Tag Archives: covid-19

Who Knew I Could Paint? God Did!

COVID Blessings

Remember what it says in the Book of James? “Count it all joy…” (James 1:2).

Or what about Psalm 118:24? This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

My point is that, yes, his whole virus thing has been tragic, but have there been no silver linings? Has God not been at work? Has all the time we’ve been forced to “be still” been worthless? No, God has been at work in ways we would have never slowed down enough for had COVID-19 not been thrust upon us.

As a matter of fact, even if you have been personally affected by the virus, stop right now and thank God for his love, his mercy, and His grace. Thank Him! Praise Him! He is worthy!

Blessed Art

One of the blessings that I received was the realization that I had a talent for painting. Now, I don’t claim to be a Michaelangelo or Bob Ross, but as of this point, a few people have actually given me money for my work, which not only shocked me but affirmed the gift God has given me.

And the art money pays for my watch hobby! No guilt!

But even more, I am finding that the things that I am drawn to paint resonate with others. In just the short time that I’ve been doing this, just a few months, I’ve heard so many comments like:

  • “That reminds me of home.”
  • “That will make her so happy.”
  • “Do you sell your paintings?”
  • “I would buy a print of that.”
  • “The Lord has blessed you.”

Below are a few paintings I have done and will probably have prints made, soon. (UPDATE: Click HERE for prints)

Mitchel Baptist Church, Mitchell, GA (watercolor on 11×15 paper)

A reproduction of the 1953 baptistery painting that used to hang in Bethlehem Baptist Church, Warthen, GA. (watercolor on 8×8 paper)

After the pine trees had been farmed in middle Georgia, not the Apocalypse. (9in x 12in canvas)

Warthen Lane, Warthen, GA. A typical middle-Georgia dirt road. (11×15 paper)

So what do you think? Isn’t that a blessing? I had no idea I could do anything like this until God forced me to sit in a house for a while.

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! – Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)

Sometimes what God does is force us to be still, the result being His name is praised throughout all the earth!

Think about how many sermons have gone out through all the world in the last 6 months!

And now there are people like me who have found new ways to give God glory!

Yes, I’m blessed. 

 

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Filed under art, coronavirus, worship

An Open Letter to Pastors (and ministers) Delivering Regular Content During the Pandemic

Dear Pastors (and fellow Ministers)

As I write this, it is late Saturday night and I am thinking about my sermon for tomorrow. I’ve been looking at my notes, the Scripture, and thinking about the overall theme, paying particular attention to how I might be able to draw the sermon to a close. For some reason, I don’t know why, invitations have become more difficult for me in the last year or so.

But it’s not the Sunday morning sermon that concerns me – at least that’s not the reason for me writing this letter to you. It’s the content that you and I are expected to deliver to those watching on Facebook, YouTube, or whatever other streaming service you prefer.

I don’t want you to get tired of doing it. I don’t want you to get discouraged and give up too soon!

I don’t know about you guys, but I have been producing more Bible teaching since the pandemic began than any other time in my life! I literally post online content 6 days a week, twice on Sunday and Wednesday! That’s EIGHT original content presentations a week! Granted, what I produce during the week is not as deep as what I might deliver on a Sunday or Wednesday night, but sometimes it is deeper. Sometimes it could qualify for a full-fledged sermon. But is 8 times a week a little much?

Especially if you feel nobody is watching? Anybody with me?

Without a doubt we pastors are working harder than ever before. One reason I can say that with complete confidence is that we are, at the very least, using spiritual, mental, and emotional muscles we’ve never used before. We are in uncharted territory most days. That can drain a person.

Yet, what does your congregation expect out of you? How else are you able to stay in touch or connected throughout the week? I know this might sound self-serving or vain, but is what you are doing online partly due to the fact that you don’t want to appear as idle or taking advantage of the social distancing?

How many of you are beginning to question the efficacy of all the online content we are producing? How many of you are beginning to feel like you’re having little to no impact? I’m not going to lie; I’ve been feeling that way more often each day.

