SUNRISE BEACH – Online services are not merely a stopgap option for churches that cannot meet together in-person. The Holy Spirit still moves. Case in point, First Baptist Church, Sunrise Beach.
Pastor Brent McCune said the church has seen a decline in attendance for several years, but has suddenly seen growth during this time of imposed quarantine.
A few families were considering joining the church when the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic caused most churches to shift to online gatherings. McCune called “Donna” to see if she was still interested if they could figure out some way to make it happen without physically meeting at a church. He got an enthusiastic response.
“I’ve never had anyone so excited about becoming a member,” he said. “It was like on the ‘Price is Right’ when they cry and jump up and down.”
That same day, he got a call from a “Connie” and her two sons. They also wanted to join.
Sunrise usually requires prospective members to attend a membership class before going before a vote of the church. Since that wasn’t going to happen in person, McCune spent a few days videoing the content of the classes and made an interactive online form on the church’s website. They’ve all completed the classes. Donna’s testimony appeared in the church newsletter, and the congregation took a vote online the next Sunday.
“We rejoiced afterwards, and a lot of the people called later to welcome and encourage her,” he said, “sort of like you normally would after a church service.”
McCune said this is one example of the church growing beyond the initial move of putting videos of services online during this period of “new normal.”
“Just doing services is not enough,” he said. “The work of the church needs to continue and personal discipleship needs to continue as we create fellowship.”