There is much to reflect on as 2020 comes to a close.
More specifically, pastors have been challenged in a unique way to tackle fears concerning a pandemic, racial injustice and a contentious election. As 2020 comes to a close, these issues are still hitting close to home and pastors are still faced with the overwhelming task of leading their people to love and know God through these challenging days – some of them still having to do so from a distance.
As pastors continue to care for their congregations, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) has sought to find ways to honor and care for pastors throughout the year. One way was by providing pastors with a studio space to record weekly sermons.
Between March 19 and July 24, the SEBTS media services team provided recording, editing and overall production services for 51 sermons from nine preachers. In order to serve most efficiently, the team provided basic editing for each of their sermon recordings. Edits included color correction, church graphics at the beginning of the video and fading the video at the end. The team also provided services to churches by uploading their sermons to online platforms, including social media pages and YouTube.
According to a study done by Lifeway Research last year, 41% of pastors don’t normally put their sermons online. In fact, most Protestant pastors are shepherding congregations of 100 people or less. This demographic is the least likely of all to have any online version of the sermon. For small congregations, sometimes it’s simply a matter of money and manpower.
Colin Crawford, for example, pastors a congregation of 35 mostly elderly people. Virtual resources weren’t necessary until COVID-19. Likewise, the church didn’t have the equipment necessary to address the need in a moment of crisis.
That’s when Crawford, pastor of Harvest Glen Baptist Church in Durham, decided to record his sermons in SEBTS’s media services studio each week from the middle of March through the end of July, after finding out SEBTS provided the service. On Friday mornings, Crawford recorded his sermons on the Sermon on the Mount, Proverbs and Esther while also preaching them on Sunday mornings to those in his congregation who were comfortable meeting in person. Because he was able to provide these sermons online, his church was able to reach approximately 60 more people than normal.
As pastors continue to weather preaching in a pandemic, the Lord is using digital platforms to reach those in and outside of the church. While the pandemic may halt meeting in person, it cannot stop the proclamation of the gospel.
SEBTS remains committed to serving the local church, especially during these unprecedented times. In a collective effort to honor pastors, the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership celebrated October’s Pastor Appreciation Month by spurring on encouragement for pastors. For the month of October, church members had the opportunity to nominate their pastors for a chance to win a massive giveaway that was announced on Nov. 2. The giveaway served as a catalyst to honor and celebrate the God-ordained role of those pastoring congregations across the country and is just one of many ways SEBTS seeks to serve the church.
“The pastoral role and the ones who fill those roles have been uniquely gifted by God and are unique in themselves gifts by God to the church to see that the church becomes more like Jesus,” said Ronjour Locke in the Nov. 2 episode of the Pastor Matters podcast in discussing the purpose of honoring pastors. Locke serves as director of the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership.
Southeastern’s Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership exists to equip and encourage pastors to lead healthy, disciple-making churches for the glory of God around the world. The Pastors Center represents an intentional bridge between the seminary and the local church and offers assistance, resources and training to SEBTS students, as well as to pastors and churches to further equip them to serve well in the crucible of real-life ministry. The Pastors Center also hosts a podcast called Pastor Matters, where they discuss issues ranging from ministry burnout to how pastors can equip and mobilize women in the local church. For more information, visit pastorscenter.org.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lauren Pratt is news and information specialist with SEBTS. The first half of this article was adapted from the fall issue of Southeastern Magazine.)