In Christian Reformed congregations across North America online worship services, developed as a way of maintaining contact within pandemic-separated congregations, have proven to be a powerful means for attracting newcomers to the Christian faith. At Middleville (Mich.) CRC, Pastor Robert Van Zanen said that the congregation was new to online streaming. But figuring "all of that out this year" has helped them maintain outreach connections over the months of disruptions. On Easter Sunday 2021, the congregation joyfully witnessed the baptism of two adults—one who started "attending" worship online during the COVID shutdown and one who came to Middleville Church through Alpha program evangelism.
Ladner CRC in Delta, B. C., also celebrated the baptism of several newcomers to the faith between Easter and Pentecost this year—required to space out the celebrations over seven weeks because of pandemic gathering limits. Many of the newly baptized believers came to Christ by means of an online gospel class led by associate pastor Nancy Yang. In recent years, the council of the Ladner congregation recognized that many of the ethnic Chinese people moving into the region were Mandarin-speaking immigrants from mainland China who had never heard the gospel. They sensed God’s leading in their decision to begin an outreach ministry in the Mandarin language. Yang officially began her work as associate pastor of Ladner CRC in September 2020. Connecting through the Zoom and WeChat platforms, Yang leads an online worship service on Sunday mornings, a prayer meeting, the gospel class on Wednesday evenings, and the Bible Project video series on Friday evenings. While pastor Yang’s ministry is focused on local people attending the online sessions, the Bible project videos are reaching a wider group. A recent church newsletter said that more than 160 contacts are following online from addresses across Canada, several European countries, Singapore, China, and Israel.
Delegates to the Classis Quinte (regional group of churches) meeting on May 18 heard reports of newly baptized adults from the newly formed Living Hope Community Church in Ajax, Ontario. The church plant is led by commissioned pastor Mark Jallim, working in partnership with Hebron CRC in Whitby, Ont.; Resonate Global Mission; and Classis Quinte. Jallim started the new church in December 2020 with very restricted meeting opportunities due to the pandemic. Living Hope Community Church has no physical geographical location. Pastor Jallim, who also works in information technology for a Canadian bank, used funding support from Resonate to purchase electronic and video equipment to upload an outreach worship service from the basement of his home in Ajax. With the active support of Jallim’s wife, children, and personal Christian friends, the online church offers a broad range of outreach programs in addition to the online worship service each Sunday. Pastor Jallim reported that the response to the online service has been immediate and enthusiastic. Already two newcomers to the faith have been baptized; the most recent baptism was live-streamed when Jallim was able to arrange the use of facilities in another local church. The church’s outreach is going beyond the local community. Jallim said because there has been strong interest among Guyanese people, they have plans to stream the online services in audio format so they can be picked up in Guyana in areas with very limited internet bandwidth. Pastor Jallim informed delegates that “two-thirds of the people who connect with Living Hope have never heard the gospel before. They are new to the faith; we counsel them that they must leave one god in order to serve another.”
Pastor Mike Nanninga, reporting for the classis Quinte Resonate team, said, “This church is blowing past all the benchmarks that we have set in our covenant together.”