Nevertheless, what I don’t know is what God knows. What I am doing is the best I can with what I’ve been given. I am using every means possible to keep church (and all that’s involved with that word) in the lives of my flock. I’m doing all I can to make holy lemonade out of COVID-19 lemons. And only God knows what really happens on the other side of the computer or smartphone screen.

Though not exactly the same context, I am reminded of the following verse:

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9)

No farmer expects to make pie out of the fruit of his labor the day after he plants the first seed. Likewise, we don’t have any idea what this surge of biblical content is going to affect in the future: no one has ever had the opportunity to calculate the germination times.

We are planting and watering in fields where the Word of God has never been sown. We are flooding the airwaves and the internet with more of the Gospel message than at any other single time in history! And all that we are doing, all that we are sowing, and in all the areas and hearts where our ministry is reaching… Have we forgotten it is guaranteed to produce fruit of some kind? His Word does not return void!.

Maybe you didn’t need the reminder. Maybe it’s just me. But I just want you to know that we were put here for this time. What we do in this time will affect not only today, but tomorrow, too. We may never live to see the results of our plowing and cultivating and planting, but future generations may be feeding on the fruit decades after we have left the plow.

Don’t grow weary, gentlemen. Be encouraged! Stay strong! Keep up the good work!

Sometimes the only one in the field is the farmer. Keep farming while the weather permits.

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, blogging, Christianity, Church, coronavirus, ministry, Preaching, the future

Social Lockjaw and the Need for Cleansing Truth

Image may contain: Anthony C. Baker, sitting, eating and outdoor

Discussing the wonders of an ice cream cone with my granddaughter, Emma Louise.

Can We Talk? 

Do you remember Joan Rivers? That’s what she used to ask in her comedy routines. “Can we talk?” was her way of segueing into something off-color (can I say that?), a little risque, or otherwise uncomfortable.

Can we talk?

You see, one of the deadliest viruses going around these days has nothing to do with COVID-19. It’s a virus that could be called “Social Lockjaw.”

People are too afraid to have honest and open conversations. People are afraid, regardless their opinions, to open their mouths.

Interestingly, the causes and symptoms of Social Lockjaw are eerily similar to actual Lockjaw (i.e., Tetanus).

Tetanus (Lockjaw) is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition brought about when spores from a particular bacteria inter the bloodstream after some form of intrusive injury. The bacteria is most common in rich soil and can enter the body and the nervous system through a puncture wound or cut (like stepping on a nail or getting dirt in an open wound).

Penicillin will kill the bacteria, but one of the most effective actions one can initially take to stave off infection is to immediately clean and rinse the wound with clean water.

Interestingly, there is a vaccine, but it only lasts so long. Therefore, a booster shot is needed every 10 years.

When Tetanus takes control of a body, one of the main symptoms is a tightening of the muscles in the neck and lower jaw, causing a person to be unable to open his mouth.

When people are harmed, and when the dirt of the world is left in a wound that is covered and never cleansed by the pure water of Truth, death is likely to occur, if not silence.

And, ironically, those who have been inoculated in the past and have dealt successfully with past wounds, even they must be re-inoculated with the vaccine of Truth on a regular basis.

Bullying and Intimidation

Wounds come from all kinds of sources. The wounds of racism (personal and institutional) have lingered for generations, and the spores of the bacteria that kills will always linger in the soil. Those wounds must be opened in order to be cleansed, and some of that, unfortunately, is happening right now.

But other wounds come about by blunt force trauma, such as with bullying and intimidation, allowing the bacteria resentment and bitterness to be mixed with fear, thereby making it more difficult to cleanse. But the washing of the wound with Truth is desperately needed. Without it, the wounded will never open their mouths and the disease will win.

The absolute worse thing that any side of any argument can do is be allowed to be beaten down and silenced. Social Lockjaw is not the answer: it’s the symptom of a deadly illness.

