The COVID-19 pandemic gives an “unprecedented opportunity to reach others with the hope we find in Jesus Christ,” Cris Alley said April 15, opening a webinar on reaching others in an age of social distancing.
Alley, team leader of the Strategic Focus Team of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), said the crisis has created a “climate of common anxiety that gives us these opportunities to check on our neighbors without excuse. They all understand why we’re checking on one another.”
He joined Russ Reaves and John Davenport, BSC strategy coordinators for the Triad and Triangle, respectively, in walking through a missional response to the crisis. Alley rooted practical suggestions and resources in abiding in Christ, referencing John 15: “apart from Christ, we can do nothing.”
Reaves suggested taking advantage of what is permitted within social distancing restrictions. Daily walks can be prayer walks for neighborhoods and a chance to start conversations with neighbors who are outside. He mentioned the Bless Every Home tool can serve as a guide to praying for and building relationships with neighbors.
“God intends for His people to live life together in community,” Reaves reminded viewers. “We see this in … how Jesus taught large crowds and then He taught the 12, and then He taught His inner circle of three.”
“We think about how powerful community is,” Davenport added. He pointed to the plural pronouns in Hebrews 10: “‘Let us draw near, let us hold fast, let us watch out for another.’ … We need each other.”
Davenport encouraged viewers to continue to regularly connect with their local churches and small groups for prayer and to do “whatever they need to do to keep gathering and looking at the Word of God.”
Keith Feather, a LifeWay regional church partner and guest on the webinar, shared a resource of options on leading groups for those with less technological experience.
When a participant asked whether virtual leadership development could effectively continue in a post-COVID-19 context, Reaves and Davenport responded with optimism and shared a few ideas.
Reaves noted the broader impact leaders can make by leveraging technological tools. For example, pastors who have sent members to do mission work overseas can check in more frequently than monthly or quarterly calls and “equip that leader day in and day out.”
“We think about how restrictive these current controls are on us, but … now I can actually engage people on other continents,” he said.
Davenport elaborated on churches’ increased online reach and posed the question of how churches plan to follow up with online sermon viewers who respond to a gospel invitation. While pastors may take the responsibility of contacting virtual guests, Davenport encouraged them to consider including other members in that conversation.
“Why not set up a Zoom call to include somebody else, to be able to model for them how to share the gospel, how to listen to this person and discern what their needs are?
“Then you could begin to build up more and more people who could respond to visitors” even after meeting restrictions lift and churches can begin to gather again, Davenport said.
Watch the complete webinar below: