While many of us are tired of social distancing and are feeling less connected than ever, others have been what they were doing before: probing conversations about meaning, God, and belief through YouTube and chat forums. Right here in the middle of a very locked-down Sacramento, California, CRC Pastor Paul Vander Klay’s connection to people—many of whom are coming out of atheism—has only seemed to increase.
Last month, well-known YouTuber Po the Person (13,000+ subscribers), sat down for a long, recorded conversation with Paul (15,000+ subscribers). As they discussed the Bible, she eventually asked Paul a very simple yet unusual question: “Do you think I believe in God? Can I be a Christian, or am I doomed to being secular?” The video already has over 5,000 views. The trust in Paul’s shepherding presence is clear. He’s put in the time. He’s having more conversations with non-church-goers about God than any church planter I’ve ever known.
Meanwhile, Josiah Gorter, a church planting intern in Sacramento, struggles with this question: How do I build relationships with non-Christians during a global lockdown? Josiah is a promising young leader who knows that the clock is ticking; if he’s going to have any chance of launching a church someday in this city, he’s going to need to have a network of relationships with people who don’t go to church. He needs to know, understand, and love these people before he claims to have something for them.
It was Paul who had the lightbulb. He invited Josiah in to his online “church”:
Start hanging around the in-person meetups and the online chat forums and interviews.
Start watching the astonishing conversations posted on YouTube and other streaming services.
Reach out and schedule your own conversations with the people in the videos.
I honestly struggle to see through the smoke, isolation, and anxiety of the coronavirus pandemic. Most of the time my eyes are not open to see how God might be active in all this. But with Paul, Josiah, and this “church” of 15,000 YouTubers, God is doing something. At least in the mission of God’s church in California, I can celebrate God weaving a fabric that is supporting the growth of the church and the spread of God’s gracious message to new people.
Marc Holland is a Resonate Global Mission Local Mission Leader in Sacramento, California, and pastor of Sacramento City Life CRC