Inspiration For Future Church Gatherings With Pastor Chris Hodges

Every church is at a different stage of reopening after the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some churches have been open for months, while others still have their doors shut and are meeting only online, and most are balancing both in-person and online services. I sat down with Chris Hodges, Lead Pastor of Church of the Highlands, on his experience reopening and what he anticipates for the future of church after such a major shift in church operations. We discussed the history of Church of the Highlands, how the church has adapted to the pandemic, and what they’ve learned from reopening. We hope this conversation offers you guidance as you continue to make the best decision for your church.

Church of the Highlands’ Response To COVID-19

Church of the Highlands is a multi-site church in Alabama. Since its founding the church has expanded to include 23 campuses, 20 ministries in correctional facilities, a church planting ministry, and even a college for those interested in ministry. Highlands college focuses on academics, ministry skills, and character development. The goal of Highlands college is to become the academy of Christian education and continue to place all their graduates in churches.

Like most other churches, Church of the Highlands closed their doors at the beginning of the pandemic and only streamed their services online. As the state began to reopen, Church of the Highlands decided to do the same and opened their doors the week after July 4th. The increase in attendance was slow at first, but now nearly 40% of their congregation has returned to in-person worship services and all their ministries are up and running.

Pastoring today looks different than it did a year ago. Pastors are finding it harder to plan messages ahead of time due to how much and how quickly things are changing. The context and application of scripture is very different from previous years and pastors want their messages to be relevant and helpful which means more last-minute adaptations. Church of the Highlands has used biblical passages to speak to the current global state. For example, Chris Hodges has been walking his congregation through the book of James and talked about what the various passages practically apply to what we’re experiencing today.

Physically Distanced, But Not Socially Distanced

In times like this, the local church becomes vital for providing meaningful connections. Pastor Chris pointed out that people are on social media more than ever looking for connection but feeling less connected than ever. While we may need to be physically distanced, it is important that we do not become socially distanced. People need relationships and now is the time to go above and beyond with pastoral care. As churches continue to have people from all over the world stream their services, Pastor Chris notes that the most important thing churches can do for these individuals is to encourage them to find a local church to meet their needs.

We Still Have Hope

Furthermore, while things seem unprecedented right now, remember the world has been through extreme plagues and trials before and God is always good. Pastor Chris shared that he’s been leaning on the hope that you can look around and see the disaster in the world, or you can look up and keep your eyes focused on Christ’s redemption. There is no way to know how long this will last, but we can exercise our faith muscles by remembering who is ultimately in charge and the hope we have in Heaven.

Despite the tragedy and challenges COVID-19 has brought, technology is allowing us to spread the gospel farther and faster than ever, even during a pandemic. In all but 20 nations in the world, the gospel is growing 3x faster than the population.

This conversation is part five in a 5-part podcast series we released called The State Of The Church, where our CEO & Founder, William Vanderbloemen spoke with pastors and ministry leaders from around the country about how COVID-19 has impacted their Kingdom efforts and what they project the lasting impacts will be. Check out the other encouraging conversations in this series here.