Jan. 29, 2021

Responding to Coronavirus, Part 2

Responding to Coronavirus, Part 2

This episode concludes the conversation we started last week with Edwin Crozier, Kris Emerson, Jason Hardin and Mark McCrary. 

In this episode, the guys talk about their own podcasts and what roles they play with their congregations, the love/hate relationship we all have with Zoom, concerns about returning to worship at a building and what they plan to keep doing after the pandemic is more controlled.

I'll say it again, these are some great guys. If you'd like to get in touch with any of them, you can reach them at:



Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/balancingthechristianlife)

Transcript
Kenny Embry:

In this episode of balancing the Christian life, we finish our conversation with four leaders of local congregations about how they responded to Coronavirus. Welcome to balancing the Christian life. I'm Dr. Kenny Embry. We'll talk about how to be better Christians and people in the digital age.

Unknown:

Let's go.

Kenny Embry:

Thanks for joining us.

Unknown:

This week we

Kenny Embry:

conclude a conversation we started last week about how leaders in four different congregations handled the transition to the Coronavirus. lockdowns. The four guys I'm talking to are Edwin Crozier in Tampa, Florida, Kris Emerson and Lindale, Texas, Jason Hardin in New Albany, Indiana and Mark McCrary in Louisville, Kentucky. In the first part of our discussion, these guys talked about what platforms their congregations are using. Most of them have some streaming service, most are on Facebook, and a couple are using Twitter. They also talked about how is often one person who started the digital efforts and then formed a team around that. We ended the week last week with a warning about getting egos involved in the content they make. I strongly recommend if you missed last week's episode, go back and listen. The guys have very distinct voices, but they don't introduce themselves again. Three of the four guys on this panel have other podcasts. Jason Hardin picks up our conversation, talking about the podcast, he co hosts with Roger Shouse.

Jason Hardin:

So we started a little over a year ago. And we've got one podcast with three lanes. We're really aiming for it to be for the congregation. When Roger and I stepped behind the microphone, we intentionally try and talk to our people. On Mondays. Roger has been writing for yours jumpstart daily devotional he's got such a an archive of them, we just had him read one of those from his archives. And it's really interesting how some just aren't readers, but they love being able to listen to seven or eight minutes of it being read. Wednesdays we revisit one of the Sunday sermons. If I was the one who preached it Roger, as he listens jots down four or five questions that came to his mind. And he asks me, which just an off the cuff interview, and then we give a preview of what's coming the next weekend. And then Friday, we've got just a standalone series, we break them into months. And so it's more of like a Friday Bible study. We didn't know what to expect going in whether or not having three different avenues would water it down. It's been surprising to me who listens to the podcasts, I never would have guessed or just regular listeners are sharing them. And that's what's most encouraging. Our podcast started 11 months ago,

Edwin Crozier:

we're almost at our one year anniversary. Our goal was to provide something that would put us on our guests phones, we figured if they were hearing some teaching from us throughout the week, when they decided to go to church again next Sunday, if they had been listening to us, we would be top of their mind and they'd come back COVID hit Well, we're gonna keep doing this, because COVID is not going to last forever, we're going to be back to guests coming in. And we just want to keep this going. But what quickly happened is as we were calling around our members trying to make sure connections were being maintained, even though we weren't meeting at our building, we kept hearing from our members of the podcast has just been so helpful. It helps me feel like I'm still connected to the congregation, it helps me feel like I'm still connected to you guys. You know, they were just talking about how they felt like they were having a conversation with us. That's what we're getting out of it. It provides that connection. And then the The third thing was just finding that even though our goal is about our guests and our congregation. So we have one of our sisters here who told her brother who is a Christian in Utah about it. And now he's sending us emails about the discussions he's having with some of his Mormon co workers because he's gotten them to listen to it.

