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May 28, 2023

Spreading the Gospel

COVID-19 has forced all of us to live life differently, from the way we shop to the way we worship. Churches all over the country are livestreaming services and Bible studies, using Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and other social media and online sources.

Reverend Tim Starnes at Covenant Presbyterian in Cleveland said they have been utilizing various ways to share the Gospel with their congregation and many other people who have discovered them on social media.

“We have been doing livestreamed worship services on Sunday morning and we end the day on Sunday with livestreamed devotionals,” said Starnes. “And during the week, we have tried to do two 10 to 12 minute devotionals. People can go to our website covenantcleveland.com and connect with us livestream or we also do Facebook. We’re trying to reach out to as many people as we can. And with our online services, we’re reaching twice as many people than just our congregation. You don’t know exactly how long they’re with us out there, but with Facebook, it will show you how many views you have and we are definitely encouraged.” 

Starnes added that preaching to an empty sanctuary can be almost surreal. “You don’t have anyone in the pews, but you have to see by faith that those people are actually out there.”

First United Methodist Church is also finding that online sources during the pandemic are a great way to spread the good news of the Gospel. Reverend Will Wilkerson said that Facebook Live and Instagram Live have been two of their main resources.

“Our worship services have been going out live on Facebook, Instagram and we’ve been going out over the radio as well. And I’ll admit, it’s a bit different preaching to an empty church. However, we do have a very small group of people there, such as the musicians and a couple of singers. I have just learned to preach into the camera and try and connect there, rather than into people’s faces and eyes. And, we are getting our message out and people are being touched by it. A large portion of our congregation is tuning in and people are responding in a positive way. We’ve also reached many people who do not live in Cleveland, so that has been a blessing.”

Lead Pastor Brad Beckwith at First Baptist Church said that the transition for them to online was fairly easy because of practices that were already in place, but of course, very different without the personal and in-person component. 

“Obviously, the separation and isolation has been necessary, but definitely not ideal and not what we want,” says Beckwith. “As Christians, we know that gathering together physically for worship is very important. It’s been hard on the entire church because we miss the physical interaction of seeing each other and fellowshipping. But, we were able to make the transition from worshipping physically to going online fairly smoothly. We already broadcast our services on TV and did livestreaming, so were already set up for that. Being a speaker, it’s tough not having people out there listening to you. So, we have a hunger and a longing to come back together. But, we use Facebook and YouTube primarily right now to reach people and are thankful for the technology, because getting God’s message out there is the most important thing.”

Our Lady of Victories in Cleveland has been holding Masses online daily and on weekends. Father Kent Bowlds said they use Facebook and people can also connect with them through their website: olvcleveland.com 

“It’s interesting too and surprising at the number of people who click on our Facebook Mass, now whether they stay for the entire service, I’m not sure, but I know we are reaching people in other towns from the comments I’ve seen,” says Bowlds. “It has certainly been a blessing to some people who can’t go out to church, and once we go back to regular services, these online resources may continue.”

By Angela Rogalski The Bolivar Bullet