How I Would Do Live Streaming If I Was Still a Pastor?

I find myself saying a lot these days, “If I was still a pastor.” So, for what it’s worth and if it helps some of our pastors think through some issues, here are several things I would do with live streaming or producing a recorded version of a worship service during this COVID-19 crisis.

  • I would be a minimalist. Pastor, this is not the time to be fancy. Your congregation needs a word from God far more than a need professional broadcast. In addition, having a minimum number of people involved also helps slow the spread which is way more important right now than the quality of your production.
  • I would seek to make the remote worship gathering as normal as possible. The order of service would look the same. I would welcome guests inviting them to send a text or email to tell us that they were watching. I would have a pastoral prayer. Congregations need to be comforted by hearing their pastor pray for them. I would sing. Well, I would have someone else lead in musical worship. I would receive an offering at the usual spot in our worship. I would use that moment in worship to ask people right then to electronically send in their offering or prepare their gift for mailing. This seems much more worshipful and Biblical than the appeal that the bills won’t be paid if the people don’t give. I would preach. And, I would extend a Gospel invitation and extend an opportunity for people to email, text, phone, or mail their commitment. I would conclude with a benediction—a good word. The point is that we are far from anything that is normal right now, but I would try to be as normal as possible in leading people to worship.
  • In my sermon I would ask people to do something. In my last few years of preaching, I have fallen into a practice of concluding my sermons with the question, “So what?” The idea is to make sure that we were moving from the information to transformation, from the theological to the practical. I would certainly not deviate from that practice during this crisis. Now, more than ever, folks need something to do. I would make sure that the message calls them to do something.

Pastor, I am praying for you as you prepare to preach each Sunday and as you redesign ministry for the weeks and months ahead.

A Remote Ministry

On Sunday, March 22, Louisiana’s Governor John Bel Edwards gave the grim news that Louisiana has the fastest rate of confirmed cases for the COVID-19 virus than any state or nation in the world.

Along with that foreboding news, Governor Edwards implemented a “stay at home order” until at least April 13. The Governor’s Sunday proclamation makes it official that we are in this for the long haul. And, “this” seems to be changing on us daily.

So, the thought occurred to me that much of the Apostle Paul’s ministry was remote. Because of his imprisonment, much of his ministry became remote instead of in person. Paul could have said that there’s nothing that he could do, but instead, he stayed connected to the churches through a ministry of writing.

Think about the book of Philippians for example. The contents might help us to understand how we do ministry in these “remote” days.

  • Paul engaged in a ministry of prayer. (1:3-11) If our prayer life doesn’t grow in these days of our “confinement,” we must confess that we are really not all that interested in praying.
  • Paul expected a new wave of evangelism. (1:12-20) Paul, in his confinement looked for evangelistic opportunity, and to his no great surprise, it was right in front of him. I believe the same is true for us if we will open our eyes. May we, as Paul did, understand that opportunities for Gospel advance now exist that did not before the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Paul elevated that which was most assured in his life. (1:21-30) Every day we live with this truth that to live is Christ and to die is gain. Every day we live with this truth that whether we live or die, as Christians, we truly win. This crisis causes us to face this truth in a brand new way. We are going to be tested as to whether we believe the message we have been preaching.
  • Paul exhorted true Christian doctrine. Paul spoke of humility, the importance of our Christian witness (shine like stars), and the power of the Gospel over everything else.
  • Paul experienced joy and contentment. (4:1-18)
  • Paul expressed hope for the future. (4:19-20)

“And my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

So, while we engage in this remote ministry, know that God is up to something! Just imagine where we would be without Paul’s remote ministry. For starters, we would be missing a lot of the New Testament.

Stay encouraged!

How About Some Different Headlines?

I don’t know about you, but I could you use some different headlines these days.

I want to share with you some Scriptures that sound a lot like headlines to me. Hopefully, these headlines will put in right perspective the headlines of the last couple of weeks.

  • God’s Grace is Sufficient—This headline comes from 2 Corinthians 12:9, which says, “But He said to me,“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.
  • God Reigns—This headline is affirmed in Revelation 19:6. “Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying: Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, has begun to reign!”
  • Jesus Announces Peace—This headline comes from John 16:33, which says, “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

There will be many who panic, but as believers in Jesus, let the peace of God rule and reign in your heart.

How Should Churches Respond to Government Guidelines on Gathering During the COVID-19 Crisis? (03-17-20 – 4:43pm Update)

Even though I’ve been out of the local pastorate for around 10 months, I’m a pastor at heart. I try to think like a pastor in my current position. With that being said, if I was still pastoring a local church, I would follow the federal, state, and local recommendations being presented and updated on a regular basis.

