MIAMI — Just like the tomb that had held Jesus Christ, virtually all of the area’s churches will be empty Sunday, April 10 — Easter — because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But like Lee Corso of ESPN will say: “not so fast, my friend.”
“Quite honestly, the day we celebrate Easter, we may have empty shells where the body of Christ meets, but guess what: the tomb was empty, too,” said Phil Shyers, pastor of Miami’s Grace Church.
Shyers and numerous other churches, have embraced social media to get the holy word across.
He’s used radio extensively in the past and has a Skype service with pastors in India every week.
“Social media is really an amazing tool,” Shyers said. “We know the Internet is a tool for evil, a lot of things happen, but the same tool can be used for the good of the Lord. I think that is amazing,”
“It is going to be strange, but here’s the other thing: Easter Sunday, being the highest holy day of all holidays in the Christian religion,” Shyers said. “It’s usually when most people who never go to church all year long, will go on Easter. The most attendance we’ve ever had was probably on Easter.
“We’re going to have an empty church and it’s going to be very strange, but here’s the thing: I really believe the Lord is going to use this to reach people who would never go to church,” Shyers said. “Maybe they will listen on social media in the privacy of their home and never would have come into a building. I’m looking at it as an opportunity.”
First Baptist Church of Miami has used Facebook Live for its 10 a.m. Sunday service the previous three weeks.
“Our folks, our church, has really responded well to it,” said Pastor Rick Longcrier. “Not only our church, but people we know and people around here whose church maybe not doing it, still get to have church.
“It’s really been a very positive thing, making the best out of the situation that we can.”
Longcrier said First Baptist would continue to stream services even when the coronavirus pandemic runs its course.
“We’ve started looking at the equipment we will need to make it a quality presentation,” he said. “We’re going to continue to do it.”
Longcrier said this is something that was never covered in seminary.
“It’s a trial and error kind of thing,” he said. “Most people the way they are communicating now is so much different,” Longcrier said. “You either ignore it or embrace it. I will always embrace it because it’s another way (to reach the membership).”
The church has a live stream button on its website and has archived recordings of a number of Longcrier’s previous sermons.
“We will probably celebrate Easter when things get better,” said Pastor Ray VandeGiessen of First Presbyterian Church of Miami.
“At first, we thought we would be able to open back up for Palm Sunday and do our regular things, but that isn’t the case now.
“We do stuff online and try to keep in touch with people that way. We will celebrate when we can.”
VandeGiessen recently participated in a conference call with Presbyterian pastors from eastern Oklahoma.
“So many of those other churches have never tried any kind of video or live stream worship services before,” he said. “This is a tough time to have to learn stuff like that. “We are fortunate that we have that as a vehicle. We are happy that we decided as a congregation to make some investments a couple years ago, so we have some practice.”
VandeGiessen said the Presbyterian church has been offering grants to those that want to give video a try.