A few Sundays ago, I met a woman named Rebecca at a local church in Fort Lauderdale. After I had finished preaching, she came up to me asking for prayer and proceeded to share a bit of her story with me. Rebecca had attended a local church for many years yet after experiencing some pain and disillusionment with what she had experienced on Sunday morning, began to slowly withdraw and eventually walked away from church and her faith. Fast forward six years; a few weeks back she saw a He Gets Us commercial on WSVN Channel 7 pointing to the reality that Jesus understood pain. Ending with the prompt to visit HeGetsUs.com for more information, Rebecca got out her phone and visited the site.
After thumbing through some of the content, she found herself intrigued with the message of Jesus and came to understand that Jesus had experienced many of the same feelings she had. After a few more clicks, she filled out a form asking to connect with a local church for prayer and to talk. The next day a local pastor reached out and after some back-and-forth…the rest is history. She’s been faithfully attending Church again, has since rededicated her life to Christ and is thrilled to find a place that is eager to walk with her, process her pain and point her to Christ.
Commercials, Clicks, and Content for Christ
It would be one thing if Rebecca’s story was an outlier, however, it’s not. Stories like hers are happening all throughout South Florida as people exploring faith and asking questions about life online see digital ads, google search results, commercials and billboards pointing them to the reality that He (Jesus) Gets Us and that local churches care about them, their stories and their struggles.
“I drove past this church for 20 years and never thought about stepping inside. When I saw a post on Facebook asking what I needed prayer for, I never thought an actual person, let alone a local pastor would respond back to me. They have since responded to my needs, and I have found a community that I can trust and accept me — even with all my hang-ups,” said Rick from West Palm Beach, who has been since attending the same church he drove by for 20 years after the pastor was the one who ended up responding to his prayer request online.
Local leaders’ perspective
“This historic, digital evangelistic campaign is connecting us with local people who would have never stepped foot into our church. It’s reminding us that the majority of people in South Florida do not attend church yet find themselves wrestling for answers and looking for hope. A few decades ago or so they may have reached out to a local pastor, but today they turn to Google, Siri and Alexa,” said Pastor Bennett Johnson of Oceanside Church in Boca.
Stephany Gallo of Riverside Church in North Lauderdale shared similar sentiments. “For so long the church has forgotten about the mission field that exists in our own zip code. Church United’s digital efforts though Gloo are pointing us back to the least, the lost and the forgotten in our backyard and mobilizing us to mission.”
And for Shawn Allen, who serves as the senior pastor of Church of the Palms in Palm Beach County, “These digital ads are doing what no one local church could ever do on their own. These collaborative, evangelistic efforts are showing our friends and neighbors that the message of Jesus is the hope, meaning and purpose explorers are searching for. We are thrilled to be a part of this work!”
However, this isn’t about getting people to fill our pews. This is about demonstrating that the local church cares about real, relatable life events and topics, and that the life of Jesus is more revenant today than ever before. Pastor Mike Veitz of New River Fellowship puts it plainly, “This isn’t a church growth strategy. This is an effort to disrupt the status quo and point local churches like ours back to our calling to be agents of faith, hope and love to those who have yet to discover Jesus. I want those exploring faith and requesting prayer to know that the local church was there for them in their moment of need or in their moment of questioning. You have no idea how impactful that experience may be later on down the road. After all, it’s the Holy Spirit that does both the awakening and savings of people’s souls. All we have to do is be the body of Christ offering the fruits of the Spirit to those in need.”
A disciple-making opportunity
In order to meet the ever-growing demand of explorers looking to connect with local churches, we will need more than pastors responding to calls, texts and email inquiries. We will need to mobilize, train and equip those in our pews for the work of ministry. The harvest is indeed plentiful here in South Florida, and the laborers will remain few if we do not turn to the sleeping giant that the people in our pews are and say, “Awake!”
If you’re a local church leader in South Florida and want to engage your church, network or denomination in this historic evangelistic effort, please visit churchunitedfl.com to learn more, connect and join in the story of unity God is writing in our region.
Edwin Copeland serves as the Director of Church United with the National Christian Foundation of South Florida where he works to unify the Church through collaboration and celebration to see faith, hope, and love spread throughout South Florida. To learn more about Church United, visit churchunitedfl.com
Read more articles by Edwin Copeland at: goodnewsfl.org/author/edwincopeland/