Think about it, we’re not being told we cannot worship. We’re not being forced to believe something contrary to Scripture. We’re simply being asked to temporarily restructure the way we do so in order for everyone to benefit. From my perspective we can make these work.

I base this decision on what I see in God’s word.

For example, my Scripture reading yesterday was from Luke 10. Verse 27 in the Parable of the Good Samaritan says:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.”

Love God and love my neighbor is the command. In our present context, with all the information that I have at the moment, that means protecting my neighbor. No, I am not afraid of getting COVID-19, but, I have an obligation to my neighbor to take necessary, even unprecedented, steps to not transmit this disease to those who might not be healthy enough to fight it. I certainly have a neighborly obligation to not add to the potential crisis facing our healthcare providers.

Therefore I’m going to participate and I’m leading our state missions staff to participate as well. I urge you, my fellow Louisiana Baptists, to join us in adhering to these guidelines. As we do, let’s pray fervently that these guidelines work, allowing us to get back to assembling again sooner rather than later.

Louisiana Baptists Update (03-17-20)

Revised 03/23/20 – 2:00 pm

In keeping with the requests of our federal, state and local officials regarding efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus, we are directing our state missions staff to work remotely through April 12.

All events for the remainder of March and April have been canceled or postponed. Events in May and beyond will be re-evaluated in mid-April.

Your state missions staff will be available via email and phone during this period.

Resources to help you navigate these uncharted waters are being developed and will be available on our website.

Be faithful to pray for and encourage each other as well as our leaders.

Be faithful in giving to the Lord through your church. This can be done online if your church offers that option or you can mail your tithe to your church.

While these are unprecedented times, these are also wonderful opportunities for spiritual growth and outreach. If you’ve fallen behind in your Bible reading, now’s a good time to catch up. If you’re engaged with the “Who’s Your One?” emphasis, continue to pray for them and reach out to them during this time. More than likely people will be in front of their TV’s and on their devices more than normal so visit HereforYou.org and share your favorite Here for You commercial. Pray God will draw people’s attention to the commercials they’ll see on broadcast and cable TV as well on social media. Pray the seed of God’s truth will find good soil and water the seeds that have already been scattered. Ask God to prepare some of the hearts for harvest in the days ahead.

Even the midst of uncertainty, God is faithful. May He find us faithful during this time as well.

Coronavirus (03-13-20 – 7:06pm Update)

Greetings,

Your state missions staff continues to monitor the quickly evolving Coronavirus situation and appreciate your prayers as we process all of the information coming from federal and state sources.

We posted information and suggestions yesterday regarding Sunday services. While many of these are still valid, the Governor’s proclamation today certainly tweaks and changes some of those.

As you know, every church is autonomous therefore the Executive Board does not have the prerogative to pass down directives to Louisiana Baptist churches. However, after conducting conference calls today with several pastors and Directors of Missions, here are some suggestions for you to consider over the next several weeks.

If your congregation runs under 250 in attendance, which the vast majority of our churches do, the suggestions offered yesterday are still worthy of consideration.

For those of you who run over 250, here are some ideas you may find helpful:

  • Consider foregoing Sunday School and hold multiple worship services thus assuring your congregation remains under the 250 limit.
  • For those who already have two Sunday Schools and two worship services, in addition to foregoing Sunday School, you may need to adjust your schedule to give ample time for sanitizing between services.
  • If you do not currently offer multiple services and need to conduct them in order to stay under the limit, consider assigning Sunday School classes a specific service to attend.
  • A Saturday night option may also need to be offered in some cases.
  • A few pastors indicated they are considering a house church option.
  • Others are going to use Facebook Live in lieu of gathering.

Even with these changes, we’re still calling for Sunday to be a dedicated day of prayer. Whether you gather corporately, worship through technology, or worship privately, please join Southern Baptists across the country in this consecrated time of prayer for our nation.

Let me take this opportunity to urge all Louisiana Baptists to refrain from public criticism of the Governor’s proclamation. He is in a difficult spot and needs our prayers and not our criticism.

These are unprecedented times, but at the same time we have opportunities to show the love of Christ and grow in our personal discipleship. Remember what Paul told the Roman believers “All things work together for good …

Please know we are praying for you as you decide the best way for your people to worship in the coming weeks.

