By: Jonathan Hill
Resident Director of Evangelism Ministries
Our pastors and congregations have found themselves in a strange and unique situation. The weekly preparation of sermons and Bible studies, children’s lessons, order of services, worship list, and visitations, have all had to be reconstructed to meet our new normal. We scroll through social media post with catchy images and pithy sayings such as, “the church has left the building,” or “every major crisis creates unexpected problems and unprecedented opportunities.” It’s not hard to find pastors who preached about how social media was of the devil, now hurrying to ask a grandchild to help them post a sermon online so their congregation can hear from their shepherd.
A German poet named Bertolt Brecht stated, “True progress consists not in being progressive but in progressing.” This statement resonates with me on many levels as I think about what we as the church body are dealing with. Just as the Covid 19 virus continues to progress across the world, with no prejudices in sight, I’m excited to see our ministers and local pastors who shepherd their congregations, stretch themselves and embrace the gift of technology. It’s not about being the latest and having the greatest, but it is about progressing in utilizing every tool God has afforded us to win the lost. Yes, I’m talking about the very technology that in one minute can drive you crazy, dealing with its idiosyncrasies, and at the same time, be utilized to share the Good News around the world, literally! I can’t help but wonder in the sovereignty of God, did He see the capabilities of the internet and social media platforms as a witnessing tool being one of the “greater things” (John 14:12) Jesus said we would do than what He did while on this earth?
Pastor Craig Walker, who also serves as the Healthy, Growing, Multiplying Churches (HGM) Online Church Coordinator, utilizes online capabilities to share the Gospel on a weekly basis and in large crusades. For example, he recently preached to 80,000 Pakistanis via online video and saw 73,000 come to a saving knowledge of Jesus as their Lord and Savior! How can we not stand in awe of the power of the Holy Spirit utilizing the people of God taking advantage of the tools of the day! Yet the very same tools used to reach people who have never heard the name of Jesus are now being utilized by rural American churches to reach out to their congregation members to maintain community. But the side effect has been this, those rural pastors are now reaching more people than ever before due to the exponential power of people clicking on a “like” and a “share” button.
I’m thankful to see so many men and women of God step out into the unknown, by faith, and attempt to tackle this new pressure point known as church online. Keep in mind, it has been pressure points in history that created some of the greatest catalyst for the spreading of the Gospel. Pastor Geoff Surrat once said, “the only time an organization changes is when the pain of staying the same becomes unbearable.” History reminds us of the pain caused by the British Empire that launched men in search of religious freedom to form a new world, known as America. Try to imagine the wrestling of heart and mind of the Catholic monk, Martin Luther, who questioned the authority of his leaders whose teachings did not line up with what he studied in
God’s Word. His progressing of the day led to the Protestant Reformation. Last but not least, the early church experiencing persecution, seemingly a hardship, but in God’s plan, truly did call the church to leave the building. The results, the Gospel being shared in Judea and Samaria, and to this day, reaching farther than ever before.
This is a trying time, but the opportunities are vast. Our Sunday morning routines may never look exactly the same. Online church, small groups, etc., will become a staple for many more churches around the world. Could it be that God is using this pressure point in time for the local church to not just reach its current flock but to force it out of the normal gathering and catapult it into a harvest field much larger than we ever thought possible? For the glory of God, let’s push past our comforts and ask God how we can be used for kingdom work in our new paradigm.