So many people I read on social media have watched the ESPN’s series “The Last Dance,” and are in awe of the moves that Michael Jordan made as a basketball player. The way he could elevate to the hoop and elevate his game at key moments is unparalleled in sports.
Amid this COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen another group elevate their game, so to speak.
Across the state of Oklahoma, I have seen pastors kick it into high gear during these unusual times. From adapting to preaching online to finding ways to minister and lead at a distance, there is no shortage of exemplary pastors in Oklahoma doing this.
I want to point out two that, quite literally, elevated their game.
Pastor Brad Graves of Ada, First has been preaching his sermon 30 feet in the air on a lift during the church’s drive-in worship services.
When asked about it, he said, “On our ‘Parking Lot Church,’ as we call it, it is going well. We do not have a large parking lot, but we have eight smaller lots. There is a place where four of them merge together, and we made that area work. However, it starting raining early that Sunday morning. We had to move all the musicians into the lobby and under the awning of the church—this is our back entrance. Also, we are having the roof replaced on our church building, and the roofer has a sky-lift fork lift on site that he is using through the week. He gladly loaned us the keys and the bucket. The Sunday after Easter I preached from it, while holding an umbrella in a light rain about 25 feet in the air to just over 90 cars.”
According to Graves, “people from all over town said they tuned into our FM Radio 96.3 frequency and listened.”
He added, “(On Sunday, April 26), we tried it again. It was a bright and sunny day. This time some people tailgated from their trucks, but most stayed inside. It was a hot day, bright and sunny, and this time the umbrella was used so I can see my iPad. We had just over 120 cars this week, first time visitors, and we had at least five neighbors on their front porches listening to radios of me preaching.
“It is a short service, the whole thing is about 45 minutes with music, message, and prayer. They honk when prompted to say amen. Our parking lot team has signs with instructions and radio station frequency as they park the cars. We figure an average of 3.5 per car, as many parents have picked up their grandparents or vice versa, and their cars are full.
“Because of the extra cars, they lifted me to around 30 feet in the air. Since I am on the radio, I cannot hear myself at any level, there are no monitors or acoustics for feedback. It is different, but not challenging. Our people have loved it. I was told that in a zoom small group that one couple teared up when they said how cool it was to have a pastor willing to preach in the rain on a forklift for them. Our people love it. I enjoy it. I miss seeing faces and interaction, but all of us are doing whatever we need to do to fulfill our calling, for me, I get to do that from 30-feet in the air on a fork lift.”
At Bartlesville First, (my hometown and my home church), Pastor James Biesiadecki also went vertical during the sermon time. Preaching in front of the congregation from the church roof, the congregation was gathered in the parking lot before him.
On Facebook, he wrote, “Well, our first drive-in service. We had great worship, and it was great to see everyone!”
As a person who has somewhat a fear of heights, I admire that these two men were willing to preach from atop heights, so they could be more visible to their congregation. I also admire them for proclaiming the Gospel and feeding the flock with God’s Word.
The Apostle Paul told Timothy, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Tim. 4:2).
Our Oklahoma Baptists have stepped up—and gone up—in ways that I believe would give joy to the Apostle Paul and, more importantly, do give joy to the Lord.
To all those pastors elevating your ministry game right now, we salute you and thank you. Praise God for our great pastors!