Kris Emerson:

It started for me a little over two years ago with this idea that there are plenty of sermons online. If anybody wants to hear a sermon on any topic. I think brothers in Christ have done a nice job of this since the internet began actually, what I wanted to do was share some principles and things that were working in my life and things that I was reading in self help books, that I could connect to God and spiritual things, but it not have to be a sermon. I wanted to see if people were interested in spiritual ideas that the word could fit around and into but it didn't have to be structured that way. And that really worked. In the beginning. I think there were people who were saying, I can share this with my dad. My dad now is not my dad's not a Christian, but he has I can have conversations because it doesn't feel quote preachy, or those kinds of things. So it started with is their desire for spiritual concepts connecting great Zig Ziglar ideas with what Christ taught on the mountain and started that way. And then it just became an avenue for me just to share things that are working in my life, things that really made a difference, I think out of 150 episodes, I was just thinking a minute ago, there may be five that I recorded, that really didn't matter to me. That wasn't it was just something I thought people needed. And by the way, I could say the same for the last 150 sermons. I think it drives our elders crazy here. They want me to preach on this list of ABCDE. And I'm like, I don't care about those things. Right now. Those things aren't affecting me right now in this church. And I've always worked passion first, no matter what people thought, now, man, we're two years in hundreds of episodes in, it grows a little, but it's not like, that's really pushing it. It's the same however many people now it's the personal stuff. It's knowing that there are people out there who get up on Monday morning, and they use this and they love it, and it helps them. And I honestly feel like I'm just still doing it. Because I'm kind of a guy that will do something for a year or two and then do something else color Bible marking for a year make videos then something else. I think I'm still doing it because of specific names. I could give you a people who say that they need it that it matters. I can say with a lot of honesty. I'm gonna say 90% honesty, that it's really not about me or what I get anymore at all. I'm through that I'm over that. It's it's about those people.

Kenny Embry:

You know, I'm just glad we were able to get you 90% honest, that's good. makara Yeah, y'all don't have a podcast, man. What's, what's the holdup?

Mark McCrary:

You know, you and I've talked about this. And I say this with all sincerity. And just completely honest with all of you. I see the work you guys are doing. And I just feel like, I don't know what I would contribute. I'm thankful to be able to be able to preach. But you guys do such a good job. You figure it out the angle. That's an incredibly useful angle. And I just haven't figured out an angle. I can't figure out anything that I would bring to the table that you guys aren't bringing in other people are bringing in spades. So it's like, why reinvent the wheel? Just let you guys do it.

Edwin Crozier:

First of all, Mark, thank you very much for your kind words. I'm sure I speak for all of us that we appreciate your encouragement on that. I imagine there is something unique that you could contribute. But I do want to honor what you've said about that. Because we actually Andrew and I here among the Livingston Christians thought about podcasting for about two years before we started one until we finally hit on here's the reason we want to do this. And here's the unique contribution we're providing. When we gave up the we're wanting to do a podcast because everybody does. We're wanting to do a podcast to see how many people we get to listen, we want to get on our guests phones, then we figured out Well, here's the way we could do it to fit in with the work that we're already doing which what we do with our podcast follows our congregational daily Bible reading. Yeah. When we found what our unique thing was that was benefiting our congregation. That was when it worked for us. So I just want to say, hey, hang on to that don't give up on podcasting. But But hang on to that idea. There's no sense in doing a podcast just because people podcast

Kenny Embry:

Yeah, that's true. The other thing that I would say, just just from my perspective, I had no idea what my podcast was about. When I first started it, I started finding my voice about two or three months in, and then I started figuring out what my passion was. And I'll go ahead and tell you I mean, my passion is meeting you guys. I mean, the really cool thing about it for me is, I have an excuse to have this conversation, and somebody is going to use this conversation to get something done. And I'm going to use this conversation and I'll go ahead and tell you, Kris, I'm stealing a couple years idea says wholesale, it may not I may not even give you credit, I will probably take all the credit myself.

Edwin Crozier:

That's okay. He doesn't want the credit. He said

Kris Emerson:

90% don't want the credit. Can we talk about zoom? Oh, please. Yes,

Kenny Embry:

go ahead.

