Fellowship of Christian Farmers
By Kevin Cernek
May 24, 2020
Live in such a way so the preacher won’t have to lie at your funeral.
When I was a student in Bible college, my wife and I were on the missionary list of Martintown Community Church. They sent us a $75 check every month, nine months out of the year, for about four years. In one of the thank you letters I sent back home, I mentioned how I hoped to one day be able to farm and be the Pastor of Martintown Community Church at the same time. Our church Treasurer kept that letter and when I became the Pastor, she gave it back to me. At the time I didn’t even remember telling her that – but there it was in my own handwriting. And God remembered my prayer and has blessed us ever since in the ministry at MCC. God is good all the time.
This week I was talking to a sales rep from Madison, Wisconsin. He was asking me about our church – where it is? How many people? How has the shutdown affected us? Those kinds of questions. I love it when people ask those questions.
May I tell you a little story about the goodness of God? When this pandemic first hit, no one knew exactly how to respond. While most of us were still scratching our heads trying to work out a strategy, I had heard that many churches were cancelling their services altogether. That meant no Easter. I thought: “How can the Church not celebrate Easter? That’s our Super Sunday.” I asked our Congregation to pray for a solution.
That week I received a phone call from a friend. He said he had heard on the radio that there was a church in Texas that had what they were calling “Parking Lot Church.” They had purchased a radio transmitter that sent a signal out over their own personal FM radio frequency into their parking lot. I asked him if he could look into us doing something like that at Martintown Community Church. He said he was busy at the nursing home with his aunt that day and would not be able to investigate it until later in the week, but he would ask his friend who worked in that business (sort of) in Chicago and get back to me. A couple hours later he called back and said his friend found a company in Canada that had a transmitter. They had a couple in stock and we could have one within 10 days to two weeks. My friend asked: “Should we order it?”
“Yes!” I said. “Definitely yes!” That would save our Easter. So we ordered it. Then the doubts began to flood our minds. What if it didn’t work? What if the guy was ripping us off? What if it never came? What if? What if? What if? And I was already announcing to our Congregation we were having Easter Sunday services in the parking lot. So we began to pray – and expect God to do great things.
The transmitter arrived right on schedule just like the guy said, causing us to feel foolish for doubting. We got it out of the box and carefully read the directions. We set it up exactly as instructed, tuned our car radio into the frequency we chose … and wha-la … it worked perfectly. I jumped up and down and celebrated in the parking lot. Easter had been saved.
Easter Sunday was the first Sunday Martintown Community Church had Parking Lot Church and we haven’t missed a Sunday since. This may sound odd, but since the pandemic hit, I have been totally energized as a pastor. God has turned this downturn into an upturn. We have fun doing church every week. To spice things up a little, we do promos from week to week. Things like offering a donut to everyone in the car. Or washing their windshield when they pull into the parking lot. Last Sunday we even had communion in our cars. We ordered individual disposable communion sets of bread and juice and at the end of the service we shared in the Lord’s Supper together. People are excited to be coming to church again. Even people that don’t like church, come and sit in their cars, and leave without ever having to go inside. It’s unconventional to say the least. But it’s awesome!
In a lot of ways, I feel like I did 27 years ago, when my wife and I were first starting out. We have new visitors every week. There’s excitement in the church and outside the church. Our FaceBook audience is expanding our outreach. People are hungering for God’s Word. Serving God at Martintown is the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I understand that once things go back to “normal” some of the people will go back to their home churches and over time we may lose some of our FaceBook friends, etc. That’s ok. But many of them won’t go back because they don’t have a church to go back to. They have gone from calling Martintown Community Church “your church” to calling it “my church”.
Even with the restrictions lifted, we are going to continue with Parking Lot Church outside. Rain or shine – I will stand under the tent (I always wanted a Big Tent Revival in Martintown), and preach away. The crowd will honk their horns when it’s time to honk. We’ll sing Happy Birthday. We’ll sing along to the worship music. The doors of the church will be open if anyone wants to come inside to worship, but seriously, I want to keep the action going outside. We have no plans to discontinue Drive-In Church.
This seems like a fitting place for one of my favorite Bible verses, one in which I quote often, one where God challenges us to pray, expecting Him to answer. Jeremiah 33:3: “Call unto Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you know not.”