By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) — Louisiana Baptist pastors employed social media July 14 to reach out to the congregations they urged to stay home out of safety concerns in the face of Tropical Storm Barry – with dining room tables, home offices and vacant worship centers serving as pulpits via Facebook Live.
Stewart Holloway, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Pineville, said this was the first time in 25 years of serving as a minister that he has cancelled a Sunday morning worship service. Still, Holloway, broadcasting from his dining room table alongside his wife, Rebecca, quipped that he was thankful technology allowed for his home to serve as a “multi-site campus of our church.”
Holloway told his congregation that storms such as Barry remind Christ’s followers what is most important in life and also of God’s power.
“As you sit at home today, eating your hurricane snacks and thinking about all the clean-up you will have to do later this week, for now, be glad that you are able to focus on what’s most important and on the power of God,” Holloway said. “Here’s what we encourage you to do now. Whether you are gathered with family or friends or by yourself, when the webcast ends, take a moment to talk about your faith journey and how creation points you to God.”
He also asked his congregation to pray for first responders, electrical crews and disaster relief workers.
“They will be busy for weeks throughout our state,” he said. “We also pray for those who have experienced damage to their homes, businesses and churches.”
Jacob Crawford, pastor of Life Point Community Church in Mansura, broadcasting on Facebook from his home office, took prayer requests and shared his morning message.
“We wanted to provide an opportunity for our church family to gather together remotely,” Crawford told the Baptist Message. “It’s such a blessing to have the technology to do this.
“It was neat to see their responses as the sermon progressed,” he continued. “This showed me the importance of utilizing more social media and technology.”
From a vacant worship center, Kevin Colson, pastor of Grace Community Baptist Church in Iota, led Facebook viewers to pray for those affected by Barry. Colson said that initially he was disappointed to have cancelled the church’s morning worship service. However, he realized the advantage of using the internet like this, a first for the church.
“God’s Word went out and we reached over 1,000 viewers,” he said. “God is good.”
Josh Morea, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Ferriday, also used live-streamed his message to encourage his members from inside the church’s empty worship center. He was grateful for the opportunity to use technology to remain connected with his members Sunday morning.
“Social media allowed us to stay connected on a rare Sunday morning when the congregation couldn’t gather as normal,” Morea told the Baptist Message. “I’m grateful for any means of sharing the Gospel. It was a great blessing to know that we could fellowship over God’s Word together, while we were physically separated.”
According to the National Hurricane Center, Barry, which became a tropical storm shortly after landfall Saturday afternoon, July 13, was located about 20 miles north-northeast of Shreveport as of 4 p.m. On the forecast track, the center will move across Arkansas tonight and Monday.
NOAA Doppler weather radar data and surface observations indicate that maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 35 mph with higher gusts. Barry is expected to produce additional rain accumulations of 3 to 6 inches over portions of the lower Mississippi Valley, with isolated maximum amounts of 10 inches across eastern Arkansas, western Tennessee, southeast Missouri, and northwest Mississippi. Additional rainfall amounts of 3 to 5 inches with isolated storm totals of 10-15 inches are expected across south-central Louisiana.