Kris Emerson:

Well, I noticed on your questions at the end, it was kind of like, you know, what do you wish you'd been working on before and? And how do you look back on it now and I just wish I would have taken that $15 a month and bought zoom stock. Zoom at all, I could at least have gotten something out of it. You know, big passion that's come out of all of this for me and preaching and a couple of good books I've been reading lately have really helped with this is we need to be developing the membership into teachers. You know, Timothy talks about this idea of teaching and we're teaching to make teachers and so all of a sudden, certainly This is shut down. And they're like, how do we get the preacher to keep teaching? How do we get the Bible class teachers to keep teaching so our kids get taught? Look, I don't even know if Bible classes are a good idea if that's the way we look at them, we need parents and cousins and adoptive grandparents, we needed everybody teaching. And zoom to me was a weakness in the church that we needed to keep some structure going, or our kids were going to drift. If we had it all over again, I'd have called up people in the church that I think are awesome. And I said, would you put a chair in your front yard Tuesday at five. And I'll just get some kids to spread around the yard and chairs, like we want to stay in person. And the church doesn't have to force facilitation of organized teaching, in order for families and children to learn. It needs to be organic, it needs to be creative, and it does not need to be digital, it's a disaster. It's a disaster for whole states right now, where they're barely teaching kids online, they get it done, they have to do it, they do what they can, I don't think the church is restricted in the same way of five a school is, we can do better. So I really focused on getting everybody to see the true spiritual maturity is teaching and making teachers and you're not genuinely a mature Christian until you're teaching and making teachers. And we have enough members teaching and developing people, we we could have found a bunch of better ways to do it, instead of having to force some second and third grade teacher to zoom on Tuesday nights. So that's my position I loaded it loaded them always loaded.

Mark McCrary:

How do you honestly feel about it, Kris? I'm not getting I'm not getting your passion there.

Jason Hardin:

He 90% loathes it.

Kenny Embry:

Let me, let me let me do the counterpoint to what Kris is saying. Because I think one of the things that he's saying is accurate. I teach for a living, I teach in the college classroom, I can tell you, the most ineffective way to use zoom is to have everybody turn off their cameras to have everybody muted. And then you have no idea who's doing what. And they're using it as a broadcast platform. And that is the very worst way to use zoom. But that's the way we're all using it. And I gotta tell you, one of the things that I do in my classes, and Heaven knows I'm not the best at this. But I think one of the things that you have to struggle with, is that personal relationship that you're developing with the people in the classroom, I will call on them. I will make jokes about turning on your camera, not for ridicule, but but to make sure that they stay engaged. And most people don't have that courage to do that. And what happens is it becomes death on toast. I mean, it's it's just, it's horrible. Yeah, I have always been an outspoken critic of online education, until I started teaching online. And then I started seeing it takes a special kind of student to do it.

Kris Emerson:

Let me follow up really quickly. Because that I agree with all that you've done. Well, I've been a part of your class, your zoom class, you're a good teacher, we've got good teachers. I think the difference is in the church, from public education is in public education, you can just be a consumer. A student is not asked to be a producer, and they're not asked to be involved in the community as a necessity. They're basically just there to consume to be fed. And to learn the church is not that the church is you are a consumer, but you're also to be a producer, you're to be a participator you're to be an encourager, you're to be a part of a community and just to branch this out, and then I'll let the other guys fill in the gaps. I think this about live stream too, we have still have a significant percentage of our people who are live streaming and they feel like they're worshipping from their couch, what they're doing is they're consuming which is good, glad they're consuming and, and they're participating. But they're not producing anything. They're not putting anything into the room that establishes more community with one another. And I think it's the big downfall. This thing. I used to think that you know, churches like I think we're Edwin is they wanted to live stream just for their local people and maybe not for the community around I've seen churches do that I'm the opposite. Now, if we could live stream to everybody outside of Smith county and none to Smith County. I signed up for that, because you guys need to get back to worship and become a producer and a community member. And to me, the zoom classes for the kids was that tilted to a full 10 on the scale of me. My son sat there, he's nine years old. He learned things he occasionally would say a thing or two, but the community was lost and the productivity was lost in terms of what you put into the room and I just wish I'd rather them set in yards spread out to see each other than, than what what happened. On the one hand,

