An Open Letter to S.C. Baptist Pastors and Leaders

In Colossians 4:3, the Apostle Paul shared a prayer request that “God would open a door for the Word.” The current coronavirus pandemic may very well be one of the greatest opportunities for Gospel witness we have had since 9/11. While opportunities abound, so do very real challenges. Local churches and denominations will not be exempt from the effects the pandemic is bringing. 

Here at the SCBC we have received a large number of inquiries from pastors and ministry leaders, and I want to address many of those in this letter and the resource links provided. You will also find a short video message from me and Jay Hardwick, which we hope will be a source of encouragement and help.

We have made the decision for our staff at the Baptist Building that until April 3, we are going to do our work remotely. Our team will continue to work and be available to assist our 2,100 churches, but we will do that in ways that will best protect them and anyone they may contact. Our goal is to reduce any chance of spreading the coronavirus. We have postponed or cancelled until April 3 any activity that would have normally taken place inside 190 Stoneridge Drive here in Columbia. Plans have been made to continue some meetings and activities via video conference. Additionally, we have restricted travel, both in-state and out-of-state until we see what the next several weeks might bring in terms of slowing the spread of the virus.

We will continue to receive and process mail during the next few weeks, so please know you may continue to send your Cooperative Program gifts as normal. Our accounting team can also help you set up a draft system, so feel free to contact our CFO, Bryan Holley, if you need help. Please remember our CP gifts are critical, especially to our 3,700 IMB personnel scattered across the globe. Many of them are feeling more direct impact than most Americans, so now is the time to pray fervently and give sacrificially to minimize the effects the pandemic is having globally.

Our team has been working hard over the past few days to prepare some practical tools and resources to help local churches weather the challenges over the coming weeks. There have been three main categories of questions we have been receiving, which are:

  1. Does the SCBC have recommendations about worship services, schedule changes and ways to respond to the pandemic?
  2. How can we livestream our worship services?
  3. How can we do online giving?

Hopefully this letter and the links provided will help answer these pressing questions. If not, you will find a list of staff contact addresses at the end of this letter, so feel free to contact any of us with other questions or needs that may arise. We will do our best to provide as much help as possible.

While we respect the autonomy of the local church, here are some things I would personally be doing for the next three weeks if I were the pastor of a church right now. Please know these are not directives, but hopefully they will address the bulk of the questions I and our team have been receiving over the past many days.

  • PRAY: Call the church to daily prayer and provide a way to regularly communicate prayer needs. 
  • WORSHIP: Based on consistent recommendations from government officials and professional health care workers, it does not seem wise to conduct live worship gatherings for the next few weeks. That does not mean a church must stop worshipping, so we recommend churches provide online or other virtual worship opportunities for now.
  • INNOVATE: Conduct any vital church meetings via video or telephone conference. 
  • CARE: Establish ways to do pastoral care through phone, notes, email or other virtual methods rather than personal contact, including hospital and nursing facility visits.
  • SERVE: Proactively seek ways to serve the most needy and vulnerable in your church and community. 
  • SHARE: Challenge your congregation to look for ways to intentionally share the Gospel. Many people will be more open the receive a word of testimony and witness now than ever before.
  • START SOMETHING NEW: This is a wonderful time to start new ministries based on the needs and opportunities that will emerge in the coming days, weeks and months.
  • GIVE: Unapologetically communicate the need for continued financial support and offer online or other direct methods of giving. 
  • RESOURCE: Provide tools and resources so families and individuals can have meaningful home worship and Bible study. 

This list is suggestive, not exhaustive. In moments like these, remember, LEADERS LEAD! Do not be shy about taking the lead in your church and community to be a visible and active voice for Christ. The Bible says we are to submit to authorities, so churches can, and should, be a model of following the advice and recommendations of professional health care workers and government officials at every level.

Our SCBC staff will continue to add resources in the coming days as new and innovative ways of doing ministry come to light during this unprecedented time. Go to our website for updates and additional resources:

www.scbaptist.org/covid19/mediaresources

www.scbaptist.org/covid19/resources

If you have questions, feel free to contact me or any member of our SCBC Leadership Team. Our email addresses are:

garyhollingsworth@scbaptist.org  Executive Director/Treasurer (EDT)

jayhardwick@scbaptist.org  Associate EDT/Chief Strategist

scottlee@scbaptist.org  Chief Administrative Officer

bryanholley@scbaptist.org  Chief Financial Officer

steverohrlack@scbaptist.org  Team Leader, Church Strengthening/Discipleship

jonjamison@scbaptist.org  Team Leader, Serve Team

leeclamp@scbaptist.org  Team Leader, Share Team

kenowens@scbaptist.org  Team Leader, Send Team

cliffmarshall@scbaptist.org  Team Leader, Start Team

Please know that I and our entire SCBC team consider it a joy and honor to serve all our churches and their leaders. Do not hesitate to let us know how we may be of service. Especially know we will be praying for you, and that God will use this time for His own glory and advancement of the Gospel of Jesus!

— Gary Hollingsworth is executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.