As I’ve talked with people over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been so encouraged by what has been happening with church online. It has been great to see people’s desire to reach out and care for their congregations and wider community. What an amazing job everyone is doing in such a tough time!
Right now many are craving the hope, peace and comfort they can find in Jesus. I’ve been encouraged by how many people who aren’t yet Christians, or people who have never set foot in a church, are seeking to know about Jesus! There is much to praise God for.
Can I suggest a few things for church leaders and members to be thinking about as they encourage each other to share the good news with their community: how we can actively live out Jesus’ mission to reach the lost.
We know our good God hears and answers our prayers, therefore encourage your church to pray big, bold prayers, asking God to raise up more workers for the harvest field. Pray we would be the answer to our prayers – that God in his goodness would use us and give us courage to speak words of hope and light into the lives of those around us, who are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Pray that God would open many hearts to hear and respond to the gospel during this time.
2. REACH OUT
Having prayed, church members need to reach out to their friends. Contact people you have been praying for and keep chatting with them, asking them how they are going. Offer to pray for these contacts and think through practical ways to support them. People have never been so open to receiving phone calls and handwritten letters, along with texts, messages and video chats. Send invitations to all your contacts to come to your online church and include information to help them find out more about Jesus. Also include an offer of practical help, care or prayer.
Encourage each other to be bold in inviting people to watch our online services. It has been amazing to see so many previously unreached people venturing “into” church in recent weeks. What an opportunity! Can I encourage leaders in sermons and music to be aware of this. Check your words for jargon and assumed knowledge. Include clear explanations of the gospel in each service, giving people opportunities to respond and find out more. Invite people to do Word 121 together. This is an excellent evangelistic resource to read with someone or for them to work through on their own. Wouldn’t it be great if God brought many more people into his kingdom at this time!
4. GET SOCIAL
Encourage members to think through positive ways to use social media. For example, they (and you as a church) can regularly put Bible verses on Facebook with a brief comment. Many not-yet Christians have been responding positively to this. Post thoughtful, well-written, encouraging or challenging articles or talks. Email them to friends and family. Put them on your church Facebook page. In your services and on your social media accounts you might offer to put a Bible on people’s doorstep or in their letterbox, or other resources such as The Essential Jesus, 2 Ways to Live or the Why Easter? booklet. This is the time many people are more likely to read something about Jesus. they’re also extra happy to have something free delivered to their doorstep!
5. FOLLOW UP
Offer groups via Zoom to watch some of the excellent, well-produced online courses available for free, such as Christianity Explored. There is some great material with excellent short interviews, answering many of the big questions people ask. Put these links upfront on your church website and Facebook pages so anyone can access it for themselves. Church members can also forward course links to their contacts and start an online discussion group.
For people who don’t mind reading, suggest helpful books such as Confronting Christianity – 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion by Rebecca McLaughlin or Lost and Found - How Jesus helped us discover our true selves edited by Colin Hanson. These are wonderfully encouraging and helpful, will spark lots of conversation and encourage people to seriously consider Jesus.
I pray in this tough but exciting time that God would continue to work in and through all of you for his glory and for the salvation of many.
The Rev John Lavender is a Sydney minister with a passion for sharing Jesus who recently joined the staff at Evangelism and New Churches.