A Guide for Small, Low-Tech Churches to Start Their Online Ministry

Today our guest blogger is Tim Arndt. He is an assistant pastor at Allendale Baptist Church where he is heavily involved in discipleship, outreach, and communications. He is the director of the Michigan Apologetics Network and is a chapter director with Ratio Christi at Grand Valley State University. Anyone who meets Tim easily remembers him as the tallest Filipino they’ve ever met.

Tim Arndt

Tim Arndt

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As the COVID-19 crisis hit America, in a matter of a 48 hours, I had four churches (besides my own) contact me asking for help to livestream their services and move their ministries online.

It was kind of funny having so many churches look to my church as if we were “experts” when just a few years ago we were a low-tech church of 40 people meeting in a funeral home.

By God’s grace, our church kept growing bit by bit and we kept seeking to improve in our use of technology too.

If you’re in a smaller, perhaps “older” church that is having a hard time adjusting to moving your ministries online, I’m writing this article for you.

I understand the challenges you’re experiencing.

The advice I’m giving here assumes you have little to no knowledge of how to utilize these technologies and can be quickly implemented.

(Not to mention, my advice shouldn’t break your budget either).

So grab the most tech-savvy person at your church and see if you can start using some of these tools to get your ministries going during this time of social distancing.

Online Sermons and Classes

If your church has not previously been recording video of sermons and classes, here is the general approach I would recommend:

Record your video in high definition, with good audio, and then upload the recorded video to both YouTube and Facebook.

Let me unpack that for you a bit.

By “high definition” I mean, make sure you are recording your video in at least 1080p or better yet, 4K resolution.

You’ll notice that I recommended recording your sermon and not livestreaming.

Livestreaming can be a lot more complicated than simply recording and you will usually end up with a much lower quality video. There are more reasons I can offer, but if you’re not used to using video, start with recording good video and you can work on livestreaming later.

The nice thing about recording is most people now own phones that can record in HD.

So you don’t need to spend extra money right away purchasing a camera! (of course if you have a nice camera, feel free to use it).

For good audio, you’re going to need a decent microphone.

There are a lot of microphones out there, but I’ll give you 3 examples of mics you can use with an iPhone: The Shure MV88, Blue mics, and this lavalier-style mic.

Here is why I recommend uploading your video to both Facebook AND YouTube.

Chances are your church has a Facebook page with some following. Since you already have an “audience” there, put your sermon right in front of them and then they can easily share it with their friends and family.

The reason it’s good to also upload your video to YouTube is because while over 70% of Americans use Facebook, over 90% use YouTube. For the people in your church who are not yet on Facebook, you can email them a link to your sermon on YouTube.

There’s a lot more that could be said about how to take good video of your sermons and classes, but if you at least pay attention to your lighting and the “rule of thirds”, your video should look great.

Here’s a list of free video editing software you can use.

Online Small Groups & Bible Studies

My church has continued doing small groups and smaller Bible studies on line and people have been really loving it!

To do this, you’re going to want to use some video conferencing software.

My top recommendation is Zoom.

I’d recommend that your church get a pro account or two ($15 per month) and it is really easy to setup and invite people to connect through video.

Other alternatives are Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams.

While these are not as advanced, you could also do video calls through Facebook messenger and Facetime. To be honest, while our church is using Zoom for most things, some people prefer using these other options and that’s okay!

Ultimately the goal is to keep your people connected to God and each other, and video conferencing software can really help with that.

Online Church Fellowship

This is something I think all churches need to start doing:

Utilize Facebook “groups”.

We’ve received an overwhelming amount of feedback from people telling us how thankful they are for our “prayer and encouragement” Facebook group.

In our group we encourage people to ask for prayer requests and share how God has worked in their lives.

Additionally, it’s a great way for the pastors to send encouragement to their people.

While there are probably people in your church who don’t use Facebook, I would suggest that there are just as many (if not more) who don’t really use email.

Our prayer and encouragement group on Facebook has 120 members and 111 of them were active in the group in the last 7 days.

Meanwhile, only 40% of our people open the emails we send them.

