EDDYVILLE, Ky. (KT) - Tiny New Bethel Baptist Church is reaching hundreds each week with the good news of the gospel through Facebook Live only weeks after establishing an online presence.
From no internet access to viewership of 937 on one Sunday night Facebook Live service, the church has found creative and impactful ways to minister to its community during these difficult days. But it didn’t come without teamwork and following God’s lead.
New Bethel, constituted in 1812, is well over 200 years old. It has been instrumental in organizing and planting several churches in western Kentucky, including Donaldson, FBC Princeton, Caldwell Springs, Liberty, Macedonia and FBC Fredonia. But its gospel impact did not end there.
Jerrell White, pastor of New Bethel, has been in the ministry for almost 60 years. However, he had limited experience with the internet when COVID-19 hit. But that soon changed.
“Up to that point, he never had a social media platform, so for the first couple of weeks, we just watched messages from other pastors,” said Jonas Yoder, member of New Bethel and Reentry Coordinator with HR Ministries. “Then one day, as I was browsing Facebook, to my amazement, a friend request popped up from him [Jerrell].”
“After I saw we were missing several services, I said ‘we need to do something,’” said White. “It has been a wonderful adventure.” He credits his church members and grandchildren for his ability to learn Facebook well.
“I offered to create a page for New Bethel which we thought would be a great way to keep the church more connected,” Yoder said. “I was pleasantly surprised at how soon we were able to attract traffic.”
Yoder has been the primary videographer for the church using his phone and tripod. He helped New Bethel begin its Facebook Live services around Easter.
White excitedly shared that they had 480 views on last Sunday’s sermon. “One time we had 710, and another 609, others had 300 to 400.”
For a church with an average attendance of 30 people, this is a significant increase.
Although the church is small in numbers, it has reached people from multiple states through previous missions and ministry connections.
“Facebook services have allowed many to connect who normally would not have,” Yoder said. “I’ve also noticed several others’ friends checking in who do not normally attend church, so it has been a great way to bring hope and encouragement during this time of uncertainty.”
White added: “About two years ago, we ministered to an individual who was having hard times. She started coming to church, made a profession of faith in Christ and was baptized. After some time, she moved to Ohio and hasn’t been back here in a while. But she started watching us on Facebook and said, ‘I want my nephew to watch this service.’ He lives in Philadelphia. So he has been watching.
“I was contacted by another man on Facebook recently who had been baptized at 11. I hadn’t heard from him in 25 years, but he wanted to be my friend on Facebook. He has been working with us occasionally, too.”
White recounted many more stories like that and shared how overjoyed he was that he can meet virtually with new people and churches during this season.
“I’ve thought about these connections in all of these ways and how each service we share the plan of salvation. This is a great way for the gospel to be shared and believers to be encouraged!”
On any given Sunday morning at New Bethel, you will see Brother Jerrell preaching the message. You will also see its large praise team. All are members of the same family.
“We have 10 children and Pastor Jerrell has always been good at encouraging them to participate in services by singing specials during worship time. So naturally, when we began live streaming services, he requested that the children come along and participate by singing specials and playing their guitars,” Yoder said.
“We are thankful for our young people," said White. He also mentioned how he enjoys encouraging young ministers and has invited many seminary students and young pastors to come preach on livestream.
“I remember the 42 churches that gave me an opportunity to preach before I became a pastor in 1961, so we’ve had several young ministers come and they are an encouragement to us,” he said.
Even though the pandemic has limited in-person ministries, New Bethel still strives to make a difference through missions.
“Our main mission involvement is through the Cooperative Program,” White said. “We’ve been giving regularly to that for many years. We also support the Caldwell-Lyon Baptist Association and HR Ministries, and our church has been involved in Job Corp and prison missions.”
The church has returned to in-person services and is abiding by all state guidelines to reopen safely. When asked if they will continue Facebook Live after the COVID-19, White said they plan to do so for a while.
“We, like others, are praying for revival and are praying that our nation and we as individuals would turn to God — for spiritual renewal for our country,” the pastor said.