Well, it seems we’ve “been around the block and back again” and for some, it seems as if we’re headed off again. Here in the State of Wisconsin, there has been some discussion, agreement and disagreement over what kind of “religious gatherings” are allowed, how they are carried out, who can attend in what way and even whether they are “essential” at all. I have and still contend that regular church services are absolutely essential.
My focus now is the potentially unintended consequences of the government-mandated shutdown of all “religious services” back in March of 2020. In order to continue to do my best to “equip the saints (of Bible Baptist Church) for the work of the ministry,” I began utilizing the Facebook Live platform to deliver sermons in place of regular “normal” attendence. Whether you can tell or not if you watch the Facebook live feature we host at 1:30 PM Central time on Sundays, this preacher is NOT technologically savvy. (Believe me, I’m trying, but an old dog learning new tricks takes more time.
Believe it or not, I feel, in a way as if I were forced into the Facebook Live sermons because the congregation needed spiritual nourishment and I had to do my best to get it to them. The first couple of opportunities were difficult for me, especially in remembering exactly how I managed to get started on the Facebook Live video feed. Since the time is long past, I’ll admit that there were a few old rebels who, after the first two weeks came to church to sit quietly, listening while I shared over this medium because, in their words, they “just needed to be in church!” Their rebel ways in coming to quietly support their pastor, enjoying the sermon in person, in defiance of the government mandate, was incredibly encouraging to me.
Now that some things have changed and we’re back to meeting at our regular time and place, the Facebook Live sermons continue. Standing and teaching for Sunday School, leading music, preaching the morning sermon, Facebook Live, then the afternoon sermon can get quite tiresome, physically. Honestly, it is such a joy to fulfill what I truly believe is my calling from the Lord Jesus Christ, that the physical tiredness is inconsequential.
I have to think of what the Old Testament patriarch, Joseph had to say to his brothers as he revealed himself in Egypt. Allow me to paraphrase Genesis 50:20; “while you meant it (the ban on in-person services) for evil, God meant it for good.” Just as the “defiant” (my terminology) attendees during the shutdown were incredibly encouraging to me, there have been a great variety of people who regularly watch, perhaps not live, but watch and appreciate the teaching. The “likes,” comments and “shares” are just as encouraging.
The greatest blessing of beginning and continuing the Facebook Live are that there have been people who “found” the online sermons and enjoyed them who would not typically attend. In some cases, these dear friends live far enough away, and many even live out of state. Not only have some “found” the online sermons, but there have even been some who have visited in person and even continue to attend. Had it not been for the
Governor’s mandated shutdown of in-person church services, there likely would have been no Facebook Live and the current results.
Where perhaps the government had intended to silence, or at least minimize the impact of the churches, many, many churches, like ours have found a way to go online in addition to currently continue in-person services. By using the internet and other similar resources, our little bitty church in little Neillsville, Wisconsin now has a national and in a few cases an international impact.
Indeed, God can and certainly HAS turned around what even I intially saw as a terrible situation, into something incredibly GOOD. To God be the glory!
~ Pastor Joe