Keep looking up,

Steve Horn
Executive Director
Louisiana Baptists

Day of Prayer This Sunday Regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic (03-13-20)

I have said through the years that my most memorable time of worship ever was the Sunday after 9/11. The crowd was larger. We sang louder. We had a greater sense of desperation.

That’s the way I feel today. The crowds likely won’t be as large this Sunday, March 15, because of fears of gathering in large crowds and the need for many elderly to stay home, but if you are well and can gather, I sense that this will be a special day of worship. I am joining the call of our Southern Baptist Convention leaders in asking every church in Louisiana to have a special moment of prayer in your worship this Sunday. You can view and share their call using this link. Some of you may even be led to dedicate your entire worship service just to prayer. As a pastor I did this on a number of occasions. This was always a meaningful time of worship.

Pastors, you can use these suggestions to guide your praying. Send it out to those members who might choose not to attend. Whatever you decide to do Sunday, let us pray in focused, concentrated prayer.

As we prepare to pray, I think of these Scriptures . . .

Luke 18:1-8, the Parable of the Persistent Widow—Luke introduced this parable by saying, “Now he told them a parable on the need for them to pray always and not give up.” (Luke 18:1)

James 1:5—Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly.

2 Chronicles 6:28-31—

When there is famine in the land,
when there is pestilence,
when there is blight or mildew, locust or grasshopper,
when their enemies besiege them
in the land and its cities,
when there is any plague or illness,
29 every prayer or petition
that any person or that all your people Israel may have—
they each know their own affliction and suffering—
as they spread out their hands toward this temple,
30 may you hear in heaven, your dwelling place,
and may you forgive and give to everyone
according to all their ways, since you know each heart,
for you alone know the human heart,
31 so that they may fear you
and walk in your ways
all the days they live on the land
you gave our ancestors.

Now is the time to pray! Don’t panic, pray!

Regarding the Coronavirus (03-12-20)

Greetings Louisiana Baptists,

Whether you believe that decisions regarding the Coronavirus, COVID-19, are disproportionate to the real threat or believe that not enough actions are being taken, you have to agree that these are unprecedented times. Whether we see widespread outbreak in Louisiana is yet to be known, but the likelihood we will see effects, both economic and life disruption, are almost certain.

Your state missions staff are monitoring information on a daily and even hourly basis. We have not cancelled any events as of this writing with the exception of BCM events in the New Orleans area. One of our commitments to our churches is to be a resource provider. We want to be available to our churches to provide the best information and best practices as they are released.  

LifeWay has prepared a thorough, helpful, free resource that can assist you and your church to prepare in case the Corona virus spreads across the state: https://ministrygrid.com/coronavirus. You can also visit the government site, www.cdc.gov, for additional information.

Here are some common sense suggestions we’ve pulled together for your consideration:

  • Have plenty of hand sanitizer and wipes available for your people.
  • Consider sanitizing your preschool and children’s spaces, the sanctuary and all doors/bathrooms after every service.
  • Avoid your typical greeting (i.e. shaking hands).
  • Instead of passing the offering plates, have ushers stationed as people exit to collect their offerings. Encourage online giving if available. If you don’t offer online giving, here a free service to get you started. NOTE, even though the service is free, there is a 2.9% swipe charge + $ .30 fee for each transaction. This is taken from the donation. Learn more at get.tithe.ly
  • Leave stacks of bulletins/worship guides for people to pick up as they desire instead of someone distributing them.
  • Encourage those not feeling well and the elderly to stay home.
  • Facebook live is an option to stream your service/message if you feel this is best for your situation. This article on live streaming may be helpful.
  • Communicate regularly with your leadership and congregation.

In addition, let us share our most pressing prayer concerns with you: 

  • Pray for those with the virus.
  • Pray for our BCMs. LSU and New Orleans area schools including Tulane, Loyola, UNO, New Orleans Seminary and Leavell College have announced the suspension of on-campus classes in favor of online instruction. Other schools will likely follow. Pray for wisdom as we make decisions to stay connected to these students. Pray for wisdom in making decisions about pending mission trips.
  • Pray for those who are currently out of the country and trying to return home.
  • Pray for our leaders. There is no handbook for making the decisions they are having to make.
  • Pray for our health care providers.
  • Pray for those most vulnerable to virus.

Finally, let me encourage us to be patient with one another. Don’t ridicule someone for a decision you might disagree with. A different decision than you might make does not mean that a person is filled with fear and not trusting God. We are all trying to make the most responsible decisions given our context and facts as we know them. 

We will get to the other side of this crisis. 

But for now, this is a good time to remind myself and you of my favorite Scripture. Revelation 19:6 says, “Hallelujah, the Lord God, Almighty reigns!” 