The now normal bullying and intimidation by those of the Left-wing are shaming the rest of society into timidity and Lockjaw as they accomplish their goals through forced compliance. And the more we allow the pokes, the jabs, the unchecked piercing accusations, and the raised-fisted blows to all things civil, the more severe the symptoms of Social Lockjaw will become.

Unless we cleanse our wounds with Truth… unless we wash away the bacteria of fear and self-loathing from the puncture wounds of the past, the life of our society will be suffocated by our own closed mouths.

If you know the Truth, then you have every right and responsibility to speak it.  Or, die in silence.

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Filed under America, Culture Wars, current events, politics

It’s Just Been Busy and Writing Is Draining

Dear friends,

I just wanted to send out a quick update, just in case you were out there wondering why in the world I hadn’t been writing much as of late.

Well, honestly, it all boils down to two simple reasons: I have been more busy than ever because of the virus, and writing, especially about anything going on these days, is simply too tiring.

I can’t do everything. At least not as much as I want to.

So, when things slow down a little and I can afford the luxury to write more, my posts might go back to more in-depth, thoughtful commentary on life, reality, marriage, crime, politics, pets, legalism, watercolor painting, theology, people-watching, watches, zoology, substance abuse, and irrational fears.

Until then, follow Jesus.

Oh, and I’ll include a few videos to show you what I’ve been up to 😉

– Anthony

Image may contain: Anthony C. Baker, text and outdoor

Click on the Facebook link to watch Pastor Kenneth Ware and I talk racism and Jesus 🙂 The discussion will be on Facebook Live at 2pm eastern.

https://www.facebook.com/events/556523215236606/

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Filed under America, art, blogging

On Church Gatherings (a copied vent from a daughter who should be writing more often)

Folks, my middle daughter Katie has been sharp as a tack, as of late. At one point I asked something like, “When did you start using your brain?”

Anyway, she just updated her Facebook status with the following opinion piece. I was so impressed, how could I not share it?

When you’re done, show her some love, will you? Enjoy.


I have an opinion with which you might not agree. I have come to discover that I do not hold to the same values and morals of the masses, and that is quite expected as I am a believer in Christ.

My opinion today is thus:

Church gatherings are LESS LIKELY to spread the virus than going to Walmart.

Katie Marie

The people who want to gather in these churches wear masks and spread out while they are there. Families sit together while friends sit several pews away. After each meeting, I know that, in my church at least, most people leave promptly while a group of designated individuals disinfect the pews and all surfaces that may have been touched, including and not limited to the podium.

The people who are at risk stay home. The people who have children usually stay home. But when you go to the grocery store, you will find people who don’t wear masks, or they wear masks with their noses sticking out, therefore projecting to society their ignorance.

Furthermore, you have individuals who wear gloves inappropriately and cross-contaminate everything as they use gloves in the store, touch their phone, put the phone to their face, take the gloves off, touch the INFECTED PHONE again in their car…… all the while feeling as if they have done something well. In actuality, all they have done is further the pollution the world suffers from every day. Where is that glove going? Not in recycling, I’m sure. It’s going to either pollute the ground or it will pollute the ocean (WHICH, FOR YOUR INFORMATION, produces more oxygen than the trees).

So, KAREN, gather. Go to church if you feel like it. Just be smart. Be safe. Think through your actions.

But hope all the while the people who still shop for nonessential items in crowded stores will cease fire on the church’s doors and quench the fires that burn the buildings to the ground because of the so-called “hypocrisy.”

– Katie Marie

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Filed under Church, coronavirus, current events

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Spiritual Warfare

Greetings from the land of kaolin, gnats, and pine tree farms! 

To begin, this COVID-19 lock down business (that’s an ironic word) is getting old. Really old. There aren’t any crowds protesting down our streets, but I know for a fact that the people are restless.

But unlike a lot of people who have been unemployed and out of work, I have been the opposite (thank God in heaven!). Seriously, I am blessed beyond measure, and like Dave Ramsey would say, “I’m better than I deserve.”

But make no mistake, even though to some it would appear that I have it easy – that any pastor these days has it easy – I don’t. As a matter of fact, I think I have been doing more than I ever did when things were “normal.”

