COVID-19: Urgent Opportunity to Serve Community and Utilize Technology

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

D.Z. Cofield, Senior Pastor of Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church, shares the urgency into taking advantage of this time to be caring for those in need in your community.

"I want our congregation to understand, you know, it's so easy in a crisis to become very myopic and very self-centered and you're thinking about yourself. But we're still at our best when we think about and share and love on other people."

Resources Mentioned:

Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church

Houston Food Bank

Word Cloud

Houston Responds COVID-19 Resources


Tommy Rosson:

Thank you for joining us today it's Tommy Rosson with Houston Responds. And it's my honor to be joined by D.Z. Cofield, the senior pastor of Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church. They have always been a leader in their community of what it means to love their community, to disciple their church well. And so I'm looking forward to hearing from him. Thank you for joining us today.

D.Z. Cofield:

Man. Tommy, I'm honored to be with you, man. Thank you for having me.

Tommy Rosson:

Absolutely. Tell us a little bit about what COVID-19 has meant in your church and how you're addressing many of the ministry opportunities during the season.

D.Z. Cofield:

Well, I'll tell you what, you know, COVID-19, is just one more opportunity I think for the church to really display who they are and what God has created us to be and that salt and light and salt and light show up best in places of decay and places of darkness. And the darkness that we're facing now is, not just a physical, but also a spiritual darkness. And you know, I see it as an urgent opportunity. And whenever we have that urgent opportunity present itself. For me, it's the time for the church to really display who we are. It's, it's almost like a crisis coming up and you know, Clark Kent sees the problem, but Superman comes out of the phone booth, you know, it's like, okay, here comes the saints now, you know, here we come, man. We ready to start serving.

We're ready to be who God created us to be. And it's a little unique for us because our church is 148 years old. I'm the sixth pastor and 148 years and I've been here 25, it'll be 26 years this year. So I'm literally a custodian of a legacy. That's really what I see myself doing. One of the things that we want to do is, well really two things that we're looking at philosophically. One is making sure we're taking advantage of every technological opportunity to spread the message of Jesus Christ and the love of God, but also every opportunity to stay in touch with people and to use this as an opportunity to not just love our members, but also give our members an opportunity to serve, to love our community. Our mission is to love God, love all people, and change the world in order to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

And one of the words that we added was the word "all" because what I discovered was when I said love people, everybody thinks they're loving because they love the people they love. But there's also a group of people that they really don't like a whole lot they really don't deal with, but they think they are okay. Because when you say, do you love people, they automatically think of the people that they love. And so we said, no, we've got to love all people and what does that mean and how do we do that? And so this is provided a unique opportunity for our members to be in essence, spiritual and physical first responders. And so, you know, they wear their mask and they wear their gloves. For example, for our food pantry, we've gone from serving 25 families a week to 260 families last week. We got a call from the Food Bank saying, Hey, would you like to serve another day? And there are a lot of supplies that are being raised through a partnership with the city of Houston, Kroger and Mattress Mack. And they said, you know, we're trying to find someplace in third ward. And the name of our family life center is the Center for Hope. And so, you know, we've built that relationship with our community. People know that they can come and we know we're just excited man, about the opportunity that the, not just share the love of God but the show, the love of God.

Tommy Rosson:

Now let's talk real quickly about, on the technological side, the, you know, this, unique, urgent opportunity. I know that you switched a few years ago to really focus on more of an online presence. Talk to us a little bit about what that looks like for your services, but also everything down into children's ministry.

D.Z. Cofield:

Yeah. So, several years ago I was on television and I was actually doing like six days a week, man. It was really intense, but it was a powerful learning experience about not just how to do ministry, but how to produce a ministry and what does that look like to make sure that it's compelling and we have the elements and aspects in there that we want to see in there so that people want to watch it. And it's really touching people at their place of felt need in order for us to address their real need. And so we made a decision to come off television and to redirect those resources to becoming a smartphone church. And so I literally, and I gotta tell you, you know, when you have 148 year old church, our oldest member is 107 who's active. You know, I had to make some of our seniors stay home.

You know, when we talked about social distancing because they were like, well, Hey, I've been coming to church all my life and you know, when you people who are around and made it through the Spanish flu, they like look, Coronas just one more thing, right? I've seen it all. So you know, I was like, no man, pastor really wants you to stay home. You really need to stay home. But we made a decision to become a smartphone church. And so, I started using Word Clouds and surveys for example, on Sunday morning, during the sermon as part of the introduction, just started weaving it in, sending out text messages. We redid our website, redid our app, made sure those aligned, our social media presence. And then we also were very, very intentional about increasing our giving platforms online. So we have six ways that people can give and I think five of them can be accessed through your iPad or through your smartphone.

