PIKEVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Jason Lowe sits down at his kitchen table on Sunday mornings, opens up the laptop, tablet and phone and begs his family to stay off the internet.
“I need as much bandwidth as possible,” he said.
Lowe, the associational mission strategist for the Pike Association of Southern Baptists, oversees 24 churches and one-fourth of them are currently without a pastor.
With the pandemic making it difficult on every church, Lowe has stepped in the gap for three of the churches without pastors by recording a weekly Sunday sermon that they use weekly on Facebook. So on Sunday mornings, he’s watching over those presentations and also monitoring comments from the service at First Baptist Church of Pikeville where he is the executive pastor.
“It’s interesting on Sunday mornings. Sitting at my kitchen table, I normally have three computers open – my Macbook, an iPad and my iPhone. I’m watching the comments on all three. It’s pretty stressful too if internet goes down.”
His sermons at the other churches are running on Facebook Premier, where the event can be pre-recorded and scheduled.
“When Sunday morning rolls around and everybody logging on at the same time, it can get sluggish,” Lowe said. “Normally I’ll turn the Wifi off on my phone. I tell everybody in the house to stay off the internet for the next hour-and-a-half.”
Lowe said it has made for some hectic weeks. He has followed that routine every Sunday since Easter and said he will continue for as long as they wish.
“This certainly was a challenge for those churches without pastors in particular,” he said. “They didn’t have anybody to walk them through one of the most challenging times a church will ever face.”
During the week leading up to Easter, he noticed that several churches didn’t have anything planned. Three of those who didn’t have a pastor took him up on the offer to record a sermon and run it from their Facebook page.
“It was really bothering me churches didn’t have a service on Easter,” Lowe said. “I reached out to one of them and said, ‘Would you like for me to record a service and upload it to your Facebook page?’ Then I thought, if I’m doing it for one, why not do it for the others? Three different churches said, ‘Yes, we would love that!’”
Lowe records one sermon and does three different welcomes, introductions and announcements. He also offered for them to send him music from their congregations if they wanted.
“The challenge was how do I get these on their Facebook page,” he said. “So all three made me a Facebook administrator. I record the message, edit the video and schedule for each of those churches.”
Last week, he finished the sermon and recordings on Wednesday and then Gov. Andy Beshear announced about the churches reopening on May 20.
“I had to do the announcements over again for all three churches,” he said.
The three churches where he is preaching are First Baptist Church Forest Hills, Mouthcard Baptist Church and Sutton Baptist Church. He is preaching a series on crisis management, he said.
“This past Sunday was on loneliness and I asked folks at Forest Hills to record a brief 5- to 10-second video telling the church how much them love them and miss them. I put together a three-minute video.”
He also does a buffer video for all three churches to get the transition to his unique welcomes. He’s used videos about the Cooperative Program, Annie Armstrong offering or Kentucky Baptist Convention initiatives.
Lowe records everything from his associational office. He also is in nearly weekly contact with the other pastors in the association via Zoom calls. The pastors have responded well, sharing ideas and connecting with each other better than any other time he can remember.
“It has strengthened the relationship between some of our churches,” he said.
Lowe said some churches are more excited than others about the return to onsite services.
“I think some are hesitant to come back immediately. We’re encouraging all of our churches that even when we can go back some people, because of health, will stay away a little longer. Just because we’re gathering again, we need to keep having the online.”