At Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, there's a shopping and entertainment area called "Broadway at the Beach." This tourist destination features stores and attractions surrounding a small lake with boardwalks crisscrossing the water for foot traffic. The lake itself is stocked with a very healthy carp population and as you walk the fish will follow you, staring up at you, eager for food from the dispensers scattered around the area. That's the memory that sprang to mind Easter Sunday as I looked on the school of cars gathered around the patio. Wish I had a bird's eye view.
A Timeless Prophecy
As a light rain fell from overcast skies we sat in our cars and sang hymns of the resurrection before Pastor Scott approached the podium. He began his discourse in John chapter 20 before referencing some old testament passages, namely Psalm 16:10:
"For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption."
This verse was highly significant to both Peter and Paul as well; Peter having elaborated on it during his sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2:25-36, and Paul while addressing the congregation in a synagogue at Antioch in Acts 13:30-41. Take some time yourself to read their explanations of the prophecy and how it relates to David and the promised redeemer. As the service ended, in lieu of our usual closing tradition, car horns rang out as a show of church solidarity.
Evangelism in the Information Age
With the looming health crisis currently overshadowing not just the United States but the entire world, video conferencing has become the norm as people seek to protect the health of themselves and others via "social distancing." For churches it's no different; the Word has been spreading mainly electronically for these last few weeks with our church specifically opting for streaming sermons. It's hardly a new and innovative idea however, Christians have been using the internet to spread God's message since its inception and digital churches are far from unusual. Some video streaming websites such as Twitch, which was originally created to share gaming footage, now host purely digital churches. Even within online games themselves you can find groups, commonly called "clans" or "guilds" in gaming terms, that have a focus on Christian values and instruction for their members. I've taken my player avatar and sat in on services preached via text in computer generated church buildings designed by conceptual artists for fictitious gods. Anywhere people place their attention can become a mission field, even Runeterra. Here at home we've taken our preaching online out of necessity, but Easter is a special occasion. Enter the drive-in service, an innovation borne from a difficult situation. I doubt anyone could claim to have invented it but many churches across the country have adopted this happy medium between the call for social distancing and the need for community within the church. That being said, it's still had its opponents; fines have been levied, lawsuits have been filed, but the practice has been established.
They Said "Don't Gather," Not "Don't Preach"
Some churches have chosen to disregard government mandates and continue to hold regular services. Whether it be as protest against some perceived infraction against religious freedom or a faith-based defiance of the virus itself, how are we supposed to view their actions? The world will miss no opportunity to inform us how many sick and dead there are among their congregations, so why take the risk? The response to my first point is as stated above, no one ever demanded we stop preaching and the innovation and adaptability displayed by the faithful in finding alternate methods has been greatly uplifting. My second point is more troublesome; by compromising are we displaying a lack of faith? Should we by all means gather together in the streets proclaiming that faith in God will save from the virus? Perish the thought. God never promised us an earthly life devoid of sickness or hardship, only our eternal souls will receive such comforts so that we may abide with Him forever in Heaven.
An Unsure Future
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank our fantastic congregation for their support and understanding during all this. Even though the current talks about lifting the shelter-in-place order make the end seem near, there's still a lot left to endure and I'm sure many of our members are finding the current means tedious. My utmost respect goes out to Ben
and Jonathan and everyone else involved behind the scenes. Getting the stream up and running couldn't have been an easy feat and staging the drive-in was a step above. Our tech guys are really a treasure and God has used this crisis to put their talents on display. That being said, if you, dear reader, have an affinity for technology and want to find a way to help, by all means give one of our deacons or Pastor Scott a call. Stay vigilant, thank your essential workers and, most importantly, pray for our congregation and we'll make it through this valley.