And so that took our giving online, giving a total in the church from 30% now we're like at 86% now. So it's really helped us become more accessible. I was reading the article, Tommy and the article said, you know, if you don't have online giving opportunities for millennials, they perceive you as a church without electricity. But that's how important that is. And so we've literally been preparing and instituting ministry opportunities in and through technology, our children's ministry really excited. Dr Misha Burkins does a tremendous job. So she's been doing, for example, virtual children's church on Sunday morning. And you know, I didn't get the numbers from this past Sunday, the Sunday before they had 60 children in virtual children's church. And what's really exciting me is, I think this is challenging the church as the institution, as the place that we meet to get out of the way and to do what really I think God wants us to do.

And that's to support families and parents and not supplant them. I think many times, just like with schools and education and a formal level, you know, parents drop their kids off, pick them up and as long as the kids don't cause any problems, you know, parents are not really concerned. It's like, no news is good news. Kind of do the same thing with church. You know, children's church me, you drop the kids off, sign them up, come back and pick them up and you're like, Hey, I hope you taught my little heathen some great principles and managing things like that. But this is causing us now to really have to engage with parents and instruct parents on how to be the best parents they can be and how to become what God has called them to be. And that's the primary discipler of their children.

And we're doing that now across the board with our youth ministry. You know, our youth pastor is doing a variety of things online with the kids, with our young adults. We're doing it with our marriage enrichment ministry, our men's ministry, our women's ministry, our leaders. We're like, Hey, we're going to keep doing what we're doing. We're just going to change how we do it. Gene Getz taught me that principle many years ago as a student at Dallas seminary. Um, in his book sharpening the focus of the church and timing. You can imagine sitting in class with Gene Getz and that a textbook, right? And so we're going through this and, and one of the fundamental things he taught was understanding the difference between form and function. You know, that forms change. Functions don't change. So Christian education is a function. Discipleship edification, that's a function. Sunday school is a form. Some all groups are a form and those forms may change and we have it on Sunday morning. You may do it on Saturday, right? But you want to make sure the function is fulfilled. And so that's what we're working on and working hard to do. How do we fulfill the function of evangelizing and edifying people during COVID-19.

Tommy Rosson:

That's a wise, and we've heard this from a few other leaders, this idea of kind of, we have to go back to ensuring that we're living into the function of what the church should be regardless of the form. And you know, many times that that's going back to connecting with people via phone calls, but also, you know, supporting a love that, uh, supporting the family and their role in this and going back to the value of the family and in raising up their kids. That's, that's perfect. You know, one of the other things you mentioned this briefly is the unique opportunity in this urgent opportunity to live into the needs of our community. We're in Houston. We're used to responding to disasters. We're used to responding to these situations, but they come back to abnormality in a couple of weeks, to some kind of normality.

For those that have flooded, obviously that's a completely different world. But for a majority of the community, we get our electricity back, we get our homes back, we go back to our jobs and a couple of weeks. And then we're just helping the few people that have flooded n the flip side, now we're in a situation where, a mass amount of people across the community are going to be hurting for a longer period of time. This is, even if we're able to go back to some sense of normality in the next few months, it's going to extend beyond that. So it's a very urgent opportunity to live into the needs of our community. Tell me a little bit about what you're doing and how you're leading your church to, to live into this, on the mission side.

D.Z. Cofield:

So I think first, and primarily with our service through our food pantry, that has been the primary way. Of course, you know, we're taking care of our seniors and we're also reaching out to other seniors as well in terms of delivering packages. I've been on the road, you know, delivering packages. My wife and I had to go to HEB to pick up something and they have a limit on what you can buy. And I had to call the store manager and you know, I was like, Hey man, I'm a pastor. I'm trying to take some groceries to some seniors and you know, they let me make it that day. Right. But they were like, pastor, you know, Hey, you know, these rules are strict, et cetera. And I was like, okay. So, so we've been very intentional about reaching out.