For example, I still prepare sermons and teaching for Sunday morning and evening, and also Wednesday. However, on top of that I now do a live daily devotional/prayer time Monday-Friday in order to stay in touch with everyone.

But what’s more, because we do not have a team of people to help with production, nor the dedicated technology, recording and editing a Sunday morning service, then making sure it uploads to either Facebook or YouTube, can take H O U R S!!!

. . . No joke, this last Sunday-morning service took around 5 hours to record and edit, then a painful 6 hours to finally get it uploaded! The whole time I couldn’t sleep because I was too nervous. YouTube failed twice (after 2+ hours uploading each time), then I had to wait for Facebook to see if it would work.

Our internet is sad. Our upload is literally no better than dial-up. That’s why whatever I record has to be done at the lowest reasonable resolution. It’s frustrating.

But to the point of why I am writing, all of this activity takes a toll on one’s nerves – and one’s spirit.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I struggle with depression. Years ago (around 20) I had it pretty bad, even to the point of nearly being committed for my own safety. These days I do OK, even really well, because I’ve learned better how to anticipate triggers, I finally agreed to take a mild anti-depressant, and I FINALLY got a couple of hobbies! Yay me!

However, Satan knows our weaknesses. His minions are always watching, always taking notes, and they know better than we do where and when is best to attack. For me, it’s usually when I am tired, physically and mentally drained, and discouraged in any way.

So, what do you think it’s been like the last couple of months?

The clearest example came on Thursday, May 7th, the National Day of Prayer. Because there was no way a bunch of people could come together in one place to pray, all prayer gatherings had to be done on the web. So, what I did was go live at noon that day, and using a guide published by the SBC, I led prayer for the “seven centers of influence” in our nation.

An hour and 15 minutes later, I was done. I think I stayed on Facebook Live for another few minutes, then called it a day. By 3pm I was overcome with a heavy sadness that I couldn’t explain.

The unexplained “sadness” lasted till Friday.

I was under attack, plain and simple.

You see, you can’t expect to punch a hornet’s nest and walk away unscathed. Storming beaches may conquer territory, but it’s always bloody for both sides. So, how could I have expected to publicly go against nearly every realm of demonic influence in our nation and not feel some affect?

Photo by Maria Pop on Pexels.com

Spiritual warfare is real. It’s no joke. And now that we small-town preachers have been given the opportunity to preach and teach the gospel online every day, we are firing mortars into the camps of spiritual enemies we’ve never encountered before.

And if you don’t know about artillery, unless you move your cannons around, after a few rounds a smart enemy will be able to triangulate your coordinates and return fire. I figure that’s what must have happened after I prayed for a solid hour live online.

What are your thoughts?


Below are two videos. The first is from yesterday (Sunday) morning. I would encourage you to watch it, especially if you are a woman, for even though it was Mother’s Day, the sermon was for all women.

Also, because our church musicians and praise team have not been coming to the recordings (and I don’t know how to do all that Zoom stuff), my wife and my mother and me took on the role of “praise team.”

We made a joyful noise 🙂

This next video is from Facebook. It is the LIVE prayer time I had on Thursday. See for yourself what I prayed. Do you think I’m crazy? Why else would I have been sad for no reason? Was it simply a case of physical and mental fatigue? Or, did I stir something up in the Enemy’s camp?

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Christianity, Church, Depression, Preaching

Observations From a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Silencing the Ignorance

My Mistake

Let me start by saying that I was one of the ones who early on thought this whole coronavirus thing was nothing more than an overblown media gimmick. And, honestly, who could blame me? Since when have you been able to trust the main-stream media’s hyperbole?

Seriously, when you look at the raw numbers, flu is still killing way more people than this virus. Yet, I guess the real question is how many people would have died if measure had not been made to limit the spread? It’s really anyone’s guess.

But I’m not here to argue about the killing ability of COVID-19. I want to discuss how the responses are affecting our ability to worship.

