By Lonnie Wilkey
Churches are employing e-mails, phone calls, Facebook and other social media platforms, and church websites to communicate on a mass scale in order to offer encouragement and provide information.
Chuck Workman, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, Nashville, has seen an increase of members visiting the church’s website for information. He also thinks the website is the best resource for the church to use as people seek hope and encouragement from the anxiety caused by the pandemic.
“I feel like the best way to ‘hold’ our church together is to encourage the visiting of the website,” Workman said.
Frank Lewis, pastor of First Baptist Church, Nashville, posted a message to members on FBC’s website March 17: “First of all, I’m reaching out to you with a word of hope and encouragement. None of us had any idea that a virus would stop us in our tracks the way COVID-19 has, but here we are experiencing a new reality that is impacting every single one of us.
“I am convinced that this is a moment unlike anything in our history as a global community, but nothing about it caught God off guard. Because that is true, it is also a moment for the church to be the church in ways we may have never tried, or even in ways we have forgotten. We need to be wise in the way we respond in this historic moment, but we do not need to give into fear or panic.”
Hilldale Baptist Church, Clarksville, has a COVID-19 tab on its home page that takes members straight to a “communications hub” for the latest updates and a video message from pastor Larry Robertson, assuring members that Hilldale’s leadership team is “committed to do everything we can to provide a safe environment for our church family and surrounding community.”
The website is just one of the tools Hilldale is using as part of a communications plan, Robertson told the Baptist and Reflector. He noted that he sent out an e-mail to members earlier in the week, followed by a video message on Wednesday, March 18. In addition, the church will use social media posts on Instagram to send the same message as the e-mail and video, he said.
“We utilize a strategy in all that we are doing,” he said.
Victory Baptist Church, Mount Juliet, also is relying on its website, e-mail and social media – particularly Facebook. “Our goal is to provide as much normalcy as possible in an abnormal time,” said Andrew Coleman, associate/executive pastor.
That attitude also is prevalent in its worship services as well, Coleman said. The church is livestreaming its services with music and a message from pastor Chuck Groover.
The difficulty has been replicating the community found through Sunday School, but the church is utilizing tools such as Zoom video conferencing to enable classes to meet via technology.’
“These are unprecedented times, but we have to view them as an opportunity,” he said.
Dean Haun, pastor of First Baptist Church, Morristown, noted his congregation “very much senses the need to be connected to one another during this crisis. Thank the Lord for the modern means of media that we did not have just 25 or 30 years ago,” he said.
The church has its own TV/media ministry called RE-TV while small groups are using Facebook Live in order to communicate with each other as well, he said. The church also uses its website and other outlets for communication. For shut-ins and those who do not have computer capabilities, the church will mail a weekly update to them, Haun added.
Pastor Bobby Lewis at Grace Baptist Church, Knoxville, is another of many pastors who are using the website to encourage and inform members. During a video message March 18, Lewis reminded members why they will have online services again on March 22 and that the decision will be made weekly with the best information available.
“We are to love God and to love our neighbor. We best love our neighbor by keeping them from harm’s way,” he said.
He also reminded members the church is not a building, but, instead, is a body of believers. “It’s not about going to church. It’s about being the church in your living room, in your neighborhood, and wherever you may go,” Lewis noted.
“We can still be the church even if we’re scattered.”
Chris Turner, the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board’s director of communications, said it is an opportunity for technology to be utilized for good.
“So often tools like Facebook and Instagram are vilified because of the content that populates the platforms,” he said. “However, this is an opportunity for the church to redeem these platforms to advance the Great Commission and grow disciples.
“Ironically, the persecuted church in other areas of the world have leveraged technology to be the church for a number of years now. This is an opportunity for American believers to not only relate better to those brothers and sisters, but to advance God’s Kingdom through the internet.” B&R