Not many of us regularly used video telecommunications for our work a few months ago. That changed in a big way when the COVID-19 pandemic hit late last winter.
Caught flat-footed by a new spreading virus that made it necessary to limit or cease social contact, video conferencing platforms saved the day for those of us needing to meet with people.
If you happened to invest in companies like “Zoom,” “GoToMeeting,” or one of the other video conferencing platforms back in January, you made a windfall. I just checked. Zoom stock was selling at $60+ a share at the beginning of the year and reached a high of $570 per share in October. That tells a significant story. Zoom has allowed doctors to continue seeing patients, many companies to proceed with business, and discipling efforts like The Timothy Network to keep on interacting with people.
It is fair to say our work was quite negatively impacted by spread of the corona virus over the past nine months. It didn’t stop us, however.
Our model of disciple making relies heavily on personal contact. We place high value on building life giving relationships and in nurturing disciples within the context of strong community. Forced isolation drains juice from the core way we operate. But we’ve learned it doesn’t have to kill it!
Although we didn’t build a big number of new relationships in 2020, online meetings allowed us to continue regular interaction with those already involved. The screenshot of a typical meeting is shown below.
The first weeks of connecting in an online discipling environment felt impersonal and even a little “weird,” but the atmosphere changed as the virus wore on through the summer and into the fall. Computer screen meetings or not, we were gladly seeing faces, enjoying conversations, having good studies / discussions, and adapting to the format! Other than “Genesis Fellowship,” a missional community launched in February, regular attendance in discipling circles has remained at 100%. Genesis dropped from 15 – 20 men to about 7 regulars after we started online meetings, but we’re encouraged by the energy this group has developed and look forward to reconvening in person when COVID subsides.
Through the involvement of people with whom we have weekly contact, we’re gradually building online discipling relationships with new people near and far. Because these connections are available at the push of a button, we now have men in discipling circles from Mississippi and Florida. Others from Ohio and Michigan have visited. Some of you are ahead of what I’m about to say: Online ministry is not only possible, it works quite well and is teaching us new and workable ways of discipling from great distances – even the other side of the world. We’re hopeful this avenue will produce many more opportunities for making disciples well past the pandemic’s end.
As 2020 comes to a close, I am reminded of the steadfast support and encouragement many of you have given to our work over the past 15 years. It is a mighty big deal to us and we’re thankful x 15! Please do continue praying that God use us in an effective way. Merry Christmas and God’s best to each of you in the coming year!