10 Or Less

I can’t speak for every state and every town, but from what I have been seeing, most state and local governments have made it illegal for people to meet in groups any more than 10. There are some places that make it less than that. But, for the most part, it’s limited to 10 . . . and six feet apart.

Yet, what some are trying to say is that the government has no right to impose this restriction on houses of worship. They claim that what is going on is an attack on our First Amendment rights of free speech, religious liberty, and the right to assemble. But is it, really? I don’t think so.

Look, if our state and local governments were placing more restrictions on churches than other places, then I would be the first to yell “Foul!” However, how can we say that Christians are being targeted when weddings, funerals, birthday parties, ball games, bingo, dance parties, school – you name it – are expected to abide by the same limitations?

It’s not discrimination if everyone is treated equally.

Fundamental Right

Yet, there are pastors being arrested in their homes. Churches are being threatened with permanent closure. And, we know there are government leaders out there who would like nothing more than to shutter every church in the country. “Social distancing” has become their favorite weapon.

I thank God that here in Georgia we have a God-fearing governor. Gov. Brian Kemp has been very transparent with the purpose for his mandates and has made it abundantly clear that he in no way wants to hinder or infringe upon the people’s right to worship. It’s just that there’s a deadly virus going around right now, and it doesn’t care who it affects, pagan or saint. So, for right now, everyone, not just church people, are going to have to limit their exposure to other people and “shelter at home.”

The whole reason I’m writing this is because there are some church folk, some pastors, who are saying things like: “The government can’t tell us we can’t have church!” They are screaming in protest, claiming the government has no right to impinge on our fundamental right to “forsake not the assembly.”

However, we must also remember that government has a biblical, God-given responsibility, too!

“Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. For it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For it is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong.” – Romans 13:1-4 CSB

“Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.” – 1 Peter 2:13-15 CSB

So, now is a time when we need to remember each one of us has a role to play. As for government leaders, as long as they are about doing good and ensuring the safety of our citizens, as long as they don’t demand we violate any direct command from God or our consciences, then we need to obey the best we can … to “silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.”

Now, when the government gets too big for its britches and starts singling out places of worship (like China is doing), then we’ll have a reason to do more than stream our singing and preaching.

In the meantime, we are reaching more people now than ever before! I’m not complaining about that!

Myself and Dr. David Self (Washington Baptist Association) discussing Proverbs LIVE on Wednesday night.

 

 

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Bible Study, Church, community, coronavirus, worship

At Least I’m Not In Jail

Phone Calls

I can only imagine what it would be like (and I’m not quoting a song) if real-life, honest-to-goodness shepherds had to deal with things the way we pastors are having to these days. Just think about it:

  • Sheep in the field, day in and day out, wandering around six feet apart.
  • The shepherd having to set up a large screen in the pasture so he can live-stream commands.
  • Each sheep getting it’s own cell number so the shepherd could make individual calls.
  • “How are you doing today, Fluffy?” “It’s baaaaaad, Shepherd! Could I trade you my wool for some toilet paper?”

Photo by Trinity Kubassek on Pexels.com

Thankfully, I’ve not received any distressing news from the church members I’ve called. Nevertheless, making phone calls and sending notes through the mail is about the only way I can personally stay in contact with my “sheep.” It’s alienating.

But, just like I said a moment ago to a dear lady in our church – her name is June – “at least I’m not in a jail cell.”

Perspective

It really all comes down to perspective, you know? If we sit and dwell on how limited we are, about how much we can’t do during this time of self-isolation (quarantine), then things will only get more nerve-wracking. Now, more than ever, we need to be looking for silver linings.

Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

No, I might not be able to visit with people in my congregation, have people over for dinner and a game night, or simply go out to dinner and movie with my wife, but at least I’m not locked up in a 6×8 ft. jail or prison cell! Seriously, things could be a lot worse!

I don’t know about you, but I can still eat when I want, play with my dog, go to the grocery store, and even go to my office at the church (where I am now). When I’m home I can sleep in my own bed, wear whatever I want, and not have to worry about dropping soap in the shower.

