can be encouraged because the Lord went before us and provided the means to have the 2020 Conference. During the Coronavirus lockdown, God sustained his people in numerous ways. Many members accessed live stream sermons and studies from locals in the US, as well as from Honduras and Mexico. Several locals had weekly online prayer services that enabled isolated members to participate as well. Members of the 1830 Media Team were instrumental in providing the Temple Lot Local with virtual adult Sunday School classes and an 1830 Podcast. Sisters Manon Lawrence and Jennifer Yates taught weekly children’s Sunday School classes online. Whether it was through digital media, serving the sacrament to members in the church parking lot, or meeting at a rural church local – God’s people were spiritually fed. In the future we may experience more trials and dilemmas, but Deuteronomy 31:8 promises that God is with us; he will not leave us. We don’t need to be distressed or fearful. Let us strengthen our relationship with Christ and with one another. Let us grow in faith, hope and charity, and in all seasons and situations in life, serve the living God who goes before us.