No matter my circumstances, He reigns! 

Praying for you,
Steve Horn
Executive Director
Louisiana Baptists

Dr. Dew’s Inauguration

Last Thursday evening, I had the distinct honor to bring greetings from Louisiana Baptists at the formal inauguration of President Jamie Dew, the new president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. I wanted to share with you the content of my greetings in hopes that you might join with me in praying for Dr. Dew’s presidency.

Greetings from Louisiana Baptist Convention on the Occasion of Dr. Dew’s Inauguration

Dr. Dew, Administration, Trustees, Faculty, Students, Distinguished Guests, I am incredibly honored to bring greetings on behalf of Louisiana Baptists and, on their behalf, congratulate you, Dr. Dew, on your inauguration as the Ninth President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Louisiana Baptists feel both an honor and responsibility in being the home of one our six Southern Baptist Seminaries.

Dr. Dew, Louisiana Baptists have watched you embrace the uniqueness and opportunity of our state. As you have embraced us, in turn, we want you to know that we embrace and welcome your leadership. We commit our earnest prayers and recommit to being great, Great Commission partners.

We recognize that you will lead the Seminary that will educate many of the young ministers being called from our churches. We further recognize that you will lead the Seminary that trains the vast majority of pastors and ministers who will then lead our Louisiana Baptist churches. We hold to a mutual understanding that the strength of this institution translates well into the strength and health of our churches. Indeed, we are in this together.

Lastly, Dr. Dew, we have heard your call to service and humility. We welcome the challenge to pick up the towel and the basin. We welcome the charge that pride has no place in discipleship.

We look forward to the implementation of your vision as you lead this beloved school of Providence and Prayer.

May the hand of our Lord be upon you, Tara, Natalie, Nathan, Samantha, and Samuel. May God give you wisdom in your office, discipline in your prayer closet, insight in your study, peace and laughter in your home, and joy in your journey.

Don’t Be Afraid

As 2019 came to a close, I saw many people encouraging us to identify a “Word for 2020.” If you are not familiar, the idea is essentially the same as New Year Resolutions. Instead of a resolution, the “word of the year” could be a guiding word, maybe even a prayer for the year.

I closed 2019 by reading through the Gospel of Luke. Not intentionally looking for a word, I began to see the recurring phrase, “Do not be afraid” or some synonymous phrase.

According to my reading, we read in Luke . . .

  • To Zechariah, “Do not be afraid, because your prayer has been heard.” (1:13)
  • To Mary, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” (1:30)
  • To the Shepherds, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is Messiah, the Lord.” (2:10-11)
  • To Simon, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will be catching people.” (5:10)
  • To a Synagogue leader with a sick daughter, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe, and she will be saved.” (8:50)
  • To the disciples, Jesus said, “Don’t fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will show you the one to fear: Fear him who has authority to throw people into hell after death. Yes, I say to you, this is the one to fear!” (12:4-5)
  • To the disciples, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (12:7)
  • To the disciples, Jesus said, “Don’t worry about how you should defend yourselves or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at the very hour what must be said.” (12:11-12)
  • To the disciples, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom.” (12:32)

I have thought in recent days how tumultuous 2020 will potentially be. Our nation shows no promise of being able to handle a presidential election with any kind of courtesy or civility toward those who disagree. Christians who ought to set the example of how to hold such discussions are no better at this than unbelievers. (I regret to have to write that sentence.) Now, as 2020 dawns, tensions have boiled over in the Middle East leading some to already predict World War. These national and global crises mean nothing to the personal crises of addiction, divorce, terminal illness, and the like that have greeted some as this New Year dawns.

So, these are the words that I am entering 2020 with in my heart: “Don’t be afraid!” I am not going to be afraid because . . .

The One True God, the God of this universe, hears my prayer.

I, too, have found favor with God. I don’t deserve his favor, but I am doomed without His favor.

The greatest news of all-time has been revealed. We have a Savior, and His name is Jesus!

Jesus has brought not only salvation to me, but now has given me purpose in life by making that salvation known to others. And, along with that purpose in life, He gives me power to “catch people” or to be His witness.

He has the power to heal the sick even those sick unto death.

Even those who seek to kill do not have power over God.

We matter to Him.

He gives us words to say even in the most difficult experiences of life.

He is working to bring about His Kingdom which will have no end and is making us a part of that Kingdom.

I may need to be reminded somewhere along the way in 2020 to not be afraid, but I don’t think there is a better word or few words for us than these: Don’t be afraid!