By Lauren Pratt, SEBTS
Special to The Alabama Baptist
In a season of social distancing, many believers are finding creative ways to engage the lost around them. Daniel Atkins, pastor of Taylor Road Baptist Church, Montgomery, is seeing firsthand how virtual conversations are leading to life-changing conversions.
Atkins believes one of the biggest lessons he’s learned about evangelism during COVID-19 is that you have to make yourself available for these times.
He learned this lesson firsthand recently when a member of his church reached out to him about his fiancé (from a long-distance relationship) who was not a believer.
The man asked Atkins to share the gospel with her over a FaceTime call among the three of them. As Atkins walked through the gospel, the man, who had grown up at Taylor Road Baptist, suddenly realized he had been living a lie.
That day, both he and his fiancé were transformed by the gospel and gave their lives to Christ.
Tears of repentance
That’s not the only salvation story Atkins has witnessed in recent weeks.
Another man called to tell him after their virtual service one Sunday, he became overwhelmed at his need for Christ. In the privacy of his closet and through tears of repentance, he surrendered his life to Christ.
It’s stories like these that fuel Atkins in his preaching ministry and spur him on to continue ministering to his community.
The coronavirus has certainly presented challenges for pastors and church staff as they navigate uncharted waters, moving to virtual small groups and church services.
However, Atkins’ encouragement to those in ministry is to keep going, even on the most difficult days.
“It’s very discouraging some days, but it’s worth it in the end.”
Atkins’ testimony to life change in his community serves as a reminder to trust that the Lord is still at work even when obstacles seem ever-present.
Recently, he and his staff have been calling each member at Taylor Road Baptist Church. However, it’s not just the staff who are reaching out. Atkins has been impressed by the way church members have cared for each other and for him and his family during this time as well.
“I’ve never been more loved at a church than I am here,” he said. “I really feel that because it’s not just [that] they’re expecting me to call them. They’re calling me and my wife to check on us and our kids. It’s very reciprocal.”
Moreover, giving among church members continues to remain steady, including giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and the Cooperative Program.
The involvement among members at Taylor Road is particularly striking when considering the state of the church when Atkins first came in 2016.
Taylor Road had been experiencing a decade of financial and congregational decline, and Atkins was hesitant to enter into a pastorate there.
“I’ll never forget I was sitting in my old study at my old house in South Carolina, and I was wrestling with it, reading through the book of Joshua,” Atkins recalled. “The Lord basically spoke to my heart and said, ‘I’m going to do something at Taylor Road, and you can either hear about it up here, or you can be there to watch it firsthand.’ For me, that was the confirmation.”
During a time of uncertainty, the Lord continues to breathe life back into the congregation.
The church is continuing to keep its office open from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., conduct virtual home groups on Sunday evenings and broadcast weekly sermons on a local public television station.
With the move to broadcasting the weekly sermon comes the potential for significantly more viewers than before, which means opportunities for more people to hear the gospel.
“You don’t know where that seed’s going to land, and so we’ve been very intentional about doing an invitation even online and offering contact information to people who made a decision,” he said.
Atkins, a 2011 graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, recalled how his seminary education changed his outlook on the Great Commission.
“It gave me a more robust, gospel worldview and an emphasis on the mission of God to all people in all places. That’s why I’m so passionate about making the most of our online circumstance right now because you don’t know where that gospel is going.”