The government’s Movement Control Order (MCO) counter-measure against Covid-19 has affected how we do church. As a result of this national lockdown Christians are not be able to meet for corporate worship and small group meetings. Needless to say the huge majority of churches in Malaysia have been caught unprepared. Most have not kept up with the digital revolution nor learnt how to make use of the digital platform to further the work of the church.
A few days ago I asked some pastors and church leaders how they are: 1.Connecting with their members, 2. Conducting their small group and prayer meetings, and 3. Doing their “corporate” worship service. I was particularly interested to know how they are using online facilities to help them accomplish the above objectives.
Relaying information to church members is probably the easiest thing to do. WhatsApp, Facebook and the like are already in common use by many, and a church can easily send out information via these multiple social media platforms.
It’s the group meetings that is more challenging, and especially an online substitute for the corporate worship service.
It appears that the application of choice (among the small number of pastors and church leaders that responded to my research) for small group meetings, whether cell meetings or prayer meetings, is Zoom. It is a video conferencing software.
Among the first things you read on its website is that since Covid-19 the number of users have grown rapidly. You can register with Zoom for an account and host a session for free but your conference or meeting is limited to 40 minutes. Beyond that you need to sign up on one of its pay-plans. The good news is that only the host needs to be on the pay-plan. The other participants don’t even need to have an account—you only need to click and join the meeting set up by the host. Skype has been around longer and it serves the same purpose. You can read up and decide which is better or more suited for your purpose.
The bottom line is that your church needs to capitalise on these online platforms in times like this. During normal times they are still needful and useful for the occasional online meetings when everyone’s hard pressed for time or to avoid wasting time stuck in the horrendous urban traffic.
I know of at least one church that is providing daily video devotions for its members. The pastors record a short devotional message using their smartphone and upload it onto google drive. The link is sent to the members for them to view the video anytime of the day. Whether you do it daily or once during mid-week it helps your church member feel connected to you as their pastor during this time of no face-to-face contact.
Before Covid-19 only a handful of churches in Malaysia were live-streaming their worship services. Then, as I have learnt, the Sunday just prior to MCO a few more churches did their first live-streaming. I believe the leaders were already anticipating what was coming. Although the restricted movement has brought a temporary halt to live-streaming it has nonetheless given the church a look at what could be done in the future and also what can be done using online applications under the present lockdown.
Since last Sunday a number of churches are now recording their sermons and uploading them on Facebook and YouTube. Some have piggy-back on Pastor Craig Groeschel’s Church Online Platform (https://churchonlineplatform.com/). Over the next few Sundays, if MCO persists, even more churches will be using one of these online platforms. (As I write this the Prime Minister has announced that the MCO will be extended by another two weeks till April 14. It is clear that your church cannot afford not to use these online facilities.)
Recording and uploading onto Facebook or YouTube is not that difficult. A Baby-Boomer pastor can still learn how to do it. If not find a younger person (in or outside your church) to teach you or help you do it.
Worship might be a little trickier, but it can be done. If you don’t want to break the rules of the MCO then you may have to resort to a one-man band, leading and playing on a musical instrument. Unless your church is fortunate enough to have a worship leader who is surrounded by a musical family! Record the songs and upload them. Then send the links for both the worship and sermon to your members. If you have people who are IT-savvy they will be able to add in the song lyrics and splice the worship, sermon and announcements into one seamless presentation.
What about the most important part of the worship service—the offering? (Please read that tongue- in-cheek). I think it’s time to provide an option for online giving. The offering done this way is no less an act of worship.
I believe the church needs to make the best use of IT and the online platform to advance the Kingdom of God. IT can be used for good or bad. If the church doesn’t use it for good and the Kingdom, the devil will certainly use it for his own evil purpose. Your choice.
Lim Soon Hock Empowering Churches