By Josh King
It’s a brave new world. Or at least it is for the near future.
Last Monday most churches planned on having a typical Sunday. By Thursday everything changed. And for us at least, everything changed again on Saturday.
Our church, which regularly hosts 1,100 individuals in person and another 300 online each week was suddenly facing the reality that we had to go completely online to help mitigate the spreads of the coronavirus.
So we did. And so did many of you. For those who met in person, it seems likely that they will be meeting online this next Sunday.
We are ministering in a “social distancing” context. This is strange for a work that is much more natural in a person to person method.
Many of us are asking questions about how we can minister in this setting. We ask this of ourselves personally, on behalf of the local churches we lead, and on behalf of the Church at large.
It seems like we need each other more than ever. Not just individuals, but churches. This is a time when local churches can band together for the sake of the gospel, for the good of the people in our communities, and for the glory of God.
Here are ways the Church can be a source of stability—and have a strong public witness—during these seemingly uncertain times.
Be mindful of our tone.
There is a real threat, and people are actually nervous. While most of us aren’t medical professionals, we’re able to speak into the soul of the community. It helps to be calm and affirming—to ease the nerves and to pray for our leaders.
In our social media presence and in our sermons it’s helpful for us to speak about peace and confidence in the sovereignty of Jesus.
My friend Dan Darling tweeted: “I can’t stop thinking about all of the people whose jobs depend on normal economic and social activity: vendors at games, uber drivers, day laborers, restaurant workers, service industry folks. Their lives will really be impacted.”
His point is helpful. Many people in our communities will face financial challenges as the practice of social distancing continues.
My advice is to practice generosity whenever possible. Patronize local business if you’re able. By tipping or donating to local causes we can practice generosity for people who depend on the service industry.
As church leaders many of us should look out not only for our own congregations but others as well. In many cases the offerings and donations given to churches will reduce drastically. For any churches unable to accept online giving this effect will be even greater.
Churches with capabilities like live broadcasting and online donations can leverage their resources to help. By a few of the under-resourced churches working with the capable church they can better weather this storm.
The collective of churches can share in the planning, promotion, and execution of the hopefully temporary normal.
Simple things like acknowledging each of the churches during the greeting and splitting the preaching responsibilities can strengthen each of the bodies.
An alternative, but similar, idea is for larger churches with recording staff and tools to make those available for pre-recorded sermons and lessons.
Be the best advocate for the vulnerable in your community.
My friend Josh Howerton and the church he serves as pastor, Lake Pointe Church, are modeling community compassion at an epic level.
In his words, “The Governor of Texas told us his greatest concern was the kids who depend on free/reduced food programs at school for their daily food supply…We turned all our campuses into drop locations for the seven food items school systems told us were most helpful. As of right now, we’ve boxed 4,000 boxes of food for distribution to those families.”
In just a few days Lake Pointe has collected 75,000 pounds of donated food. Of course, not every church can or will collect quite that much food, but in working together the churches can easily collect exponentially more.
The questions we need to ask ourselves are:
- How can I serve the individuals in my church?
- How can I partner with other churches?
- In what ways can our church work with community leaders?
As I write this, the world seems to be changing so rapidly, and it is nearly impossible to keep up with. Ministry is changing, at least for now.
In times like this, it’s important for us to work together in order to make much of Jesus and to model the unity and compassion He called us to.
JOSH KING (@JoWiKi) is the pastor of Second Baptist Church in Conway, Arkansas, husband of Jacki, and father of three boys. He’s also the co-host of the EST.church podcast.