Gospel Engagement in a Time of Crisis ©

Do you recall the great promise given to Peter when Jesus tells him that “upon this rock I will build my church?” Jesus promises, “the gates of Hades [hell] will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18, NRSV)  Neither will the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic.
The risen Christ instructed his gawking confused followers, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)  Such a statement appears straight forward and clear.  Yet the question can fairly be asked in the time of a Pandemic sweeping across the human landscape, how?  How are we to be witnesses to the risen Christ and the new age of the Kingdom of God?
Pastor Joyce Hall of Perry Chapel in Crawford, Texas, a congregation made up of 12 members writes,
“Last Sunday I texted the sermon topic and scripture. The musician recorded herself playing an old spiritual. We mass texted it to everyone. Some sent back how they sang along. Perry Chapel has a few people with no computers. One has no knowledge of texting and does not want to learn, but knows how to receive and read them. She has listened to the music audio over and over.” 
Pastor Hall used two hymns recorded by First United Methodist Church of Waco and shared by that congregation around the Central District and beyond.  She continued,
“Thank you for sharing First Waco's two hymns. Those with internet access at Perry Chapel enjoyed connections of online and texted service. I feel that it is important to get the message and love of Jesus Christ to everyone that we can reach.”
In this straightforward basic exchange, there is great faith and deep disciple-making activity taking place.  The command of Christ to be His witnesses “to the ends of the earth” are being lived out. Consider this report from the East District.  DS Randy Wild shares that Dr. Dale Schultz at St. Paul’s in Hurst is leading a Daily morning prayer on Facebook. Dr. Ginger Bassford shared that St. Barnabas in Arlington began leading their confirmation class on-line. Rev. Lara Whitley Franklin at Martin in Bedford is leading a Lunch with Lara two days a week where those that want can gather with their lunches wherever they are and share a meal and conversation on-line.
In the North District they are continuing an evangelistic outreach called “Good night church.” DS Louis Carr shares that “it has been a way to unite us and keep us focused on making disciples in this season of “social distancing.” We are reaching out to so many people through the readings from “The Easter Storybook” by Laura Richie.  It is made up of 40 Bible Stories each with illustrations which we share every night with the young and young at heart.  The reach of the Gospel through this ministry has been surprising. In just the first week over 4700 people have been reached and the videos have been viewed 3000 times.  To God be the glory.  

Foundation UMC down in Temple uses the following “help card.”
South DS Brad Brittain says that the members of Foundation UMC place these cards “their neighbor’s doors. He also shares a highly creative focus on reporting the WIG (Wildly Important Goal = to make disciplies of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world) metric goal of average worship attendace. The below was developed by Rev. Tom Robbins and the faithful at First UMC, Temple.
In the West District DS Lisa Neslony reported that “FUMC Olney purchased several pizzas and delivered them to those in the community on the front lines at the local hospital, clinic, food stores and police department.”
All across the Central Texas Conference congregations are reaching out in creative ministry to love God and love the neighbor in a deep faithfulness to our mission given by the risen Chrsit and expressed in our WIG, to make disciples.  As your Bishop I wish to publicly and explicitly expresses my thanks, support and encouragement for this ongoing outreach of love, justice and mercy in sharing the gospel of our Lord.
In this time of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I believe we have received power from the Holy Spirit.  Across our area congregations lead by faithful pastors and laity are being witness for Christ.  Social and spiritual engagement is taking place in a new and creative ways that can best be called Holy Spirit inspired.


Bishop Lowry Celebrates A Few of the Many Creative Ministries in the CTC During These COVID-19 Times from Central Texas Conference UMC on Vimeo.