This year, the world faced an unprecedented time in history when the COVID-19 pandemic closed the doors of schools, businesses and churches worldwide. During weeks of social distancing and isolation, the global church looked for creative ways to deliver hope to those struggling with fear and anxiety. One of those ways was through online church services.
Life.Church, a multisite church with 10 locations in the Oklahoma City metro area and 34 locations nationwide, first launched online church services in 2006. It began as a way to reach people beyond the church walls, but when churches closed this year, Life.Church Online allowed attenders to continue gathering, even though they were confined to their homes to help stop the spread of the virus.
“We weren’t meant to do this life alone,” said Joey Armstrong, pastor of Life.Church Moore. “We were created to be in community with one another, and we weren’t going to let the virus stop us from meeting together as a church family.”
Every week, Life.Church Online has 90 digital church services that include worship, biblical teaching and community through live chat. During the pandemic, local pastors expanded the Life.Church Online experience by using Facebook Live to interact with attenders in place of their usual face-to-face lobby conversations. Life.Church also launched a temporary Midweek Worship service with Senior Pastor Craig Groeschel to encourage people between weekend messages.
With the weekend and midweek meetings anchoring each week of the pandemic, local pastors filled the gaps with other opportunities to connect. Many coordinated online prayer and worship nights, played games over Facebook Live chats, and shared short devotional videos throughout the week. Life.Church Norman even hosted online Leadership Lunches to discuss the newest Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast episodes.
Interestingly, some of the most meaningful conversations came through long-standing technology. Pastors made phone calls to thousands of attenders to check on them and pray for them.
“Our desire is always to make people feel needed and known, but it seemed even more important during a time when people had so little interaction with others,” said Brian Word, pastor of Life.Church South Oklahoma City. “One of my team members called a man who shared his friend had just taken his life. In just a few minutes on the phone, the man was encouraged and knew he’d found someone he could call anytime he was struggling. Delivering hope like that is what we’re all about.”
Life.Church also looked for ways to safely serve the community in person. Groups of volunteers delivered groceries to elderly and immunocompromised people, helped stock and organize local food pantries, showed appreciation to first responders, provided masks to nonprofit partners and hospitals, and did their best to love their neighbors.
“The major question we kept asking ourselves was: how can we serve the community without a building to meet in?” said Armstrong. “We knew the church isn’t a building. It’s the people. And this season gave us the opportunity to prove it.”
After a significant amount of prayer and preparation, Life.Church resumed services at many locations in May. Though Life.Church Online, social media and other digital tools will continue to be an important part of the ministry, the church was excited to gather together again in person.
“To us, it wasn’t just coming back to a building. We were coming back to the power of worshipping alongside our church family,” said Brian Bruss, pastor of Life.Church Norman. “There’s something special about being welcomed by people who know you, love you and want to walk through life with you. It’s like coming home, and we’re eager to welcome even more people into the family.”