COVID-19: First Met is Making The Shift to Serve


Pastor John Ogletree from First Metropolitan Church shares with us how his congregation is making a shift and serving their community in this period of uncertainty.

"This is the season to shift. COVID-19 has shifted the world. . . And what I tell pastors is, in this age, we have to shift our leadership. . .God gives us all grace to make the shift, to serve the situation."

Resources Mentioned:

First Metropolitan Church

Zoom Conference Calls

Facebook Live

You Belong Food Pantry

Houston Responds COVID-19 Resources


Transcript:

Tommy Rosson:

This is Tommy Rosson with Houston Responds. Thank you for joining us today and it's my honor to have, Pastor John Ogletree joining us today with First Metropolitan Church. That church has been such a great leader in this city and in what they have invested in and the way they have led out and especially in times of crisis, but also just in the ministry that he has led over the years. So thank you for joining us today.


John Ogletree:

Thank you Tommy. Glad to be here with you. Been in ministry 33 years. So, it's good to be with you.


Tommy Rosson:

Awesome. Well, thank you for joining us. I know that COVID-19 has thrown us all lots of curve balls and we've had to adjust. Tell us what that looks like at your church.


John Ogletree:

Well, of course we're now, we're worshipping by stream, at formerly we had two worship services on Sunday, 7:45 and 10:45. Now we are worshiping at 10 o'clock by stream each Sunday. We've had to go to streaming on Wednesday nights for our Bible study. And we've gone to now Zoom meetings by our, with our staff. Our staff, we, they can access the server at the office, but we meet twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays. Our elders, we're now because of this COVID-19, our elders and our three top deacons, we meet now by Zoom every Thursday night to give updates and talk about some strategies of things that we might need to do. My wife has even started a Facebook live on Sundays, the Tea Talk Club at one o'clock trying to reach and minister to women.


We normally have a men's breakfast on the first Saturday of each month. We're having our Zoom mens breakfast this Saturday at 9:00, so we'll ask the all the men just hold up what you eat, hold up that pizza, toast, that sausage. We've asked all of our community live groups to have their meetings by Zoom as well as our ministries. And we're really focusing on divided our list and calling our members to keep up with them. And one thing we did, we sent out a survey, I got this idea from another pastor and we, he sent me his survey. We change it to fit us. We sent out a survey to find out which members, if any, had been affected by COVID-19, through the sickness in their family, anything like that or death.


And then get us some information on their financial status. And then just to ask the question, how can we serve you as a church? And we're getting those in. We've got some good responses in so far and I'm going to get turned those over to our elders and deacons and then we're going to see what we can do. Of course, try to push people to give online and then for those who are not, a real technical savvy, they are mailing their contributions in. But that's the new world of church, just the new world church.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah, absolutely. You know, you're telling me earlier that your theme for the year was shifting forward together. So,you're living into it. Tell us, I know you're, you're connected to lots of pastors and you mentor a lot. Tell us a little bit about what you see just about this season and as you advise other pastors.


John Ogletree:

Well, this is the season to shift. COVID-19 has shifted the world. And, we as the church have had to, we've had to shift. And what I tell pastors is, in this age, we have to shift our leadership. And I believe God gives us, and I tell them, God gives us all grace to make the shift, to serve the situation. We wish it was better, but he will give us grace for the moment. And that, being a leader, we can't afford to make excuses or to be depressed or to complain. Our leadership has to rise to fit the occasion. One of my members sent me a text a few days ago and asked me, pastor, was this the shift you envision when you gave us that theme? And laughed. I said, no, no, but God knew this was going to happen. So I have to shift with what he allowed and that's what we're doing.


Tommy Rosson:

Oh, that's great. And it's such wise advice and I know for you that's meant relying on the next generation to give you advice as well. It's, the mentoring is going both ways.


John Ogletree:

Oh gosh. I thank God for my son. I can't imagine. I have three sons in the ministry. Johnny, the oldest there with me is serving as one of our elders and pastors and he loves all this, social media and Zoom and broadcasting, live streaming. And then my youngest son, Jordan is there as our youth pastor, he's doing the same thing, having meetings with his teenagers. And then my son, Joseph, who started in his church in the Cypress area, he was already doing it. So, he's already there and I'm using them to help me, to give me advice and everything. In fact, I had my son because I downloaded Zoom, but for some reason I was doing something wrong to set up my meetings. So I said, will you help me? I'm gonna, I'm going to get it right. But, it's great to have those young men involved in ministry.