Edwin Crozier:

I hear what Kris is saying. And it's been one of the exact same fears I had when we decided that our assemblies were not going to meet at the building. And I do believe that at that time with the knowledge that we had, and what we expected to happen, that was the right choice to make. Looking back now, and and what I know now, I'm not sure that it was, you know, but but we can't we couldn't make the decision then based on the knowledge we have. Now, a year later, we had to make the decision based on the knowledge that we had at the time. One of the things that I wanted to stress to our congregation was that when we put together our video packages, it was not because we believed they could not handle worshipping as a family on their own. Our goal was this is put together for those who want some help. Because we believe that our congregation is full of people that can do this on their own. I think probably there were plenty of folks who had that ability that because we were providing it went ahead and used what we were doing. When I think through though, even what Chris what you're saying right now, I actually heard your episode where you talked about the maturity and producing teachers who are teaching others. But even in that you pointed out that there are five levels of maturity. And the only way you get people to level five is if you actually have someone who's at level one, every congregation is going to have your ones or twos or threes. That's where I think zoom is helpful in moments like this is because, yes, I want the fives out there teaching. But I do have ones and twos and threes, who needs something even now. And I think that's where things like zoom and live streaming even within our congregation does become beneficial.

Kris Emerson:

Well, I don't like it when people use my own words against me, I don't like it.

Jason Hardin:

We have landed somewhere in the middle, I think of Kris and Edwin, we pivoted to zoom pretty quickly and experienced many of the frustrations that a lot of churches and educators have experienced. And so that's what led to the pivot. What I was describing earlier where people could opt in via email, we had a very helpful conversation, Roger and I with our shepherds where we just sat down for a couple of hours and did some serious evaluating what did we think of the current changes that were going on right now? What among those? We're probably going to be with us for a long time? And what what sort of challenges those were presenting. But also what did this make possible? Where were their opportunities that maybe we weren't taking advantage of before? I'm sure it's true in every church, this awareness that really we had two different groups in our church family that were going through this major disruption, we had some who were healthy. And even if it had to be via zoom, or pre recorded video, whatever it was, they were hungry for meat. And we didn't want to take that away from them. And so we needed somehow to maintain that. But we also realized we have a number who are young in the faith and inexperience may be growing anemic through this difficult season. And so how can we build something for them, we landed on Okay, we're going to continue to provide some sort of a substantial study for our stronger people. But we've said for years that those building based Bible classes are a supplement to what ought to be rooted and grounded at home. That led to the creation of this little program we've called building blocks, where each weekend, we provide a package of resources to be used at home. And we're really trying not just to provide material, but trying to teach moms and dads how to do this at home. We've got, let's say a 15 minute video that the entire family can watch together. We've got a supplemental video that's maybe 10 or 12 minutes that's really aimed at little kids, and it supplements the family video but lots of singing and memory work and things like that. But then, within that package each weekend, we've got Questions for family discussion and some simple Bible readings that correspond with what they learned over the weekend. And internally, we're really trying to drive that as dads, you need to step up moms, you need to make sure this is going on. This is something that can be happening in the context of your home. And in the discussions that we've had with our shepherds, we really believe that even when things get back to normal, whatever normal is, and we've got Bible classes going full hum here at the church building, we're still going to continue to do this Lord willing, as a mechanism of something to do as a family. at home. I think this is probably one of the biggest blessings for us as a church family that has come from this whole disruption, the driving things back to be home centered,

Kenny Embry:

what are you going to keep that y'all learned how to do during all this,

Edwin Crozier:

