March 24, 2020
By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist
Jeff Fuller said it’s tough to make decisions as a pastor in times like this. He wants to keep his church fed, both spiritually and physically. He wants to protect them, to hold everyone together, take care of each other and make it to the other side of coronavirus in the best way possible.
But what does that mean?
“You have to pray and pray hard, and then use the wisdom that God has given you and your leadership and the knowledge you have about the situation and make a decision that fits your church,” Fuller said.
For his church — Rockford Baptist Church in Central Baptist Association — that means holding services online and dropping off DVD or CD copies to church members who don’t have internet access, at least at press time while local travel was not yet restricted.
“We’re a graying county, and our church is a graying church,” Fuller said, referencing the data that shows senior adults are the highest-risk age group for COVID-19.
“We also have some church members not in that age group who are medically challenged and have chronic conditions.”
So for Fuller and leaders of his church, the best choice was to commit to take care of each other by continuing to be Rockford Baptist Church from their own homes. He said they want to lean on God and not fear but use common sense and protect each other.
“We’re making phone calls and checking on everybody,” Fuller said. “We are trying to think outside the box and make sure everybody is fed and has what they need. And we’re hoping no one dies from this.”
The needs are changing all the time, but both Fuller and Robert Mullins, pastor of Crossroads Community Church, Elmore, say they feel this is an opportunity for the church to strengthen its relationships and encourage each other in new ways.
Fuller encouraged his church family to check on each other, pick up the phone and call and pray with each other. He’s also leading Bible studies online to encourage them throughout the week. The church is organizing ways to get meals or other supplies to people who need them, he said.
Taking care of others
“If you have a need, please do not hesitate to call us,” he told his church in an audio message online. “We’ll be the clearing house right here, and we’ll do what we’ve got to do.”
Mullins said the Crossroads congregation “has decided that we are going to be taking care of each other and be intentional so we don’t have people fall through the cracks.”
They have taken their list of life groups and assigned part of the list to each staff member to check on.
“We’re making phone calls and checking on everybody in the church,” Mullins said. “We are pressing on with ministry and mission, and we’ve put out a lot of information through Facebook.”
For him, the most important thing is to “make it personal.”
“The situation is going to be different in 10 days, in 20 days. It’s going to be more difficult down the road, and keeping morale up is going to be hard,” Mullins said.
“But there is an opportunity for churches to step up and encourage people like never before. That’s my takeaway — that God is going to get a lot of glory out of this.”
Fuller said he also sees it as the opportunity for the church to rally and love each other well for the sake of the gospel. He compared it to the charge given Esther — that maybe believers are where they are “for such a time as this.”
‘This is our moment’
“This is our time. This is our moment,” he said. “God is preparing you and I to be who we need to be at a moment, at a time such as this.”