By Chris Moon
At 84 years old—and after 62 years in ministry—Bob Chitwood is having no problem keeping up with the times.
The pastor at Brownville Christian Church in Nebraska has been using the COVID-19 pandemic to take his church’s ministry to Facebook. Each week, Chitwood produces an 8- to 10-minute video he calls “An Encouraging Word,” where Chitwood shares a gospel principle at various locations around the tiny town of Brownville.
He went to a local vineyard and winery and discussed Jesus as the true vine. He went down by the Missouri River to discuss the river of life. He walked through a local park and discussed the concept of hope.
His first “Encouraging Word” was on Palm Sunday. Chitwood visited a park dedicated to the idea—more than 100 years ago—of Brownville becoming the state capital of Nebraska. Chitwood used the spot to talk about Jesus riding into his capital in Jerusalem.
“It’s good for me because it keeps me thinking about what I can do next,” Chitwood said.
Brownville Christian Church is the oldest Christian church in Nebraska. It was founded in 1855. Chitwood, meanwhile, was ordained in 1958 and has been in ministry ever since.
Chitwood and his wife, Pat, came to Brownville in 1993 after retiring from a long ministry at Capital City Christian Church in Lincoln. Chitwood had moved to Brownville to restore an old house there. He’s a history buff, and Brownville—population 135—has plenty of history.
Chitwood said he began pastoring the little church there as a way to give back.
“The first Sunday, there were four of us,” he said. “And I was one of the four.”
The church now has about 40 who typically attend.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the church thought about how it could continue to communicate with the congregation and the community. Chitwood’s “Encouraging Word” fit the bill.
He said some of the posts have garnered more than 2,000 views. People as far away as Alaska have viewed them.
Chitwood said he wasn’t always on the front edge of technology.
“I wasn’t for a long time,” he said. “I regret now that it took COVID-19 to expand our knowledge and outreach.”
He said the church had people capable of producing the videos, and now he’s glad the church is using their talents.
Brownville Christian Church started meeting in person again about five weeks ago at about two-thirds of its normal attendance. Even so, “An Encouraging Word” has continued.
“It’s just been fun to keep thinking of different ways to tell people Christ loves you and we can be encouraged in tough times,” Chitwood said. “The image of the church has improved so much because it has touched so many lives that we were not touching. . . . It’s just a good uplift for people.”
Bob and Pam Chitwood have four children, including two sons who serve with churches. Mark Chitwood is senior pastor with StoneBridge Christian Church in Nebraska, while Brian Chitwood is lead pastor with First Church of Christ, Ladysmith, Wis.
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.