Tommy Rosson:

That's great. It's a great season to be, well surrounded, by on all sides, to that community. One of the things that we talked about was you've had a food pantry for the longest time. The Met is such a big supporter of the community in that Northwest Harris County area. Talk to me a little bit about how that is going, because you know, we haven't even hit the hard spot when it comes to the economic impact of all of this. And it's obviously going to last for a while. At least the economic side will last for a while with so many jobs being lost and people furloughed obviously growing that food pantry is a big deal. Tell me a little about your food pantry and what that looks like moving forward.


John Ogletree:

We thank God for our food pantry. We have in the past two months served over 1400 people each month and we have some good leadership back there and a team that works with them. Even some of the team that works in our food pantry are not even members of our church, but they are so dedicated to feeding people and helping people and they have even improved with COVID-19 and their service on how they deliver the food and prepackaging it and making sure they get all the information but trying to function with social distancing. And, we got I think a big announcement coming up. I'm not going to share it yet, but we're going to get more food in the next few weeks because the need is great. Is going, is really going to be great. We've taken some in the past months, some of our overages and fed take, taking that food to the Mission of Yahweh, a women's shelter, and we look to still be able to do that and do that some more, but that pantry that You Belong Food Pantry is a blessing and I thank God for them.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah, absolutely. Especially considering, you know, that pantry and other pantries are going to have to be two, three, four, five times bigger than what they are in the coming months. And so that's, it's not gonna happen without the churches pitching in and making that happen.


John Ogletree:

Yeah. The food bank, the Houston Food Bank, what a resource! And they even helped us to get hooked up with, HEB and Kroger and even Starbucks. We get something from all of them and just give it out to people, give it out to people. And, we just, we just thank God for it.


Tommy Rosson:

That's awesome. That's so much your humble spirit in the midst of this. Y'all are doing such great work. Any other last words for the church leaders of greater Houston as you think through what this has been and what this is going to be?


John Ogletree:

Well, one thing my wife and I, we lead a group of pastors is just a fellowship. It's called Iron Sharpens Iron, we meet with them once a month and we try to just encourage them and give them insights and resources, but we also learn from them. I think if ever there was a time for pastors to work together and to communicate, I thank God that I do that with pastors across the city. Like Pastor Walter, all this. The Church at Bethal's Family. We share ideas of Michael Pender at Fallbrook Church. We share ideas. If ever there was a time to work together, because look here COVID-19 has become the new denominator. I mean, no matter how large you are, no matter how many buildings you have, look, we are all facing the same unseen enemy. And, I believe maybe God is trying to get us to say, Hey, y'all represent the body of Christ, the kingdom of God. Y'all work together and talk and pray for each other, love each other. I'm thinking it's the time for the Christian community to really rise up in unity and show everyone that we're not competing with each other. We're working on the same team for the same Christ. And, so we've just gotta do it in working together.


Tommy Rosson:

It's a great word. It's a great word. And especially in this season where we're all, we're just, we so need to lean on each other and the patients of leaning on each other, whether it be ideas or just support or partnering in so many of these ministries that are going to have to grow.


John Ogletree:

Let me tell you this. I joined, we already have a prayer ministry. That's another thing. We increased our prayer ministry. We had a prayer ministry. We have one that, from six to seven am in the morning, now we added at noon a prayer. And then I have, another pastor friend of mine, pastor Jean Johnson, he has a prayer, meeting of pastors every Tuesday at nine o'clock. And then next thing I know, he's inviting me to a 3:00 AM prayer meeting and, I've even joined that several moments, I'm telling you, before our prayer time has increased, it has increased. And that's another thing we can do with each other and do more. In fact, I think tonight, yeah, tonight is a national prayer call, that a Bishop James Dixon has hooked up. So I'll be on that call tonight. And just, that's what is all about.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah, that's great. And that has, that has grown fourfold since this has happened, and Gods at work through, through all.


John Ogletree:

Yes. Yes, he is.


Tommy Rosson:

Well, thank you so much for joining me today.


John Ogletree:

Well, it's been a pleasure. Thank you for thinking of me. As we race upon your work and the way you're helping to communicate and share across this city on what is going on with our pastors and our churches and God gets the glory in it all. Bless you.


Tommy Rosson:

Thank you. Absolutely. Pastors, if you'd like more of these faith leader ed sites or more information, daily updates or really anything we find it's helpful for local churches to engage, volunteer opportunities. Go to Houstonresponds.org/covid-19. Thank you for joining us today.


Additional COVID-19 resources for congregations available here.

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