By Mark A. Taylor
A blizzard of historic proportions is coming your way on a Saturday; so what do you do on Friday?
Most local churches in the path of Winter Storm Jonas last weekend decided to call off services. And who could blame them? Record snowfalls and gale-force winds wreaked havoc from Kentucky to Cape Cod. Interstates were shut down. Residents were told to stay home and stay off snow-covered roads waiting for overwhelmed plowing crews to clear them. Churchgoers couldn’t get to church buildings, and many local municipalities had issued orders not to drive.
But we heard about one congregation that decided to do more than post a “Services Canceled” slide on their website. Mountain Christian Church in suburban Baltimore, one of the hardest-hit areas, recorded a complete video service Friday morning and encouraged church members to use it as a guide for worshipping at home sometime Sunday.
Ben Cachiaras, the preacher there, altered his sermon at the last minute to include references to the snowstorm. The worship team recorded a set of worship songs, with words on the screen so viewers could sing along. Kelly Kastens, worship arts pastor, began the hour-long service with a welcome, announcements, and instructions for how worshippers could include giving in their worship experience. And the service ended with time for Communion, complete with slides giving viewers instructions for observing the Lord’s Supper at home.
Two things strike me about this.
First, perhaps, is the fact that Mountain has the technology and the know-how to put this together. Watch the video, and you’ll have a first-rate experience; the presentation is as excellent as the content.
But we know dozens, probably hundreds, of local congregations with similar ability. They’ve come to see top-notch video production as a necessary component. And most of them have preachers and worship leaders as easy to listen to as Ben and his team.
The more remarkable fact is the initiative of Mountain to create and post this hour-long video. It’s an expression of ideals all of us would claim to value:
- We’re here to serve, not to be served. Everyone likes a snow day, but how can we meet the needs of others kept from worship by a blizzard?
- Worship is about engaging a congregation, not conducting a performance. Sure, Broadway shows cancelled on Saturday, but our mission is something beyond gathering a crowd and filling seats.
- Technology is our friend; we can use it to do things not possible even a decade ago. While worship via computer screen can’t match the experience of gathering with a crowd, it’s way better than skipping worship altogether.
- Meeting weekly for Communion and prayer and teaching is the New Testament pattern. In a day when “regular church attendance” to many means once or twice a month, Mountain’s decision underscored the importance of weekly worship.
None of this is to criticize congregations that did not do something similar. My point is only to praise Mountain for their heart to serve, enrich, and engage. Even a blizzard couldn’t stop them.
How did your church cope with Winter Storm Jonas? We’re guessing several congregations did something like the video service Mountain Christian prepared. Tell us about it, and we’ll report it in this space and our weekly Christian Standard digital newsletter.