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What Pastors See as the ‘New Normal’ for Preaching After the Pandemic

COVID-19’s ministry disruptions are generating lasting insights.

The sanctuary was empty. But that didn’t distract Claude Alexander. He had just finished preaching from Jeremiah 8 on the temptation to despair amid COVID-19 and the hope found in Christ. As he called on musicians to sing “Lead Me to the Rock,” Alexander was visibly moved to tears by his sense of God’s presence, and worship continued another 30 minutes on the livestream. For Alexander, senior pastor of The Park Church—a 3,000-member predominantly black congregation in Charlotte, North Carolina—that late-spring worship service exemplified his surprising experience of preaching through the coronavirus pandemic.

“I have had some of the most powerful times of worship preaching in a sanctuary with no people,” he said. Preaching without a congregation became “an undistracted offering to God” without the temptation “to respond to what I’m seeing in the pew.”

Enduring Insights

As the coronavirus forced pastors around the world to begin preaching to cameras rather than live congregations, not all pastors experienced the same intensity of worship as Alexander. Indeed, some had many Sundays that felt quite the opposite. Yet a diverse array of pastors interviewed by CT reported that the COVID-19 pandemic refocused them on the God-centered nature of preaching.

Initially, the changes were at a surface level. Pastors went from scanning the room during sermons to looking at a camera. They transitioned from leading altar calls to asking those with spiritual decisions to text a number displayed on their screens. Alexander (who serves on CT’s board of directors) even found himself telling listeners to tweet their responses of “amen” and “praise ...

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Let My People Meet: Capitol Hill Baptist, and Inconsistent Government Rules

Real violations of religious liberty occur when the government singles out churches, not when everyone has to follow the same rules.

In recent news, Capitol Hill Baptist Church has filed a complaint against the mayor of Washington D.C. Muriel Bowser. The basic message of the complaint centers around “…the right to gather for corporate worship free from threat of governmental sanction.”

For those who may not be familiar, here are some of the applications of Mark Dever’s (and CHBC’s) ecclesiology:

  • CHBC doesn’t offer multiple services,
  • CHBC doesn’t utilize a multi-site model,
  • CHBC doesn’t offer worship online (not even during the pandemic)

Since mid-March, CHBC has not gathered as a corporate body. Interestingly, because of their close proximity, they have fled the city limits of D.C. and journeyed over into Virginia to hold outdoor services during the summer. Moreover, during the summer they filed an application with the Mayor’s Office seeking a waiver from the ban on large gatherings. When they heard nothing, they filed again.

Finally, earlier this month, they received a response: rejected.

For months, Dever and CHBC tried to go through the proper channels in order to plead their case to be able to gather corporately as a body. Having exhausted their channels, and not wanting to incur civil and administrative penalties, Dever, the leadership, and the church have chosen to take their case to court.

Religious Liberty Needs Defending

One would imagine that the complaint would be rooted in the First Amendment—the right to assemble. While this is true in part, the primary issue that CHBC has with Mayor Bowser is her inconsistency in upholding the First Amendment.

In other words, the Mayor has been “discriminatory” in the application of large gatherings. The complaint notes,

… on four occasions ...

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