We're definitely going to keep the podcast, we are going to continue live streaming, I think the issue for us is not so much what we're going to keep because I think basically, we're going to keep everything that we've started and stuck with the stuff that we're not keeping has already phased out. For instance, one of the things I started early on, was, we didn't want to do a class for our kids. We wanted to leave that up to parents how they were teaching their children, but we did want to have a connection for them. So early on, I started and this was completely internally for copyright reasons. It was not something we could put out there in general. But we took a story Bible, and I started making some, alright, it's it's bedtime stories with Mr. Edwin, and I would just read through this Bible story book. And I would make comments because there's almost no Bible story book that actually gets it right. And so we would, I would do that. And that did not work. The first week, you know, there, everybody's watching it by week 10. Maybe one person watching it a week. And so it's just like, okay, that doesn't work. So that went by the wayside. So the stuff that didn't work already gone, the stuff that did work we're going to keep doing. I think for us, the real issue is what we're going to start adding. And that is having recognized the usefulness of online tools for getting our brothers and sisters to share the gospel with others, is we're going to increase and even some of the things like I've heard from Mark today, and I just actually sent Jason a text saying, send me examples of this building block stuff. You know, those are the kind of things we're wanting to add in so that we can build our online library of opportunities for our members to share with their friends with their neighbors with their family, somebody says I'm struggling with this, oh, hey, let's sit down and watch this video together. That this that was that was dealt with in one of our sermons, or here was a video that has been recorded by some of the elders or preachers or brethren in our congregation. Let's Let's sit down and watch this together. So that's, I think, what we're gonna start adding in and trying to organize that. And somebody mentioned earlier about making the website, the hub, we're going to be working on that we're already starting plans to work on that as well.

Kris Emerson:

Yeah, that's all great. You know, a lot of us have been doing some of this stuff going into it. And it will continue, as I said, My temptation is to pause some of it digitally and get people back in their cars again. But most importantly, we have to kind of do the autopsy on this thing. We haven't talked a lot about it today. But we've lost people through this. Look, we gained people, we've got baptisms, we've seen great things. But we've had some fringe people that have fallen off that are hard to reach. We've had people who've stayed home far longer than they should have gotten very comfortable there. The negatives are there. And as a church as a set of leaders, the elders at our church, from the perspective of what I'm doing, we have to learn something from this by the negatives from this, you have to say, there's something we've been doing that did not prepare well, a significant portion of our people. If I could give you the two categories, some of that is a lack of connection and faithfulness. Just people who haven't come haven't contacted many people have just basically stopped serving, though they weren't serving much before. And the other is the stinking 5% on both ends of all this mass political spectrum stuff. I'm tempted to say let's get out our scissors. And let's cut off the 5% left wingers in our church and let's cut off the 5% right wingers because they're annoying as all get out, and they seem to loathe each other to use that word again. They just seem to absolutely detest one another. But instead we got to figure out why politics and health and raise we've got to figure out why. a certain percentage on the ends of our memberships have behaved so terribly, and why preaching has done nothing to help that. Yeah, that I could see, I know somebody's gonna say, well, it actually probably did help somebody. Yeah, it probably helped the people who were already doing pretty well. But there are a lot of things that have been exposed from the Americanization of the church. And it's designed how we thought that was all going to plug along just fine to relationships and love. So I hope that we sit down, we figure out what we need to do better. And we prepare because if you don't think things like this are coming again, in the future, we need to reevaluate where we think this is all going if

Edwin Crozier:

I can tack on something to what Kris just said, I think I agree 100% with just about everything he just said, I know that in the as this has been progressing, I think it's Tom Rayner, who pointed out that what churches are actually seeing is like a fast forward five years. And that is, is that in the last five months, we've lost the people we were going to lose over the next five years, when I heard that that really struck me his point was, these are the folks who over the next five years, they were at a place with their relationship with the congregation with their faith with their beliefs with their doctrinal ideas, that over the next five years, they were probably going to fade out anyway, what hasn't happened is that we haven't had the five years of accompanying growth that has caused us to miss what's happening. So I guess I want to add to Chris's thing about the autopsy is for us to realize that this hasn't actually just been about COVID, we've probably lost people we were going to lose anyway. But we wouldn't have noticed losing them over five years, like we've noticed this year. And we probably should be thinking about that.

