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The Test of Faith During a Pandemic

How to Respond to a Spiritually Dry Season

Has your spiritual life suffered during the pandemic? Recent studies (1, 2) show there has been a significant drop in the number of believers who read the Bible daily during the COVID-19 Outbreak. On the other hand, non-believers are searching for God more than ever (3). I believe this shows both the promise and the problems of walking through a wilderness season in your faith.

Have you ever been in a spiritually dry season? You know, those times when your prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling instead of making their way to heaven. You do not need a pandemic to experience this. It is something many of us go through at one time or another. Maybe you are in a similar situation now. If so, you are not alone.

Does God Lead Us To The Desert?

God lead the nation of Israel into the wilderness immediately after delivering them from Egypt. The desert was used to transform them from captives to conquerors.

The Spirit also led Jesus into the wilderness immediately after his baptism before his public ministry began. 

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

Matthew 4:1 ESV

Then there is this verse in Hosea.

“But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.”

– Hosea 2:14 NLT

Here we see God not only leads into the wilderness, but there is also the reward of Intimacy with Him there.

We should be careful not to ask God to take us out of somewhere He has led us into for His purposes. The wilderness seasons of life can cause us to feel alone and overlooked. These are not times when God had forgotten us but are when He has isolated from other things so we can focus on him.

The wilderness can be painful. We just want the desert to end. Here are three things I have learned to pray while in a spiritually dry season.

3 Prayers for the Desert

Ask God to show you what He would like you to learn

…instead of praying for Him to get you out of your circumstances.

I used to pray, “God, get me out!” When things got tough. Now, I know when I want to do this, it is always an alert God is up to something. Sometimes, the lesson is finding peace in waiting or redefining what success looks like. Other times God puts new tools in my hands I didn’t know I needed. It takes time to learn them before I can begin to see the benefits they can bring. 

Ask God to draw you closer to Him and make you more like Him

…instead of praying for things to God back to the way they were.

It can appear there is not much good we can take from some seasons of life. Thank God those are so few. But even in the darkest times, we can take away some good. That is because, in everything, God is always bringing us closer to Him and making us more like Him. We need to be open to the process. 

Ask God to prepare you for what he wants to give

…instead of asking why He has taken so much away.

Before God can provide us with what He wants us to have, we must be willing to make room by letting go of what we already have. The wilderness is the perfect place for this to happen.

The discomfort of the wilderness is mostly from detoxing even though we may feel like it is from a lack of something want. The desert causes us to lean on God in areas we have we have substituted with other things. The side effects of not having those things meet our needs on a surface level will soon be replaced by the satisfaction of allowing God to do a deeper work in us.

An Oasis in Every Desert

When life gets rough, we can still have some of the most tender moments with God. The intimacy that results from the wilderness is one of the main reasons we can always leave those seasons with gratitude.

There are other results from God leading us into the wilderness that can be found in Hosea as well.

“I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.”

Hosea 2:15 NLT

The wilderness is not about God sending harm our way to purify us or make us better. He is not the author of bad news but He can turn our bad news into good news when we put our trust in Him. The wilderness is a season where God intentionally allows our lives to be stripped down in a way that may make us uncomfortable at the moment, but if we press through with our eyes on Him, He will bring us through a transformation we can be thankful for as a result. 

What are some lessons you have learned from the wilderness? What tips would you give a friend is you knew they were about to enter a desert season?

*Sources:

  1. https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2020/07/22/pandemic-has-people/
  2. https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/july/state-of-bible-reading-coronavirus-barna-abs.html
  3. https://www.lightworkers.com/pandemic-has-led-to-reading-the-bible/

This content is an excerpt from my mini-book, The Case for Following Your Heart, and originally appeared on my blog June 2019.

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The New Way to Do Church

21 Online Church Innovations

I visited as many churches online as I could this Sunday. During my church channel surfing, I learned a lot about the adjustments churches are making to bring their worship experience online. For many churches, live streaming has already been available. Now that online is the only way churches can gather for Sunday Services, some are mixing things up to create a new type of online worship experience. 

The 21 things I saw churches doing seem to fall in one of the following categories: Presentation (of the message), Worship (the music), Connection, Information, and Access.

Presentation

Join people in their homes by creating an intimate environment to share your message instead of preaching from a platform. For example, teach from your living room as if you were in a small group gathering.

Have a one-on-one conversation with people.

Give your church something consistent in a time when everything else seems to be changing by teaching from the stage as usual.

Worship

Creating a studio worship experience that offers some variety from what people may be expecting.

Use pre-recorded worship to simplify your production while still delivering a quality worship experience.

Take worship to the living room with a small group acoustic set.

Have the worship team on stage for a familiar setup for worship.

Connection

Use social media to take people behind the scenes.