I’m not suggesting you replace email with Facebook, but what I am saying is that your people are on Facebook and are more than willing to interact with the church in a group!

Here are 3 pieces of advice to using your Facebook group well.

  1. Make sure it’s a “private” group so that people have to request to join.
  2. Make sure you have a few trustworthy Admins or Moderators who can remove any posts that may be gossip or harmful in any way.
  3. Don’t overwhelm people with information, rather encourage interaction among the church. Ask how you can pray for people, or what they are thankful for. Get a conversation going.

Online Giving

My church took a hit when we had to cancel our services, but we still had an encouraging amount come in through our online giving platform.

I’ve spoken with a few churches this past week who said they have not received anything.

I know some churches have been hesitant to use online giving, but I think in this situation of quarantines and social distancing, utilizing online giving is a way to love your people.

Believe it or not there are a ton of giving platforms out there designed for churches.

If you currently use any sort of church database which stores your members’ contact information, they might have an online giving platform already.

Using your current database as a giving platform conveniently syncs your information automatically.

However, if you are starting from scratch, begin by looking at the fees involved.

Givingfees.com has compiled the pricing of the most popular online giving platforms for churches and you can weigh for yourself which option will be best for your church.

The Church Will Stand

In times like these it is important to remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:18b: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

These are hard times for churches, but it is in the darkest times that the church will shine brightest.

Utilize the gift of technology to the best of your ability and you can continue to see your church grow in the love and knowledge of Christ.

Use technology for the glory of God, until we can all meet again.

 

 

 

Ministry Technology

A Biblical Theology of Sickness

At some point in your life you will experience sickness (you might get a cold, the flu, cancer, or the coronavirus). And since sickness is a part of our existence, having a biblical view of it is of great importance. Therefore, in this article I will examine what the Bible teaches about illness. Here are six truths about sickness.

1. Sickness is a consequence of original sin; and in this sense, sickness is a punishment from God for sin.

In Genesis 2:17 God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that he eats of it he shall surely die.  Adam disobeyed God. And the moment he sinned, his body started dying. His body became subject to illness. God punished Adam for his sin. If Adam had not sinned, there would be no death, there would be no sickness.

Hence, the presence of sickness is a sad reminder of the fall of Adam. It is one of the effects of original sin. Sickness exists because sin does. In the new heaven and new earth there will be no more sickness because there will be no more sin (Rev. 21:4).

2. Your sickness may be a consequence of your personal sin; and in this sense, your sickness is a chastisement from the Lord.

In James 5:14–15 the author asks, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him…And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Here it is possible that the person is sick because of particular sin in his life.

Writing to the Corinthian church, Paul proclaims, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1 Cor. 11:27–30). Notice the connection between sickness and sin here. Many members of the Corinthian church are sick because of their sin.

It is therefore possible that God has given you infirmity in order to chastise you (Heb. 12:6). Perhaps it is a consequence of your irresponsible care of your body (e.g., bad diet). Nevertheless, in this context affliction comes to us from God’s loving hand. Affliction is like a rod that God uses to bring back his wandering sheep to the fold.

3. Your sickness may not be a consequence of your personal sin; and in this sense, your sickness is a test from the Lord.

The word “if” in James 5:15 also allows the possibility that the sick person has not committed sins and in this way his sickness is not a result of his personal sin but a test from God. Job is an example of this truth (Job 2:4–7). Sickness became an instrument in God’s hand to mold Job into the person that God wanted him to be. Sickness became a blessing for Job, for it brought him closer to God. The wheelchair- bound Joni Eareckson Tada once declared, “Suffering provides the gym equipment on which my faith can be exercised.”

4. Sickness can be a consequence of the personal sin of another person.

2 Samuel 12:15 tells us that “the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick.” David’s child died as a result of David’s sin concerning Bathsheba and Uriah. David committed adultery and murder. At another instance, the nation of Israel suffered a pestilence because David’s sin (2 Sam. 24). It is thus possible that a person or even a nation suffers the consequence of the sins of others.

5. Sickness can neither be a consequence of our personal sin, nor a consequence of the personal sin of another person. In this sense, sickness is simply a demonstration of God’s absolute sovereignty.

Remember the man born blind in John 9:1–3. In that passage the disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” No one sinned. God was simply practicing his absolute prerogative to do whatever pleases him. He was simply displaying his sovereignty—to remind us that we do not control our health. He does!

6. Sickness comes to us from God ultimately for His glory and for our good.

In John 11 when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Whatever kind of sickness you have, pray that through it God may be glorified.

While sickness is for God’s glory, it is also for our good. Paul notes in 2 Corinthians 12:7, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh…to keep me from becoming conceited.” In short, God has given Paul “a thorn in the flesh” (whatever it might be) in order to keep him from the sin of pride.

Maybe God has given you a certain kind of illness (like the coronavirus) in order to keep you from pride and teach you to depend more on his grace (2 Cor. 12:9), so that at the end you can sing with the psalmist, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Ps. 119:71).

A Biblical Theology of Sickness

Affliction

10 Ways in which this Coronavirus Pandemic Can Be for Our Good

I am a Christian and therefore I want to look at this coronavirus pandemic through the lens of the Bible, particularly of Romans 8:28–29, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

This text teaches us that for us, believers in Christ, all things, without exception including the coronavirus, work together for good. Although sometimes in time of great trial we feel what Jacob felt, “all these things are against me” (Gen. 42:36).  But later, once we look back we can say with Joseph, “God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).

So how can this coronavirus be for our good? Let me suggest ten ways in which this virus can be for our good.

1. It can unite us in prayer globally, since the virus is now pandemic. And let us not underestimate what our prayers can do. Revival begins with prayer.

2. It can open a door for us to share the gospel with the unbelievers. With this pandemic, we Christians have a wonderful opportunity to show Christ’s love to others. Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

3. It can wean us from some of our idols in this world such as sports, since this virus has caused cancellations and postponements of sporting events. Sadly, some Christians would rather watch or attend a sporting event on Sunday than worship God.

4. It can compel us to put our confidence in God for healing, since there is no known vaccine yet for this virus. Medicines are gifts from God but sometimes we depend more on these gifts than on the Giver.

5. It can give parents special time to be with their children, since this virus has also caused schools to shut down. Let’s ask help from God that our time with our children will become a blessing rather than a burden. Let’s remember, too, that our children are watching us. Thus, by what we say and do, let’s teach them how to react to a crisis like this in a God-honoring way.

6. It can serve as an occasion for us to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). The pace of life in which we live now is so fast that we hardly find time to pause and meditate on God’s Word. Since this virus has brought normal life to a halt, for most of us we have extra time to commune with God and ponder upon heavenly and eternal things.

7. It can bring us face to face with the reality of death, as this virus continues to claim lives around the globe. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Are you ready to die?

8. It can be a wakeup call to us from God to repent of our sin. Usually a pestilence is a sign of God’s judgment. For instance, in 2 Samuel 24 God punished His covenant people because of David’s sin and God’s punishment came to them in a form of pestilence that claimed 70,000 lives.

9. It can point us to Christ’s Second Coming. In a sense, we should not be surprised to see more events like this pandemic as Jesus Himself says regarding the last days, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences” (Luke 21:10–11). Unfortunately, people prepare for the coming of the coronavirus, but give little thought to Christ’s Second Coming.

10. It is certain that God will only use this pandemic as an instrument in His hand to conform us more to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. So the coronavirus is not designed to drive us away from God but to draw us closer to Him. It is in this sense that this virus is ultimately for our spiritual good and for God’s own glory.

Therefore, fellow Christians, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1).

COVID-19 Pandemic

Affliction

Michigan is now under a State of Emergency because of Coronavirus

I live in Michigan and yesterday our Governor Gretchen Whitmer confirmed the first cases of coronavirus (we have two cases as of now: one in Oakland county and one in Wayne county).

And “to harness our resources across state government to slow the spread of the virus,” Governor Whitmer has put Michigan under a state of emergency. She said, “We’re taking every step that we can to mitigate the virus spread and keep Michiganders safe. I’ve signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency in order to maximize our efforts and assist local governments and officials to slow the spread. It’s crucial that Michiganders continue to take preventative measures.”

Although I’m a Christian, I confess my fear, especially as I have four small children (seven years old and under). But as David confesses, too, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in [God]” (Psalm 56:3).

I know I should not worry, yet I admit my tendency to worry. Oh, but why worry, when I can pray! Paul says, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5–7).

Because this coronavirus is new, we have many uncertainties such as when the vaccine for this virus will be available and if this virus will be seasonal like the flu. Yet, in the midst of all these uncertainties, we can trust our sovereign God. We know for sure that nothing happens without a purpose and that this virus is ultimately for our spiritual good and for the glory of God. As Romans 8:28–29 declares, “And we know that for those who love God all things [without exception, including this virus] work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”

With this passage in mind, we can be certain that God will only use this coronavirus as an instrument in His hand to conform His people more to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. It is in this sense that this virus is for our spiritual good and for God’s own glory. Let’s trust God even if sometimes we don’t always understand how all things (including this virus) could be for our good. As one song says,

“All things work for our good/ Though sometimes we don’t see/ How they could/ Struggles that break our hearts in two/ Sometimes blind us to the truth./ God is too wise to be mistaken/ God is too good to be unkind/ So when you don’t understand/ When don’t see His plan/ When you can’t trace His hand/ Trust His Heart.”

So let’s not panic but pray. It is during a crisis such as this that God causes mankind to pause, to stop and remember that He is in control and that we are but dust. And as Kevin DeYoung reminds us, “Our biggest concern in life is not sickness, it is sin. By all means, let’s do all we can to limit the spread of physical disease. But our precautions against vice should be even more than our precautions against a virus.”

coronavirus

image source: wxyz.com (Detroit)

Affliction Uncategorized

A Word in Season: The Life and Ministry of Rev. Arie Elshout

A few weeks ago, Reformation Heritage Books published my father-in-law’s translation of the biography of his father, Rev. Arie Elshout (1923–1991), entitled A Word in Season: The Life and Ministry of Rev. Arie Elshout.
To give you some background information, let me quote part of the Translator’s Preface:
It has been an extraordinary and unforgettable privilege for me to translate this biography of my father (and mother!). For obvious reasons, it was a task in which I was also engaged emotionally. My intense and extended interaction with the text of this biography have only reaffirmed what my siblings and I have known since we were children: the life story of our parents is the story of God’s remarkable and gracious dealings with two sinners.
When our parents celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary in 1985, we asked our father to commit to writing—also for the benefit of our children and grandchildren—the many stories our parents had told us. Our father agreed to do that, and during the six remaining years of his life, he faithfully recorded his memoirs for us—memoirs written strictly for the benefit of our extended family. All of this changed, however, when our mother was approached by the author of this biography, Adriaan Van Toor, informing her of his desire to publish the story of the pilgrim’s journey of our beloved parents. After careful and prayerful consideration, our mother agreed to fully cooperate with this proposed publishing venture.
When Mr. Van Toor approached our mother, he had no knowledge of the existence of our father’s written memoirs. How astonished and pleased he was when our mother handed him these memoirs! This provided him at once with the complete framework of the life story of our parents. With this valuable documentation in hand, he then engaged in his own independent research of every aspect of this story. And thus the moment arrived in 2008 that this biography was published in the Netherlands, having as its title Aan Armen uit Genâ (for poor sinners, merely of grace). These words, taken from the rhymed rendition of Psalm 72:12,2 were graven upon his heart by the Holy Spirit as the message he would be called to proclaim as a minister of the gospel. Since, however, an exact translation of this phrase is difficult to achieve, we have opted for A Word in Season (Isa. 50:4), a title that accurately summarizes our father’s ministry as well—especially in light of the context in which these words are found. God gave him a special gift to speak a word in season to the weary, and to comfort the feeble-minded (1 Thess. 5:14).
Not only was this gift evident in every aspect of his pastoral ministry, but also in the three books he has written—books that have been, and continue to be, a “word in season” for many. It never occurred to our father that his life story would be published. In his own words, he viewed himself as one of God’s sparrows rather than an eloquent nightingale. Yet, God’s sovereign purpose was otherwise! It has been a humbling and encouraging experience for our late mother, and our family, that this biography has been so well received in the Netherlands.
Since our father served two North American congregations (1967-1974), it was our late mother’s express desire that our father’s biography be made available in English as well. We are hopeful that many in the English-speaking world will be edified by the account of God’s remarkable dealings in the lives of our parents.
Let me conclude by emphasizing that the story of our parents is ultimately not about them, but rather, about a faithful, covenant-keeping God who, for Christ’s sake, was (is!) also their God. Therefore, to Him alone be all the glory!

Contents:

Preface – Rev. C. Harinck
Translator’s Preface
Introduction

Chapter 1: Peculiar Folk
Chapter 2: A Change of Direction
Chapter 3: In Exile
Chapter 4: Anxiety and Stress
Chapter 5: Destined for Each Other
Chapter 6: Number 742
Chapter 7: How Can This Be?
Chapter 8: He Hears the Needy When They Cry
Chapter 9: This Is the Lord’s Doing!
Chapter 10: “I Shall Go There…”
Chapter 11: Love and Tact
Chapter 12: Trusting in His Sender
Chapter 13: The Ends of the Earth
Chapter 14: “Be It unto Thee Even as Thou Wilt”
Chapter 15: The Long Road to Recovery
Chapter 16: The LORD Made Room
Chapter 17: The Spirit’s Work Encompasses All Kindred and Nations
Chapter 18: Covenant Faithfulness toward Zoetermeer
Chapter 19: A Step Back
Chapter 20: The End of the Journey
Chapter 21: And He Was Not, for God Took Him

Appendices—Two Sermons by Rev. A. Elshout

Sermon 1: Jesus or Barabbas (Luke 23:13–25)
Sermon 2: The Slaying of the Children in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16–18)

 

To purchase a copy, click here.
A Word in Season
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Two Main Reasons Why Members Leave and Join another Church

Members come and go. Some leave because they relocate. Others are compelled to leave because of doctrinal errors. Some leave not because the church is at fault but because they want to look for a congregation where their worldly practices can be tolerated.

There are those who leave because they are fed up with church traditions that are not necessarily bad. But the problem is sometimes we (church leaders) place our traditions above the gospel. We unconsciously become legalistic in the way we deal with the life and ministry of our church. We become more concerned with our traditions than with the Scriptures.

Yet, I think, of all the possible reasons people leave, poor preaching and lack of love are the two leading ones. Two Main Reasons Why Members Leave and Join another Church

1. Poor preaching

Perfect preaching does not exist. Expecting our pastor to always deliver an A+ sermon every Sunday is not realistic either. However, if the preaching is poor almost every Sunday, most likely members will leave.

Here are some of the characteristics of poor preaching:

  • too doctrinal with almost no practical or personal applications
  • not engaging (preaching becomes like newscasting or reporting)
  • difficult to understand (too technical)
  • hard to follow (too unorganized with no clear direction)
  • too shallow

Now, sometimes a pastor does not preach well because he does not have enough time to study for his sermons, perhaps because of his other duties at home and at church. This is why elders need to protect the time of their pastor for sermon preparation. If you want to hear good sermons from your pastor, don’t overwork him.

2. Lack of love

Members want to belong to a congregation that they can call a “home church,” where they feel welcome and where the communion of the saints exists. When the love of Christ is not felt in a congregation, people usually begin to look for a new church where they can find such love and experience the care of other believers. The Apostle Paul says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up….encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thess. 5:11–14). “Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2).

Sometimes even if preaching is not the strength of a church, but if the gospel is proclaimed faithfully and the members feel loved, they usually stay. But if the preaching is poor and love is lacking, don’t be surprised if one day members leave.  That’s why church leaders need to make a consistent effort to cultivate a loving environment in a congregation. Also, members are responsible to seek ways to become actively involved in the ministry of the church and to reach out to their fellow church members with the love of Jesus.

 

 

 

Preaching