Church Planting Missionaries Adjust to Covid-19 Crisis

Gregg Gober, lead church planting missionary of Hope Community, had only been in Brooklyn for eight months when the COVID-19 crisis forced his church to move to online meetings. They had only recently transitioned from meeting in their apartment to renting a space for weekly gatherings. From right to left: Gober, his wife Tamra, their son Eli and their daughter Ellie. Photo from Gregg Gober’s Facebook page

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Eight months ago, Gregg Gober and his family arrived in New York City, ready to begin the process of launching a new church. Hope Community in Brooklyn had just started gaining momentum when the COVID-19 virus brought life in the city — and the world — to a halt.

“We had just moved the church out of our apartment,” Gober said. “We started renting space in an old synagogue. Last Wednesday (March 11), we had more people than we’ve ever had, and this was a momentum killer for us.”

Just like established churches across North America and the world, Southern Baptist church plants like Hope Community are having to quickly adapt to the new — hopefully temporary — challenges of church life in a world where group gatherings are impossible.

In addition, most recently launched churches also have the challenge of attempting to build up their new congregation, discover and develop leaders and establish a solid financial base. Many are responding by finding ways to serve their community and creatively keep their congregations connected.

Gober felt God had orchestrated their steps in starting the new church. His and his wife’s hearts were moved toward the need in New York City while Gober was a youth pastor at their sending church, Cyprus Baptist Church in Benton, La.

Now, Gober, his family and the core group who moved from Benton are trusting that God still has a plan as they continue reaching out to their neighbors in Brooklyn.

“We’re making the best of it. We’ve sent out fliers into the community to let them know we can go grocery shopping if they need it,” Gober said. “We reached out to schools in our community. We provided doughnuts and coffee for one group of teachers who had to go in to prepare” for the school’s transition to distance learning.

Before the crisis, Hope Community had started to gain a presence in their community by conducting “random acts of kindness,” such as handing out donuts and coffee in the subway. A few people they had met started attending their Wednesday night Bible study, and one family had planned on attending for the first time the week that gatherings in the city were banned.

These and similar challenges are leading the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send Network team, NAMB’s church planting ministry, to conduct weekly videoconference gatherings with the church planting missionaries.

NAMB president Kevin Ezell announced last week that he is putting a hold on all discretionary spending so NAMB can focus on keeping church plants and missionaries on the field during this critical time when people need the hope of the Gospel.

“There is always a huge camaraderie between the pastors here, especially within the Send Network family. There are always texts and emails going back and forth,” Gober said. “One pastor friend who is bivocational lost his job because of this. So, we reached out to him and asked what we can do for his family.”

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Source: Baptist Press