Really, things could be a lot worse than “social distancing”… Try social abandonment.

The Ultimate Quarantine

So, this got me to thinking about something else, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t share it. When I was thinking about being isolated, alone, quarantined, and abandoned … and when I tried to think about what could be worse than what we are experiencing, even jail … I thought of something else:

Hell.

If you think about if for just a moment, hell is the epitome of social distancing, quarantining, and literal abandonment. It’s even worse than the worst prison cell.

Prison cells do have beds, running water (even if it’s from the back of a toilet), regular meals, air conditioning, and in most cases, hope. Not so with hell.

Actually, aside from the lack of amenities, probably the worst aspect of an eternity in Hades is the idea of being utterly alone in one’s suffering and regret. Totally…forever…never a kind voice…never a tear of compassion…never look of pity… alone.

I’m glad I still have my freedom and am not locked up somewhere. But I’m even more thankful that, worse comes to worse, should things get so bad I even die from COVID-19, at least I’m not alone (God’s always with me) and because of Jesus, I’ll never have to go to hell!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

Yep, things could be worse. Time to binge-watch something else.

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Filed under Christianity, community, coronavirus

The Light Beckons

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As I was walking through the darkened auditorium of our church, I saw the light beaming in through the stained glass. I couldn’t help but be impacted by the profound truth I was seeing, that there was no light inside these walls; the light was outside.

***********

For so long we’ve known it, we’ve taught and preached it, but where God wants his Light to be seen is outside, in the world, where Hope is needed. Yet, it took an “act of God” to get us out of our hallowed walls and out where we’ve been needed.

So, for now, the lights inside are off and the pews are empty. God, the Great Teacher, has taken us on a field trip. He’s causing us to regain or acquire a better perspective and understanding of what matters, what is needed, and what it truly means to be “in the world, but not of the world.” Because, if you haven’t noticed, we’re all in this together.

Will the real Church now stand up and walk in the Light, as He is in the light?


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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Unity, Christianity, Church, community, ministry, Preaching, Struggles and Trials, Witnessing, worship

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Operation Re-Evaluate (Pt 2)

Funny thing, I don’t really like long titles, but what’s a guy to do?


Answering “Why?” 

In my previous post I promised that in the next I would “address ways that churches (including the one I pastor) can use this current crisis to turn us into the effective, healthy Church Body we should have been all along.”

But before I get into that, I would like to give an answer to the question I suggested many people are going to be asking: “Why do I even go to church?”

I know there have been some very well-written and scholarly responses to the above question, and, for me, it all comes down to a command from Jesus Christ. Regardless of what I can get out of it, going to church (gathering with other believers in a biblical, congregational, ecclesiastically-sufficient context, not simply a home Bible study) is an act of obedience and worship. But what is the answer going to be to this generation?

Perceived Value

One reason I believe the question will be asked is because of perceived value: “What am I really getting in return for my investment?”

When people who attend only sporadically, at best, come to discover they don’t miss much through this crisis, the likely response will be to quit going. And who could blame them? If their only reason for going was a religious one, one that satisfied their conscience and offered a visible sense of faith, then why go through all the effort to go to church and be around people they see but once or twice a month? Why not just watch online?

But when people who attend regularly begin to see very little difference between being in church and NOT being in church, what will justify going back? In other words, if while not allowed to attend corporate worship no one gives them a call, sends them a note, checks on their family, or in any way recognizes their personal worth outside of a number on an attendance roll, why be a statistic?

The reality of the human condition is that people want to be loved, respected, needed, and wanted. What I see happening is many church-goers figuring out through this absence that the relationships and friendships they thought were real were only facades meant to perpetuate an institution. Given enough time to think, many will conclude the only reason they were being asked to go to church was to fill a slot, keep up the numbers, or satisfy the ego of someone who didn’t even care to call or check on them.

Revitalizing the Value

It is in times of crisis that we find out who we really are, what we are made of. When it comes to the Church, specifically the local congregations, we have the opportunity to discover if we are more than a weekly social club with voluntary dues and free potlucks.

