ALVARADO, TEX. – When “Jabez cried out to the God of Israel” in 1 Chronicles 4:10, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory,” do you think he had something specific in mind?
It is easy to say we want to do the Lord’s will, but how often do we put stipulations on it?
When coronavirus COVID-19 cases were reported in Texas, few had any idea that soon church leaders would have to create Church 4.0—the online version.
For churches already offering online service options, they simply expanded on what they were already doing. For those churches without tech-savvy staff, it was an educational and, for some, overwhelming experience.
It didn’t take long for church leaders to realize how God was enlarging their territories when they viewed the analytics for their online services.
Knowing some churches would need extra assistance, Kenn L. Dixon, Texas Conference vice president for Communication and Public Relations, offered workshops as well as an innovation web page (TexasAdventist.org/Innovation) to help get them started with ideas and resources. “I wanted to make sure they didn’t get overwhelmed before they even began,” Dixon said. “The focus was just to do something. We didn’t want church buildings closed and members have no connections. It is okay if a church doesn’t have the latest equipment. Any church can offer something using an iPhone and Facebook Live.”
Dixon also transformed the Texas Conference worship room into a makeshift studio to record music and sermons to share online, helping to keep the Texas connections. Every Friday evening and Sabbath morning, a sermon was shared in English or Spanish on the Texas Conference Facebook page, Facebook.com/TexasAdventist.
As the weeks progressed, more and more Texas churches increased their online presence from prayer meetings to church board meetings, youth groups to online Pathfinder meetings. Church 4.0 was becoming a new normal. The web page TexasAdventist.org/Livestream was created to share the Texas Conference church links so people could find encouraging music and messages 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Starting to feel a bit more comfortable with the online services, church leaders realized members as well as community families needed food, so they followed God’s advice in Matthew 24:35 and started or expanded their food pantries.
Merlin Cochran, pastor of the Elgin and La Grange Seventh-day Adventist churches, worked with his members to provide a drive-thru food pantry (pictured left). “I am literally amazed at the way Jesus divided the fish and loaves. Normally, we prepare for 100 families. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the first drive-thru had 120 cars with 140 families, then more the next and the next. Within weeks, we were serving almost 300 families,” Cochran shared.
Marshall and Julie Gonzales, Texas Adventist Community Services director and associate director, supplied many frontline workers with N95 masks that were in high demand during the initial weeks as COVID-19 cases increased. They were also able to distribute grant money donated by North American Division Adventist Community Services to help 14 churches offset costs for their food pantries. The full story can be found in the spring issue of the Texas Conference THE FLAME magazine at issuu.com/texasadventist.
Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church UG (youth ministries) created a unique experience for families when they introduced a Virtual Family Cook Off (pictured right). Registered participants displayed their recipes during the scheduled Zoom time.
Find more stories on the Texas Conference Facebook page,
By Tamara Michalenko Terry
Communication and Public Relations