ROBERTSDALE, Ala. (WKRG) — Joining us this morning is Pastor Harvey Earls with Bethel Baptist Church in Robertsdale. We recorded this interview last week. Bethel Baptist Church is one of a handful of churches that has voluntarily returned to online services only after resuming in-person services a few weeks ago. We wanted to talk about how members of a congregation can be involved in the church without being together. Where do you start?
Guest: It’s difficult not being together. The church is more than a meeting place – it is a family of faith. Whether new or old to our family, each of our members and attendees are valued, and are missed dearly when they aren’t present. Several ways our members can be involved in the church without being at the geographical church address.
First of all, attending our online services provides a sense of connection and an opportunity to corporately worship even in separate locations. Secondly, our church continues to be on a mission. With the ultimate goal of reaching others for Christ, our church does so through acts of service and love for our community.
Also, our church members are encouraged to be ministers to one another. From our deacons to our teachers to all of our members, we have members checking on each other, loving each other, and showing up in times of need or hurt. I’m blessed to be the pastor of one of the most loving churches I’ve ever had the opportunity of being involved with, and it is wonderful to see that love in action.
Anchor: When you have several families watching the same service online in different homes, how do you build connectedness from there?
Guest: It’s important that church members know that they are ministers as well. It’s one thing if the pastor calls someone, but for the congregation to rise up and express love and concern for each other is a “whole ‘nother way” of love. Our members have a private Facebook page where we post prayer requests and I share from my heart on a frequent basis. Members are encouraged to check on one another and to pray for one another frequently, especially during these days.
Anchor: How do you keep a sense of comradery and fellowship?
Guest: In addition to the Sunday and Wednesday corporate worship times, and members connecting with other members we do other stuff too. Everything we do hopefully gives an additional sense of connection and fellowship to our members.
One thing I strongly believe in – it’s important to keep smiling, laughing, having fun. With that in mind, we try to do online fun stuff. Starting tonight (July 19) and running through Thursday night, we are doing online VBS every day. I occasionally do online piano concerts – I’m planning on doing one this Friday as a matter of fact at 7 pm. We also do fun things online – we’ve done a Jeopardy game show, for instance. Every time a member tunes in to one of these things, they feel connected to the church family, the church mission, and they are reminded that the church isn’t even close to being shut down – it’s alive, active, and in all ways glorifying Jesus Christ!
Anchor: How do you keep the mission of the church going without, for example, large collective community service projects and other events?
Guest: We are trying to keep the missions and those projects active and efficient for an online setting. For instance, right now, we have adopted a number of teachers in our church and in our community with the hope of being able to provide prayers, encouragement, and material blessings to them as they prepare to begin teaching this coming year. In August, we hope to do the same for our home school parents in our congregation. We are looking at future days in which we can creatively bless first responders. We keep in close contact with our ministry partners such as Women’s Care Medical Center.
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