Preaching from the Rooftops & Worshipping on Wheels: Americans are Living Out Their Faith in Creative Ways

April 10, 2020
Americans are Living Out Their Faith in Creative Ways | First Liberty

by Jorge Gomez • 8 min read

Millions of Americans are adjusting to the new normal brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.

For people of faith in particular, this special time has demanded a great deal of effort and adaptation, as they seek to cooperate with state and local governments that have imposed restrictions limiting the number of people in public and worship gatherings.

And while people of faith are understandably nervous when it comes to ceding too much control to the state…we are happy to share with you that right now we’re seeing an incredible surge of innovation and creativity coming from religious Americans, houses of worship and religious organizations nationwide.

Right now, people of faith are developing new and exciting ways to live out their faith.

Let’s take a look at some examples of how religious institutions are being a light, both by helping people stay connected spiritually and also by serving and meeting the needs of ailing communities.

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Record Breaking Church Attendance Online

Pews and seats in houses of worship across the country may be empty right now, but this doesn’t mean that people aren’t attending church or living out their faith.

Even though this Easter weekend may look different than in years past, it’s likely that churches will have some of their highest church attendance because of live streaming, video and digital platforms.

In fact, in the last few weeks we’ve seen record-breaking attendance to religious services online.

For example, many Christians with a smartphone are probably familiar with the YouVersion Bible application, which allows you to read the Bible on demand right from your device.

In early March, the Bible App introduced a new prayer function and more than 1.4 million prayers have been created since its launch.

This app is run by Life.Church, a large house of worship from Oklahoma that also provides several other streaming services for churches. Recently, Life.Church reported some staggering figures on the use of its free Church Online Platform, noting:

  • It helped churches around the globe stream their church services to a total of 4.7 million unique devices—four times the average total attendance for one weekend.
  • In just one week (Mar. 15 – 20) almost 9,000 new churches signed up to use the platform. For perspective, the average number of churches that were using it prior to the virus outbreak and restrictions on a weekly basis was about 3,000 churches.

Other large churches across the country are reporting soaring virtual attendance, including:

  • Lakewood Church in Houston, TX, which reported 51 million viewers, more than when rap artist Kanye West performed at the church in late 2019.
  • Harvest Fellowship in Riverside, CA had over 230,000 devices tuned in to its service on Sunday March 15th, and reported that over 1,400 people committed to become Christians or members of the church in a single weekend.
  • First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX which reports to have 14,000 members, had its highest online attendance with more than 150,000 tuned in to hear the sermon on March 15th.

As we see from the numbers above, the use of technology is a game-changer for Americans in these uncertain times, especially for those who want to stay connected and keep living out their faith with others in their religious community.

Living It Out Creatively: Preaching from the Rooftops & Worshipping on Wheels

While many are using streaming services and social media to their advantage, modern-age technology isn’t the only way that people of faith have been able to innovate. Consider these examples of how churches are using creative means to continue living it out:

  • In Ohio, St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church launched its Worship on Wheels initiative, asking the public to come to the church’s campus, but to stay in their vehicles in the parking lot. The church pastor and a few band members gathered in front of the church awning, and members could roll down their windows to hear the service.
  • Similarly, two local Pennsylvania congregations (Hope Lutheran Church and Bethany Wesleyan Church) partnered with a local family business, Becky’s Drive-In, one of two remaining drive-in theaters in the Lehigh Valley region just an hour north of Philadelphia. A couple of weeks ago, the theater helped the churches host their services, in which people were again invited to park and remain in their cars to watch their pastors give a sermon.
  • In Mississippi, Bethel Church Pastor Ken Pierpont led the service from the church rooftop, instead of preaching from the front of the sanctuary. Attendees watched from their vehicles and tuned into 99.9 FM to listen to the service.

Being the Light: Houses of Worship Serving Their Communities

Of course, religious communities are not just thinking of fresh ideas to make sure their members remain spiritually engaged. At the same time, many of these congregations are going forth, reaching out and serving their neighbors:

  • In Alabama, churches have stepped up in recent weeks because hospitals and municipalities have struggled to navigate the ever-changing testing guidelines. One example is 3Circle Hope Center, a church that voluntarily opened its campus to be a virus testing center, where people drive in their vehicles, are assisted by church volunteers with a testing kit, and then talk to an on-site doctor to determine if they’ve contracted the coronavirus.
  • In South Carolina, the Berkeley County School District partnered with eight churches to feed children and families during the coronavirus crisis. Freedom Church, as an example, helped deliver over 4,000 meals to families in addition to the hot lunches BCSD has been providing to children from a school bus in the church’s parking lot.
  • In Utah, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is working alongside the Utah Food Bank to stock its state inventory and help distribute food to local pantries. The church is also helping provide medical equipment (including N95 masks) to hospitals, as well as collaborating with local quarantine and isolation centers to ensure they have hygiene kits, mattresses, and other basic goods.

The examples above remind us why First Liberty continues to fight for religious freedom. Without religious liberty, there would essentially be no protection for faith-based institutions, houses of worship and people of faith who selflessly serve our communities.

In this special and unique time in our history, we hope that by sharing these examples we can shift our focus away from the uncertainty and anxiety…and instead give you hope and encouragement by sharing how religious liberty continues to thrive.

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