Take communion virtually. Bring liturgy into the living and connect tangibly with those in your church.

It’s time to chat during church. Man the conversation feed for a personal touch.

Pradeepan and Amreitha Jeeva at their Macs and ready to chat!

Encourage online community by sharing a hashtag and asking those watching to post a pic.

Daniel E. Groves demonstrates how to take a selfie before the Hope City broadcast.
Jeremy Foster, Hope City Church

Connect before you communicate. Take some time to get real before jumping into your message. Talk about the reality of how people are having to join church this morning, and what life looks like right now.

Scott and Kelly Niemeier, HighPoint Church

Information

Speak to your church directly with a video on your homepage explaining what they can expect from you and your church during this time.

Brad and Jessica Hampton, SOCO Church

Have a pre-show that informs and encourages your church. Give them tips for worshiping online and sharing the broadcast on their social media.

https://www.soco.church

Before you kick of your live stream let your church know what you have available for kids and students.

Andy and Christy Cass, Echo Church

Make it is easy to give and get COVID-19 updates. Put vital information in your Facebook Live Stream.

Pradeepan and Amreitha Jeeva, Kalos Church

Have your broadcast schedule available if you are not currently broadcasting.

Jimn Kyles, Anchor Bend

Access

Offer people multiple platforms to join your live stream on a landing page and on your home page.

Shaun Nepstad, Fellowship Church, Antioch, CA

Make your replay immediately available for those who may be viewing your church online for the first time and do not know your service times.

Terrence and Johanne Wilson, Cool Church

Take your worship guide online with a worship experience landing page that tells people how to connect and where to take next steps.

Rich Wilkerson Jr., Vous Church

Create a Facebook event for your weekend service with live streaming information that people can share.

Terrence and Johanne Wilson, Cool Church

This Sunday showed me there are many great online church experiences. I really enjoyed tuning in and hearing from people I normally wouldn’t be able to get a message from.

What are some other things you see churches doing that seems to be working well in this new church online landscape? Leave a comment and let me know!

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10 Live Streaming Solutions for Churches Adjusting to COVID-19 Outbreak

How to Connect with Your Church Online During Social Distancing

Some churches are adjusting to holding services online for the first time now that social distancing guidelines are in place across the country. How can we help pastors live streaming for the first time avoid mistakes and interruptions to their broadcast? Here is a list of tips and insights to help make the transition smoother.

  1. Avoid being kicked off of Facebook and Youtube by not playing copyrighted music in your pre-service buffer video.
    • For example: if you are playing Hillsong on your pre-service countdown video you can get kicked off for copyright infringement.
    • Live music is fine, but playing tracks could cause the music to be picked up as copyrighted.
  2. Combine your efforts. If you do not have a permanent location or equipment team up with other churches that do.
    • Maybe one person has the equipment and the other has the permanent space. Or maybe you have team members that can do worship that will be used by all on the team-up. What a witness this could be for your community.
  3. Encourage people to share the premier instead of hosting multiple watch parties for greater interaction. 
    • “For greater interaction on Facebook live (both live or pre-recorded)… watch parties and multiple services actually hurt interactions. Doing just one 10am service allowed us to exceed all my expectations with interactions online. Watch parties took people away from the momentum of numbers in our primary group chat and viewers.” Contributed by Brad Hampton, Soco Church, Bentonville, AR. 
  4. “Designate someone to run and man the stream chat as there were questions and comments in real-time that needed to be addressed and or deleted.” Contributed by Michael Matthew, Eternal Rock Church, Houston TX 
  5. The benefits of pre-recording vs live streaming.
    • “Higher resolution on broadcasting prerecorded. Post-production editing. Adding text, videos, slides in post-production editing, for churches that are unable to steam that content in real-time. Broadcasting prerecorded overall decreases the room for error.  We have the ability to live stream. But just pre-recorded last night for this weekend. And they’re going to pre-record for the next two or three weekends Starting tomorrow.” Contributed by John Pomeroy, New Anthem Church, Mount Clemens, MI
  6. Free live streaming is available. Church Online Platform from Open Church (Life.Church and the Bible App) is totally free and will always be free. You can find out more here: https://churchonlineplatform.com.
    • “At Life.Church, one of our core values is irrational generosity. We’re committed to equipping the “capital C” Church in every way we can. That’s why the Church Online Platform is available completely free of charge. Our definition of “free” extends to support and updates, too. You’ll get personalized customer service, software upgrades, and new features for the life of the tool.”
  7. Free Resources for Kids:
  8. Worship Solutions from Substance Church
  9. A Church Communications Strategy/Calendar during Covid-19. Live Stream Content Starting at 9:44 https://youtu.be/35QtLDdLrsM  (Contributed by Jon-Michael Sherman, TheRocket.Media)
  10. More live stream options: