By Matt Henslee
The Beatitudes. We all know them and have probably preached on them a few times, even if they’re a bit difficult to live.
Found in Matthew 5 and part of the “Sermon on the Mount,” they include:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the humble, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
If Jesus said them in 2020, do you think He would have added this: “Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be bent out of shape”?
Take, for example, online sermons. Among the many ways we’ve had to be flexible, this is likely one area that’s been the hardest for most of us pastors.
I don’t know about you, but I think preaching to an empty room is about as fun as doing my taxes. I feed off our congregation, so I always feel flat when staring at an iPhone turned sideways on top of a stool with a percussion toy keeping the phone steady.
It feels awkward, but I’ve had to learn to be flexible enough to preach at the phone. All I see is my face staring back at me, all the while hoping this makeshift video stand won’t fall when the heater turns on.
As we transitioned from drive-in services to two services to scaling back to one service, we still had several people unable or uncomfortable coming inside to worship—so, online we went.
It’s easy to see these makeshift sermons as a curse, but they’re truly a blessing. God has used these makeshift sermons coming from our small rural church to reach people in almost all 50 states. That’s when I realized this was more than a stopgap for our homebound members.
This is literally a chance to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. And people everywhere—not just seated in the sanctuary of our church—needed a way to be able to respond to the message they’ve heard.
I started by asking people in the comments section on our Facebook page to share where they were from, what they learned, and if they needed prayer or assistance. The only thing we heard back was crickets chirping.
Then we started assigning a few members to rotate “attending” our online service to engage those tuning in. Still, crickets.
That’s when I got the idea to make my conclusion as normal as possible and add a personally verbalized invitation—directly from me to the viewer. Home run.
When I extend the “invitation,” I encourage the viewer to email me for follow-up. To date, three people have indicated through correspondence that they have trusted in Jesus for salvation—to God be the glory!
All three were from different states, and I connected each one to a church near them. In fact, we’ve had as many professions of faith over the past few months in person as we’ve had online.
Nothing is as awkward as feeling like that guy who says, “But wait, there’s more! If you email me right now, I’ll send you on a first-class trip to glory!”
But at the same time, with hundreds of folks tuning in that we may never see in our tiny town, I want to make sure each one has an opportunity to talk to someone and be able to connect with a local church.
It’s weird, but it’s worth it. All I did was add an email address to the end of my sermon. God used something so simple (albeit potentially awkward) to call three more people to Himself.
I didn’t reinvent the wheel. I know some churches use text for responses or some other means, but don’t miss out on this silver-platter opportunity.
If you’re still doing online sermons, preach the gospel, and then provide a way for viewers to respond. Who knows? Maybe God will use this simple extra effort to call someone to Himself.
MATT HENSLEE (@mhenslee) is the pastor of Mayhill Baptist Church in Mayhill, New Mexico, D.Min student of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and author of a few books, including Jonah Over Coffee.