Rain, coronavirus threat doesn’t stop Texas church’s ‘drive-in movie style’ service

March 24th, 2020 / By: Shawn Hendricks | TEXAN Correspondent / comments

Rain, coronavirus threat doesn’t stop Texas church’s ‘drive-in movie style’ service

First Montgomery Baptist Church is one of a number of churches across the state and country that has opted to do “drive-in movie style” services to gather on Sunday mornings while maintaining social distancing. Submitted Photo

MONTGOMERY— The rain and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t keep members of First Montgomery Baptist Church from gathering on Sunday for a drive-in style worship service.

Amid the crisis, Pastor Chris Gober decided the outdoor approach, with the help of an FM transmitter, was the safest and most unified way to bring the Texas congregation together for their 10:45 a.m. Sunday service on Mar. 22, the TEXAN reported. While this approach to worship isn’t anything new—televangelist Robert Schuller built his ministry with the idea—more and more churches across the country are deciding it’s the best way to go for now. 

“We had 187 people come to the drive-in church,” said Gober, whose church typically runs around 300 in attendance. But he noted, “with the livestream added in, we were back to full attendance numbers, which is remarkable during this time.”

“It went very well,” he noted. “Due to excessive rain, we moved to our paved parking lots instead of the field, but it worked great!”

The congregation needed some hope, Gober said.

 “I saw several church members crying because of the joy of being at church together. Stress and anxiety are so high right now,” he said. “I think it’s crucial for the church to bring the message of peace to the world. We don’t need to be anxious, be afraid or be worried. We just need to be prepared by accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior and trusting him during sunshine and storms.”

Gober hopes other pastors will be inspired to develop creative approaches to ministry during this challenging time that is stretching pastors and ministry staff with the challenge of staying connected to their congregations. According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center on Mar. 23, Texas had confirmed 758 cases and 9 deaths. And most states have requested that groups stay to less than 10.

 “We feel like this is within those guidelines if you can maintain the isolation within your car,” Gober said, “Because you won’t actually come into contact with anyone except the people in your car, which were in your home to begin with.”

Katy’s First Baptist Church announced on Sunday that they planned to host a drive-in style service on Mar. 29.

“We’re super excited,” Pastor Coleman Philley told the congregation while standing in an empty sanctuary during the church’s livestream service this past Sunday. “It’s a unique opportunity to get out of the house, still honor our local authority instructions of social distancing, keeping safe and healthy.”

“Although the way church looks has changed recently, the needs are still great,” said Philley, reminding the congregation of the importance of continuing to give faithfully.

Outside of Texas, David Fork Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, held its first drive-in style service Mar. 15, WKYT reported. Most of the congregation is made up of senior adults, said Pastor Micky Hyder. And according to healthcare professionals, adults above the age of 60 are more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

“We still want to spread the Word without spreading the virus,” said the pastor, who noted the church hardly ever cancels services even in times inclement weather.

And for church member Sarah Rose, who pulled up in their vehicle for the 11 a.m. service, the outdoor service was an opportunity to experience the community of a church service without being exposed to the virus.

“I love the fact that even with everything that’s going around that we are still able to come together and worship,” she told WKYT, “and we can do this safely and its definitely very fun, interesting and unique.”

Hyder hopes the church will be worshiping back in the building by Easter. 

Pastor Gober of First Montgomery acknowledges the outdoor approach isn’t perfect, but it was a positive step forward.

“At First Montgomery, we are a hugging, welcoming family, so I heard several times how hard it was not to hug people, but we were so glad to see each other, wave, talk and have a bit of normalcy back.”

Gober focused his message on how God, not man, is control. Most people live “under the illusion of control,” he said.

 “We feel like we’re in control of our lives and often that results in us drifting from God,” he said. “But times like this are often the times where we see the reality that we’re not in control. And it’s the perfect time to lean into God, not to lean away from God.”