Go to the sixth chapter of the Book of Acts and what do you see? You see believers who walked through life together, not just on Sunday, but throughout the week. They were a community, a family, one that took care of each other OUTSIDE the walls of any structure. Did they regularly meet at the temple for instruction? Absolutely! Daily, even! But they were also there for each other through struggles, breaking bread in each other’s homes and meeting temporal, tangible needs.

And note: all of the above, as listed in Acts 6, was done BEFORE persecution came. This was the model of church life that would carry them through the truly difficult days just around the corner.

Folks, what we should have been doing all along is making sure there is a legitimate, tangible, temporal value to being a member of a local body of Christian believers. This means more than offering a nice place to sit for an hour, generic smiles, and a sweet, full-color, take-home bulletin with built-in sermon outline. It means genuine inclusion into a Family that loves you, values you, walks with you through the good and bad, and has your back when no one else will.

If we churches don’t want to lose members after this pandemic, then we need to be working overtime to do everything possible to revitalize our sense of family and our duties as a community of Believers. If we simply wait until we are allowed to gather again before we acknowledge each other, then we are hypocrites.

What Bethlehem Is Doing

In some ways we are unique, but in other ways we are well behind the curve. However, every church, to some degree or another, is having to do some new things.

Regarding questions of real and perceived value, let me share with you what we at Bethlehem Baptist are trying to do or improve.

1. Expand our social media footprint.  Long before the COVID-19 crisis erupted, I stressed to our church that we needed to make every use of social media and the internet. Some folk were a little skeptical, as you can imagine. Yet, a few others took me seriously enough to get to work on a website. Unfortunately, the initial energy waned, thereby leaving us with a handicap at this time.

However, one thing that I was able to do early on was drastically increase our presence on Facebook. This is still a work in progress, but increasing posts and promoting the content has brought a good deal of fresh attention to Bethlehem Baptist. Believe it or not, there is not a local television station in our county! Therefore, social media is the only real-time media in town. Not taking every advantage of its usefulness would be tragic.

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Check out the Washington County Grapevine!

Even before this crisis, I had already been posting videos to YouTube, then to our church Facebook page. So, when we couldn’t meet as a congregation, going live on Facebook was second nature to me – I’d already been doing it on my own. I even created a county-wide community Facebook page which could function as one more channel through which we could reach people.

2. Make contact with member families.  If we can shake their hands or hug their necks on Sunday (we still do those kind of things down here in middle Georgia), we’d better be sure to make a call (or visit, if possible), send a card, or do something. We’ve got to show that we appreciate people and miss them when they are not here.

The worst thing we can do to people is allow them to go unnoticed.

3. Seek out needs to be met.  There are still a lot of people down in this part of the country who don’t like to ask for help, and many of them are the elderly. However, that doesn’t remove the responsibility of the Church to care for those in need; it mandates that we should be looking for ways to serve.

Too often the complaint leveled at Christian churches is that all we want is people’s money. Of course, that is patently false. However, even though perception is NOT reality, we need to prove to our own members, at least, that it’s not what they put in the offering plate that makes them special.

Holy Lemonade

Image result for lemonade imagesLike I’ve said before, when life (or China) gives us Coronavirus-lemons, make holy lemonade. And by that I mean that we should look at this as a cutting-edge, next-generation opportunity to engage our communities with the Gospel. Even more, we should up our game and engage the world!

We used to sit around and talk about what the Church was going to look like in the future, how we would operate, and how we would maintain our cohesiveness. Then, right out of the blue (or Communist red) came this tiny little virus that has rocked the world-wide community, including Christians. Doing “church” like we’ve always done it is no longer an option and no longer up for debate.

I’m looking forward to once again gathering in our beautiful old sanctuary, but I praise God for the shock to our traditional system! And what’s even more exciting than seeing congregations stepping up to the plate and swinging is the feeling that this could be the beginning of a new era.

As we re-evaluate, God may be sending revival! 

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