To the weak I became a weak man, that I might win the weak. I have, in short, been all things to all sorts of men that by every possible means I might win some to God. I do all this for the sake of the Gospel; I want to play my part in it properly.
I Corinthians 9:22-23 (PNT)
The year 2020 was approached with great expectation and great enthusiasm by many. Some have said that 2020 invokes the term 20/20 vision, which is used by optometrists to express visual acuity, the clarity and sharpness of our vision. Several articles were written about how special the year 2020 would be. Hopes sprung up as people held on to the promise of a new beginning.
Then came this pandemic that changed the lives of many. COVID-19 came in as a wrecking ball, they say. People were in panic; nations are struggling to contain the spread of this virus that has been causing tremendous damage, killing hundreds of thousands of people and even affecting the economies worldwide. Weddings, babies, travelling, and all other plans were shelved due to coronavirus. Since then, cases of COVID-19 have been increasing and community quarantines have been activated. This has caused the closures of businesses and institutions, including our church buildings.
The church faced the challenge to continue doing the ministry. As most churches obeyed the government’s mandate, their leaderships searched and prayed for ways to minister in this new normal. Some lose hope; many remained hopeful that the pandemic would soon end, believing that this virus is only short-lived and we can all go back to the old normal. Everyone counted days; days turned to weeks; and nine months later, coronavirus is still here and remains a threat. As of writing, the Department of Health confirms 1,738 additional cases in the Philippines.
So will churches stop functioning? Is there a way to continue doing the ministry through this pandemic? Will the church continue to grow despite the restrictions? These were the questions most of the churches began asking. Some of the churches struggled to adapt but most find it as an opportunity to even grow the ministry.
In the context of a church, innovation seems like an undesirable word. Some fundamentalists would even cringe at the sound of the word when applied to a church setting. According to Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, innovation is the introduction of new things, ideas, or ways of doing something. In this time of pandemic, what if this is exactly what the church needs?
The Necessity of Innovation
There was a story about a husband who asked his wife, “Honey, why do you cut off the ends of a roast before you cook it?” The wife responded, “Because my mother did it that way.”
The next day, the husband called the wife’s mother and asked her the same question. When she gave him the same answer, he called his wife’s grandmother. The moment Grandma heard the question she laughed and said, “I don’t know why they cut off the ends of the roast, but I did it that way because a full roast wouldn’t fit in my pan.”
That story portrays how most practices are initiated to serve a purpose. But over time, even the best practice can lose its usefulness. It takes a wise leader to know when to change something. It takes insight to recognize when it’s time for innovation. (Bible.org)
This pandemic calls for the necessity to innovate, to introduce new ways of doing things. This is how the church can cope with the challenges and threat posed by coronavirus.
Jesus, the Innovator
During His time on earth, Jesus demonstrated creativity in all His work towards men. In performing miracles, He used different methods; some of them were never-before-seen by the disciples. Bear in mind, His creativity was in all His work while He was still on earth, and is still manifesting in all the lives of those who believe in Him.
Jesse Giglio writes, “Jesus taught in places that had never been taught…in boats, hillsides and government chambers. Jesus healed those who’d never been healed. He wasn’t just out on visitations delivering daily devotions. Jesus ate with people with whom he should have never eaten. There was no one off limits. It’s no news that Christians love lunches.”
Church buildings were closed. Public vehicles, our major means of transportation, were suspended. Indoor gatherings were restricted. Nevertheless, there’s one thing that remains serviceable: technology (and innovation).
As though all of a sudden, we all rushed to record sermons, performed a virtual choir, premiered videos for live streaming on Facebook or YouTube, turned D-groups, prayer meetings, and Bible studies, and even camps into Zoom sessions. With a slow and unstable internet connection, most Filipino churches were able to overcome the difficulties brought about by this pandemic. Praises be to God!
Intentional innovation is one of the core values of GraceDrive Ministries. “The complexities of ministering in the 21st century demand approaches that are relevant and connect with people and society” (See other core values here). This really has been true to our own local church. Embracing changes as to how we do things at our church was at first difficult. We did not have the needed resources to reach our congregation virtually: a stable internet connection, an efficient laptop, a Zoom subscription, and manpower. But gradually and in His amazing ways, God provided for all these. That was a confirmation that God approves our innovation.
After trying out different conferencing video tools, we decided to use Zoom. With a monthly subscription that costs P750.00, five families in our church decided to contribute P150.00 each monthly to pay for it. We meet via Zoom for Prayer Meetings, D-groups, Bible studies, and other fellowships. With most of the brethren confined at home because of the pandemic, attendance to these ministries have also increased.
Innovations made for our Sunday worship are by far the most challenging yet fulfilling. As stated earlier, we did not have the much needed resources to produce a high quality live stream. But God, in His providence, introduced us to OBS, a free software for recording and live streaming. It has made it easier for us to incorporate virtual choir in this platform. Up to this time, we are still searching for ways to improve our live stream every Sunday, as we pray to extend our reach beyond our local community.
Innovating but staying the same – at the same time
We deem it important to innovate during this time of pandemic. But it is also important to cling to our core values, to remain true to our message. As someone puts it, “Methods may change, but our message should stay the same.” No amount of technology should ever change the message we are proclaiming: Jesus the only way to salvation.
This is certainly a challenging season. But we rest our complete reliance to the One leading us through these unprecedented times, Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20) May He in the end still say, well done! Well done!
by Paul Mar & Jahzeel Paduhilao
*Featured photo source: exedec.com