Opportunity Lost, Opportunity Gained, Discovering IBC Churches Online
Up with the moon, I only see dark through the window. Thankfully Tim is an early bird and already has the coffee ready. This is part of our new Sunday rhythm.
If we were in Italy, Sunday would find us at Il Faro International Baptist Church. Being in the U.S. as missionaries on home assignment, we’d usually visit a different supporting church each week. Coronavirus had other plans.
What has corona lockdown meant for us in regard to going to church? Like many, we miss being able to physically go to church, being able to hug and kiss our fellow church members (we’re from Italy don’t forget), being able to hear worship songs lifted up in community. But on the flip side lockdown has given us a unique opportunity to worship with other IBC church families, in different countries, in different time zones. We start early in the morning in order to catch a livestream or two from Europe, then worship with several others via their video upload method of choice, and finally finish with a congregation on this side of the ocean. In our four weeks of online worship we’ve been able to visit quite a few of our IBC church families spread across Europe and Latin America.
The idea of “attending” five or six services every Sunday might seem a bit much, but it really has been an encouragement. Part of the value of the local church is the reinforcement it gives to the idea of being part of a body; nobody walks in faith alone. Especially in this time of needing to be distanced, it is refreshing to be together virtually with other believers, reminding ourselves that we are part of something bigger. Living this kind of Sunday has also helped the day stand out as different from the blursday (borrowed from my friend’s hashtag) the rest of the week tends to become.
One aspect that has stood out to us is the uniqueness of each congregation in living out church in the midst of corona. We’ve seen services filmed live at the moment, pre-recorded and uploaded, and even in a live chat format via Zoom; music has also varied from a single guitarist playing live, a worship team (appropriately distanced of course) pre-recording, to embedded YouTube videos. The media platforms might also change, depending on what subscriptions each church has and their level of experience. Bottom line, there’s no one right way to do a service which we already knew, but now get to appreciate in a new way.
After four weeks of social-distanced Sunday services, we have come away with an appreciation for the IBC on a new level, having seen how each church in the convention has risen to the challenge. Already in the first week of lockdown, IBC pastors and leaders were finding innovative ways to meet virtually. That’s not to be taken for granted — just yesterday we were “with” a church in the U.S. meeting together for their first time in a month and not even for a service, it was simply a chat group. The speed at which our churches went virtual has also meant the Gospel message getting out to more people since video links are easily shared. The IBC churches have also been very good at leveraging the talents of their members for graphics, for tech support, or for creatively meeting physical and emotional needs of the congregation. It seems that the varied and transient nature of our international churches which can sometimes seem a hurdle to overcome has actually positioned the IBC to adapt fairly quickly in this unprecedented time.
There is a part of me that would prefer to rise with the sun rather than the moon, but I really am thankful for this odd sort of blessing that corona lockdown has provided us. I think it will be interesting to see how God uses these times to continue to strengthen the IBC family we love and grow their outreach and influence.