Southern Baptists, who previously planned for Easter Sunday 2020 to be “Fill the Tank” Sunday with baptisms in church services, were dealt a major change with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the ability to hold in-person services on Easter.
Yet on Sunday, April 12, Oklahoma Baptist churches across the state did not let the limitations presented by the pandemic stop them from proclaiming and celebrating the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.
Online, drive-in services make impact
Whether larger-in-attendance or smaller, many churches offer livestreaming of Sunday services, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. From Facebook Live to other streaming platforms, pastors preached the Gospel to their own congregations and “online visitors” alike.
One Facebook report indicated many congregations typically offer online services each week, with a higher online viewership, such as Mustang, First.
Since the COVID-19 government regulations first came down in March, Elmore City, First adapted to a drive-in-style worship service. The church had a platform set up in the parking lot, with microphones and a sound system in place, as individuals and families gathered in their cars at the church for a service Pastor Danny Reed called “Drive up and worship.”
“This ‘Drive up and worship’ is a way to gather while staying in compliance with health officials’ recommendations,” Reed said. “It’s a way we have corporate worship for our church family, as well as for people who do not have Internet or computer capabilities.” The church also livestreamed its service online for any who could not attend, or for non-members.
For Easter Sunday, other churches across the state, including Okmulgee, Calvary and Snyder, First, offered drive-in worship services. Scores of vehicles gathered in the church parking lot for the special time of worship in Snyder, where Pastor Nick Johnson preached. Johnson thanked all of the worship participants for attending, calling it a “truly great time of worship.”
Lord’s Supper from remote locations
The traditional practice of observing the Lord’s Supper around Easter was challenged, as members were sheltering at home. Yet numerous churches overcame the obstacle by using technology and virtual meetings.
Oklahoma City, Portland Avenue celebrated the Lord’s Supper on Palm Sunday. Pastor Walter Mullican said on Facebook, “We did the Lord’s Supper last Sunday night online, and we had our folks get juice and bread ready for the online service. We had families that made their own Lord’s Supper bread from recipes online and then left some on the front porch for other families to share.” Mullican indicated his church members were encouraged by the time of worship.
Ray Strauss, pastor of Edmond, East Community, also led Lord Supper services. “This Easter weekend, (our church) is celebrating both ordinances,” he said. “Officiating the Lord’s Supper to our members during our online service is one and recording baptisms from earlier to share with our church family during our online service is the other. Both allow us to celebrate with others who declare their faith in Christ publicly. Since the church is people and not a place, observing the ordinances continues with His people even if it occurs in ways we may not be accustomed to. However, the results are the same. Jesus is glorified, and His Church is edified.”
Outreach & prayer efforts Madill, Oakview took part in a special prayer emphasis leading up to Easter. “Today, our church had some folks who formed the ‘Mobile Prayer Corps’ to pray over homes and some institutions in Madill,” Pastor Greg Idell reported on Facebook. “It is a safe way for folks to be involved in an ‘Eyes On Site’ prayer emphasis. Everyone drove their own cars, and we caravanned from house to house. I communicated the addresses and prayer needs by text.”
Ada, First, led by Pastor Brad Graves, held a weeklong prayer emphasis called “Unstoppable Prayer.”
Family worship, egg hunts, etc.
Leading up to Easter, Oklahoma Baptists provided a compilation of ideas that could be useful for churches to consider in celebrating Easter amid the crisis. By visiting oklahomabaptists.org/easter2020, church leaders were able to access the variety of ideas to promote Easter, to observe on Easter Sunday as a church and for individual families to consider to make Easter more meaningful.
Oklahoma City, Quail Springs offered families Easter Sunday School packets, with word searches, teaching pages, coloring pages, story helps and more.
Ada, First’s children’s ministry also spontaneously surprised some families with an at-home Easter egg hunt. Graves said, “Our kids’ pastor just surprised 30 kids with a small egg hunt in their yards. They hid the eggs, placed a yard sign and then texted parents. Plus, left a bag of eggs for them to give to a neighbor kid. The eggs had candy, Scripture and church info. Love our Ada church. Social distance and clean eggs!”
Online devotions, testimonies posted online
Pastor Nick Atyia, of Seminole, First, provided daily devotionals. He said on Facebook, “It’s Holy Week, and so each evening at 7 p.m. I will be giving a short family devotion on the events of Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem. I will go live, right here, on Facebook. Spread the word, gather your family and join in.”
Trevor Bulls, pastor of Boyce City, First, shared his testimony as part of an invitation to the church. “We are seeking to mobilize our church to share the Gospel during the pandemic,” Bulls said. “One of the ways we are doing this is by encouraging our members to make a short video of their story of coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ and uploading it to Facebook.
“I started by making a video of my story and uploading the video to Facebook,” he continued. “By that evening, I had two people reach out to me via Facebook Messenger and was able to share the Gospel with them. It’s a great tool to share your testimony and reach people with the Gospel.”
Observing baptisms & sharing on Easter
Yukon, Trinity reported they were able to baptize nine people throughout the week before Easter and shared video footage of the baptisms during the church’s online Easter service.
“The Lord has given us a lot of favor online as a church,” said Brian Mills, pastor of Yukon, Trinity. “Our online presence has significantly gone up. We try to stay true to who we are as a church. We have a lot of energy and are evangelistic by nature.”
Mills said, during an invitation time of a service prior to Easter, many people sent text messages in response. The church followed up on the texts, and what resulted was nine people observing believers baptism.
In order to follow “social distancing” standards, Mills said the baptisms were done with limited people involved. After every baptism, they would drain and clean the baptistery before observing another. He said no more than two baptisms were done in a day. A recording of the baptisms can be found on Yukon, Trinity’s Facebook page.
While the circumstances of the 2020 Easter Sunday were different, the message was the same. Jesus Christ is risen, risen indeed!