Kris Emerson:

Really quickly before others chime in, he's certainly right on the main on those members. But have you guys also noticed that there are members that I would have bet the farm on would have been here in five years, deacons and five years, elders and 10 years, who have just not done well and have drifted. And I, I think it goes to consumer ship versus productivity. I've mentioned that before. I think that maybe they hadn't made that switch towards the fact that they are a contributor to us, and they matter. But while Edwin is right at the thing that that I lose sleep over are the names of people who I never saw this coming. And I don't know where it's going. And I'm worried about that. I don't know. I'm not sure why. Why we are where we are is lots of good. But I think there's some scary stuff too.

Mark McCrary:

I remember growing up hearing preachers say we need another depression, we need have an opportunity for people to see whether they're in or out and we've got it with COVID. And I think you know what our church is going to be doing on the other side of the pandemic, we're going to have to do a lot of rebuilding, because there will be people who have been members of the congregation who just decide, you know what, honestly, I was not really into this before I just came because I didn't want the elders call it I didn't want my mom calling. It's been a year. I'm not going back, we were going to run into people like that, to Kris's comment, boy. What our church is doing wrong. That's always an honest and a fair evaluation, and a question that needs to be asked. But that's, you know, one of the things my wife and I say sometimes to each other, when problems come up, people are going to do what they want to do. At the end of the day, you can preach, you can teach you can provide online opportunities for people, you can send them packages, all those things are great. But at the end of the day, I don't think we're responsible for how people respond. If we're not doing our job properly. We are we make that clear. But at the end of the day, churches can be doing a lot of things right and doing a lot of things well, as well as they can and I think in a way that pleases the Lord. The reality is some people are just not going to respond.

Jason Hardin:

We're going to continue to try and leverage emerging talent. I told one story I could tell I could tell more about talents that have been revealed by all of this that weren't being put to very good use for the health of the church family before talked about equipping parents. We're definitely focused on that. We live in an exciting era where a lot of things are getting to be home based. I think this is a really big opportunity for us to remind parents about what needs to be happening in their homes as far as spiritual development. Yeah, maybe the last thing just trying to remind people about how personal touches and expressions have meant so much over the course of the last few months phone calls, leaving surprising things on People's doorsteps and just ringing the doorbell and walking away. It's things like that, that seems like have meant so much to members of our church family. And I hope those sorts of things continue even when we're able to be in the same auditorium at the same time.

Kenny Embry:

I sure appreciate you guys doing this. You guys have all been very generous with me, every single one of you. Thank you. Thank you for what you're doing. I really appreciate what you guys are doing.

Jason Hardin:

And Thanks, brother. Thanks, brother. Appreciate that encouraging word. Appreciate the opportunity,

Mark McCrary:

and appreciate all you guys as well and the good work that y'all are doing. Thanks a lot, Kenny. I appreciate it.

Kenny Embry:

Yeah, I'm really impressed with these guys. They know how to disagree, agreeably, and that's becoming a lost art. I'm thinking about several of you who have talked to me about trying to start something where you worship. I hope this serves as a starting point for some of those discussions. I've said many times the tools of digital discipleship are just that, tools that can be used well or poorly. I think some of the warnings they talked about today are important for us to keep in mind. But I also noticed none of them are looking to go back to 2019. Coronavirus, has been trying for all of us. But God has taught us some important lessons during the pandemic. I'll leave in the show notes and on my website balancingthechristianlife.com where you can find these guys and ask them questions. You're also welcome to get in touch with me through the website. There's a voicemail function there and you're welcome to leave a question or two. You can also just email me if you use the voicemail function. I might even put it on the podcast. I also want to thank jorge Sanchez for helping support the podcast on Patreon along with my cousin Kevin Hanson. Thanks guys. So until next week, let's be good and do good.