I gotta tell you just a great story. So we took boxes of groceries to a senior citizen independent living facility and you know, those seniors look out for each other. And so, you know, my mother-in-law lives in there and several other of her friends of course. So we take this, these boxes in and we take three or four boxes and my mother-in-law calls my wife and tells my wife, you know, I just want you to thank my son. He doesn't know. He saved, you know, five families today. And she started telling me about one man who had no food waiting for his daughter to bring him something to eat. And his daughter got sick. And so he had nobody else that he could call. And he was not comfortable going out because he's part of that vulnerable population and they were able to, you know, share groceries and food with them, et cetera.

And you know, Tommy, when you get a chance to be used by God in a powerful way, I don't know if there's anything better than that. We have our state licensed child development center. It's allowing us to support first responders and essential workers, is also allowing us to be a respite for some parents who need a break from their children. And so we, we are not only doing our childcare side, but we're doing our after school program as well to support parents again and encourage parents. You know, we're doing some prayer walking, you know, with our mask on, you know, we're just social distancing and just been praying because I want our congregation to understand, you know, it's so easy in a crisis to become very myopic and very self centered and you're thinking about yourself. But we're still at our best when we think about and share and love on other people.

So encouraging them to check on your neighbors. Hey man, if the Holy spirit brings somebody to your mind, you know, call them, encourage them. Like most congregations, we have been hit. If you haven't been hit, you will be hit in a personal way. You know, I have members at this moment who are on life support, I have some who have recovered, you know, but we're facing all of the challenges that congregations face. You know, funerals, how do we do, in the sanctuary, out of the cemetery, you know, just all of those things. But for me the challenge is how do we make sure that we stay connected with people in this really trying time?

Tommy Rosson:

No, that's great. And that's, its just such good wisdom there. You know, this is going to be a longer race than I think a lot of us are figuring that out, that we're going to be doing this for a while. And so, you know, as we address these things, I think it's just so critical that we realize there's, you know, we're here for a reason. They're here for a time. And that each church has a very urgent opportunity and unique opportunity to live into this time.

D.Z. Cofield:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I want to encourage, you know, every pastor that is going to watch this, whether you're a large church or a small church or a medium sized church, I think this, this urgent opportunity gives you a chance to maximize your impact and to maximize your ministry footprint in your community. And there are a number of ways that you can do it for us, you know, the food pantry, the expansion of that 10 fold has been unbelievable. But we're also looking at our online numbers and say, you know, wow, okay, our online numbers have increased five or six fold, you know, now for me, that's great, but I want to move to that next level and I'll talk about, okay, how do we memorialize that? We've got, for example, the report I've just got in, we have viewers from 28 different countries.

Okay, well part of our theme is taking hope to the world. So how do we memorialize that? How do we institutionalize that? How do we make sure that we become a place? A lot of people are grazing now. You know, a lot of people are going online and this is an opportunity for them to look at ministries, both laity and clergy, right? I mean, I'm looking online at different, you know, pastors and preachers and ministers and ministries and things like that. But that grazing season is not going to last always. And the question is, can we become a viable place where people feel that they are being nourished, that they are spiritually being encouraged and equipped to become the best that they can be to fulfill their potential in Jesus Christ? And that's what we're working to do.

Tommy Rosson:

Well, thank you so much for your leadership. Thank you so much for your wisdom. You've allowed us to learn what you're learning and we're very grateful for you joining us today.

D.Z. Cofield:

Well, Tommy, I appreciate it. I think this is a tremendous time, a time for us to think outside of the box. I think, a matter of fact, I use the phrase without a box. Don't, don't even think outside of it. Cause you know, when the storms come, you're tempted to get back into the box, but just throw the box away and just say, man, where, where are the opportunities for us to serve? And you know, it's not always going to be pretty. But we'll figure it out as we go. But this jump in, the late Vernon John who was pastor of the biggest Avenue Baptist church, he had a phrase, he said, if you see a good fight, get in it. And I always add, if you don't see a good fight, start one. COVID-19 or started a fight man. And I think it was just, it's just time for us to jump in, man and do everything that we can to be the salt and be the light of God has called us to be. And I think this is a great opportunity. It's an opportunity, but it's a great opportunity to be the church of Jesus Christ.

Tommy Rosson:

It's wonderful. Pastors, other church leaders, faith leaders. If you want more resources like this, or earn more opportunities to lean into this season, you can go to Any of the resources are linked to Good Hope's website, we'll include the link in the editorial part of these videos. Thank you very much for joining us today.

Additional COVID-19 resources for congregations available here.

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