Why do I keep Preaching from the Church’s Pulpit During the Pandemic?
We are living in peculiar times! Nothing is normal with the situation we are living in right now. Although our main pastoral role has not changed, the way we minister to our congregations has been dramatically altered.
Online sermons are the new normal for all of us who are desperately trying to keep our flock connected and well fed. However, when you look around or when you scroll down your Facebook feed, or you listen to experts telling you how to deliver your online sermons during a lockdown, you are probably confused with so many different suggestions. You might be asking yourself: “How in the world should I implement these ideas in my church? Will they work? Will my members actually watch my sermons?” I believe that the first thing you should do before you start implementing all these different ideas on how to deliver your online sermons is acknowledge the nature, style, and identity of the church you are currently serving.
I know my church well. I know its characteristics and DNA. This is key when deciding on how to deliver my sermons. In my church, we had already been livestreaming sermons on YouTube and Facebook for several years before this pandemic started. We had also been using Zoom for some meetings. So, the question I had to consider was, “Should I continue doing live sermons from the church? Or should I simply start doing it from my home?”
Before deciding whether you should preach from your church or from your home, I would like you to consider the following questions:
- Who is your church audience? What type of people attend your church? Are they traditional? Contemporary? Hipsters? Are they formal or informal? Do the majority of them have Facebook, Instagram, or any other form of social media?
- What is your preaching style? Where would you be more comfortable delivering the message? From your living room or from the church? Remember, this is not the time to become someone else. You haven’t changed your preaching style during quarantine, and your members’ likings haven’t changed either. There was no alteration in style or preferences.
My rationality is, since everything is new and we need to adapt to the new reality, why not keep a little bit of familiarity for my congregation, and continue to deliver the sermon from the church? We all agree that churches should be online, and that they should be live streaming their services. However, in my opinion, the conversation about the place we deliver our sermons from becomes irrelevant when our decision is based on our local congregation and our own preaching style.
Without any doubts, the best way to deliver the Sabbath message to the church I currently lead is preaching from the church’s pulpit, and here is why: Paul is a beloved senior member of our church. He is kind and always willing to help. Because his wife has some health issues, whenever they couldn’t come to church, they would watch the service on YouTube. During the lockdown, I called Paul to check on them and pray for them. We chatted a little, and during our conversation, Paul said: “I love that we can still watch our church services on Sabbaths. My wife and I really appreciate it.” As I called other church members to check on them as well, many have mentioned the same thing. They enjoy watching something that is familiar and brings a sense of normalcy to them.
Lately I have been reading some articles that ask, “Why are some pastors preaching to empty pews?” And since I’m one of the pastors who have been doing that, I can definitely give you an answer; I don’t preach to empty pews. I look directly to the cameras and I know who is behind them: my people, my church which I love to serve, and families who are dedicated to Jesus. I preach to my members who I know well, and who are in their homes connected to what is familiar to them. I preach to real people who love our church and are dedicated to keeping it united even when we are physically apart. I know my flock, and I know that preaching from our church brings them some familiarity and normalcy in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.
Also, if my church was already reaching people on social media through livestreaming sermons from the church’s pulpit before the pandemic, why stop now? I think this is the reason why so many preachers throughout America continue to preach from their pulpits.
I have two Gen Zs at home and so of course, I consulted with them on their thoughts. I specifically asked them: “How interesting is it, to your generation, to watch a pastor preaching on social media from their living room?” Both with no hesitation said: “Nope, we wouldn’t watch it.” In their opinion, a pastor needs to show passion when preaching. If they don’t see passion in the message, apparently, they are not going to watch.
My kids’ opinion does not make them an expert in reaching the youth amidst this lockdown. However, it gives me a pretty good idea that, for some, preaching from home is not the solution, neither to reach the youth nor the majority of the church members.
I’m aware that my church is well equipped with all the tools, cameras, and professionals we need to serve. However, if it didn’t have all these resources, I would probably do something else and find other ways to reach my church members. Also, if I was pastoring a district of 2-3 churches, I would definitely consider other solutions to reach them.
I have done an Easter week of prayer with different speakers and I have led conversations about the pandemic on Facebook through Zoom. But just to clarify, this article is not about the many ways you have to reach and minister to your congregation during the pandemic. This is specifically about why many preachers have decided to deliver their online sermon on Sabbaths at 11 am from the church’s pulpit.
Remember, our main goal as local pastors is not to reach the world; our main responsibility is to reach and feed the flock and the community that God places us in. The only one who can define the best way to preach to your church members and visitors during a lockdown is yourself. You are the one who knows them. You are the one who visits them. You are the one who talks to them. And you are the one who knows what they need. Don’t put yourself in a box and don’t allow others to put you in a box either.
Whatever you decide to do, remember to do it with excellence. If you have decided to preach from your living room, do your best. If you have decided to do it from your church’s pulpit, exceed in what you are doing. And if you choose another venue to better serve your church through preaching, go for it! But before listening to ‘experts’ on how or where to deliver your sermons during a pandemic lockdown, listen to the people who attend your congregation, such as your members and visitors; they are the ones who know best on how you should minister to them.