On Sunday, March 1, thousands of churches were preparing for their weekly worship service. The top news story in the Sunday paper of the New York Times was about Joe Biden’s rise to the Democratic nomination.
Just three weeks later, the restaurant, travel, hotel, gym and cruise line industries would be at a standstill. Schools across the nation would close for the semester and church members would find themselves watching a live stream of the service from their couch, the church doors closed until further notice.
The coronavirus pandemic has shaken countries and shuttered industries, sufficient reasons for panic to spread across the world just as quickly as the virus. As fear rises, many faith organizations are witnessing people’s interest in faith, God and the Bible rise as well.
“Fear is a natural response to a situation like this that none of us have encountered before,” says Global Media Outreach Founder and Chairman Walt Wilson. “What we’re seeing is millions of people open to talking about faith in the face of fear, and we’re ramping up to be available for them.”
Global Media Outreach, an internet ministry, reaches individuals around the world on the Internet, mobile and a proprietary, secure messaging system to provide messages of hope and faith.
Michelle Diedrich, director of Global Media Outreach, spoke with Connect about how faith organizations can make an impact and lead boldly during this time of crisis.
What are some ways to spread hope or encouragement during this time?
Pray for each other. Share examples of hope and peace Jesus has given you and your family during the crisis. On social media especially, share stories of people showing the love of Christ by helping others, the opportunities God is giving during this crisis to trust in him and the opportunities to share how Jesus changed your life.
What changes has your organization and you personally been forced to make?
Since we have always been an online ministry, we have had less change than others are experiencing. However, our staff is now completely working remotely, expanding our use of tools like Zoom and Slack to communicate and meet throughout the day.
What are you and your organization doing to stay positive?
Each day we still gather for prayer (online and on the phone), lifting up requests from our volunteers, partners and staff, as well as sharing stories of how God is working in our lives and what he is teaching us during the crisis.
How do you think this will change faith meetings and events?
We believe this will significantly open people’s eyes to the value of remote work, online communication and the ability to connect online vs. face-to-face. Churches, especially, will see the impact they can have online in a way they have never seen before.
Faith organizations will begin to learn how to serve online. For many, this will be a big wake-up call of the potential to reach and serve their communities using digital technology—chat, social media, etc.—so they can be there when their faith community needs them, at their point of need. Not just when their doors are open or events happen.
What have you learned during the outbreak?
In this time of crisis, God is providing opportunity to reach people we may not have reached before.
What’s been the most surprising thing?
How quickly social media has been used to connect with each other and embraced as a tool for bringing people together. Also, how quickly churches and other para-church organizations have helped people embrace "virtual ministry" as not only viable but essential—something Global Media Outreach has been proving for the last 15 years.
How can faith organizations be an example to the community or lead the way during this time?
Be the first to embrace the opportunity to love like Jesus and find ways to give to others (through food, supplies, providing transportation and shopping help for the elderly or sick). It is just as important to know what to avoid—conversations suggesting the pandemic is leading to the end of the world or is God’s judgment on the world, political accusations and conspiracy theories. We are also developing content to help people get through this time and get closer to God, through devotionals addressing the needs people are now facing and volunteers responding and sharing stories of people coming to faith during this crisis.