Hopefully by the time you are reading this, we'll be well on our way to resuming "normal" life — although I suspect normal may look different in post-COVID-19 times. It remains to be seen how our lives will be changed when the coronavirus doesn't dominate the news.
Because of the deadlines involved in preparing, printing and mailing the Western Recorder, I am writing this article on April 1, not having a clue what the status of American life will be by the time you receive this issue. That was a similar situation for the April issue — it was at the printing plant long before the various restrictions were imposed to help limit the spread of the virus.
Because we plan our monthly themes far in advance, the theme for May was scheduled to be "Vision 2025." My emails to the various contributors asked them for their thoughts about the five strategic elements to the plan laid out by SBC Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd. The coronavirus situation puts at least one of those elements — increasing giving — on the backburner as churches regroup following weeks of not being able to gather together in congregations. The reality is that giving decreases when people aren't attending church. Online options may be there, but most churches have seen their offerings decline, much of that due to the dramatic increase in unemployment. If people don't have jobs, they don't have income to offer their tithe.
As you read through this issue, you will find numerous stories dealing with parts of Floyd's strategy. Late in the planning for this issue, it became obvious that we could not ignore the implications of the coronavirus pandemic, so you'll read some stories relevant to that situation.
One question posed has been this: Is it good stewardship to continue to publish a Western Recorder during the pandemic? Yes, for various reasons. When the transition was made from a biweekly tabloid newspaper to a magazine format in March 2019, the content of the publication changed to provide information that was not time-sensitive. For the most part, content in the magazine will be pertinent to readers regardless of when they receive the magazine.
Also, it's important to understand that when the April issue was sent to the printers, no one expected churches to not be assembling in their buildings. We are hopeful that churches are gathering by the time the May issue is distributed — although we cannot be certain of that. If churches do resume meeting in May, they will have April and May issues of the Western Recorders on hand. They have paid for the magazine and rightly should receive it.
Our communications team (Western Recorder and Kentucky Today) has abided by advisories regarding working at home and social distancing. We've worked to produce content for our readers to both platforms without putting anyone's health at risk. Churches which subscribe under the bundle plan (a specific number of copies mailed to the church address for distribution to members) are asked to contact us if they have any concerns about getting the April issue into hands of their members.
This situation does point out an alternative to remedy this type of situation. Rather than have copies mailed in bulk to the church for distribution, determine who regularly reads the Western Recorder in your church and provide us their name and address and we'll send that copy to the individual rather than to the church.
The pandemic gives evidence to James 4:14 that our lives are "a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." Hearing the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 testifies to the veracity of that verse. Not long ago I read a statement that said, "These are bad days for the cul- ture, but good days for the gospel." I don't recall who said that, but we're of the firm belief that people are searching fervently for hope now that their lives have been turned upside down.
As several people have pointed out in this month's issue, a revival in our land may follow this extraordinary time — no school in session, no sports on TV, no eating out in restaurants, no gathering together for worship, most retail outlets closed and millions out of work. These days have taken away the excuse many had of not having time at home to read their Bible or pray. No longer does following your favorite sports team enter into how you spend your Sundays. Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal carried a story that posed the question: would the pandemic lead to a spiritual awakening in our day?
That is what prompted a change in the cover of this month's issue. Rather than picturing a person, the cover reminds us of the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness, written by Kentuckian Thomas Obediah Chisholm and inspired by Lamentations 3:22-23. Truly "the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning." It is that truth that provides strength for today in a coronavirus-impacted world, and it is our faith in the Lord that is our bright hope for tomorrow.
Chip Hutcheson is interim managing editor of the Western Recorder, the monthly magazine of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. You can email him at email@example.com.