Virtual New Day for Worshippers

Gary Newman

The Ashland Beacon


   In the not so distant past, Sunday mornings, for many in our region, meant getting up, getting dressed, driving to the church, and going inside just like the week before and the week before that. It meant handshakes, hugs, & smiles. It was a time for fellowship and congregation to feed that spiritual need.    

   Sunday mornings look just a little different these days. Kentucky continues to stay ahead of the curve and the CDC continues to offer advice that has brought nearly everything in the state that requires assembly to a screeching halt, including places of worship. Pastors from all kinds of places of worship are left wondering how to continue to lead the flock without being together.

Now more than ever, continuing to worship is becoming an exercise in creativity. Churches are assembling in a drive-in style where they stay in the car and are ministered to from the porch, some invite congregants to park in the parking lot and tune in to a radio transmitter to hear a live broadcast. Some are using cell phones and Facebook live, and some are even creating vastly polished productions to share with folks online. As churches face challenges they’ve never encountered before, this “Virtual” service has gone from being an extra to becoming a current norm.

   “It should probably be noted, first, that the Church has been experimenting with ‘virtual worship’ for some time now,” Beech Street Christian Church & Kentucky Christian University professor of preaching Rob O’Lynn notes, continuing, “I often say, the message does not change even if the mode does.” O’Lynn points out that as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, ‘virtual’ worship offers advantages such as allowing congregations to regularly connect to weekly worship, even though it’s not the same as in-person worship. It also serves to keep people safe in very difficult situations. “Do I want to meet face-to-face on Sunday?” O’Lynn begins, “Absolutely. However, that is just not wise. This is not a test of faith. If anything, this is what Jesus is talking about when he encourages his disciples to be ‘as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves’ Matthew 10:16.”

   Greenup Baptist Association’s Associational Missions Strategist, Dr. Brian Horton encourages the virtual model as well. “In recent years social media has become a place for political rants, cat memes, pictures of dinner, Bible verse of the day, and the ever-popular photos of people with their favorite book and a cup of coffee,” he begins, “but these tools are a brilliant way to continue worshipping in the midst of this pandemic. Even the smallest church can set up a phone or computer and record a live worship service and broadcast it to hundreds and thousands of people.” Horton believes that in a time such as this, worship and sound preaching are a must and use of Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, and others is a great way to do this until the church can safely return to not ‘forsake the assembling of ourselves together’ as noted in Hebrews.

   While many churches have been broadcasting service prior to the recent mandate, many who’ve never thought about it are exploring the option for the first time. Centrepointe Church Pastor Zach Daniels, who is a noted vlogger, has not only been producing his services, but offering advice to churches who’ve never done this to make the transition smoother. For those who are going ‘virtual’ for the first time, he recommends consideration to lighting, audio, look at camera, slow down, and focus on the message you’re communicating.

   As the churches face so many challenges, including limited ability for those hurting to find them, a sharp downturn in tithes, and learning entirely new ways of doing things, early on, creativity is taking center stage.