Confession: The “deacon call list” has always caused me a bit of anxiety.
You know, that list of church members a deacon calls during times of crisis or when the church is introducing new initiatives. I am perplexed by the anxiety. I’m a people person and I like to talk. Perhaps it is because the list always includes a few people I don’t really know. Perhaps it is my rugged (stubborn) American individualism – I assume people don’t want to be bothered. Perhaps self-doubt.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, my church (First Baptist New Orleans) asked deacons to volunteer to check in on members. Despite my odd anxiety about the calls, I volunteered. The goal was to provide encouragement, assess needs, and provide worship updates.
Before long I received a new list to call. I scanned the list and sure enough, it included a few close friends … people I have already been in contact with during the crisis. The list also included many acquaintances. Some names I did not recognize at all. After a few moments of dread, I started calling. I knew this was a vital need.
The first phone number had been disconnected. No answer on the next call, but I did leave a message. Same for call three. Things weren’t off to a great start.
I was beginning to doubt anyone would answer. I continued down the list and started dialing the next number. I immediately recognized the woman’s name, a 93-year-old member who still attends our church faithfully each week. I can’t say that I knew her before this call, but I knew of her.
This time I got an answer. Throughout the call, she poured out praise to God and expressed how thankful she was for the members of her Sunday School class and her family. She said the “younger ones” – the members of her SS class who are between 75 and 80 years old – had been good to call her each day she has been isolated. She was full of hope and expressed no worry or fear about tomorrow. She proclaimed that God is in control and that she believes He can ultimately bring good from situations like this. She also asked for prayers for a member of her class who is hospitalized.
Blessed by her wisdom, her concern for others, her trust in Christ, and ashamed that I had dreaded making these calls, I transitioned the call to an update about the church’s worship livestream. “I don’t know if you use the internet, but we will livestream the service a little earlier this week,” I said reluctantly. I mean, I know people my age who struggle with technology.
Her response blessed me yet again … she told me she watched the past two Sunday services online and was planning to do so until we can meet in person again. How silly to assume that she wouldn’t/couldn’t participate online.
After about 10 minutes talking we prayed and then ended the call.
I don’t know if the call blessed her, but it was the richest blessing I received during this most strange week. She shared the message I needed to hear. The call reaffirmed my conviction that we believers need each other now more than ever.
Early in February – before COVID-19 was a pressing concern – our worship leader Rick Draper led our church in Hezekiah Walker’s great song about the need for connection between believers, “I Need You to Survive.” The song is a simple but powerful reminder of how God designed His church to be an interdependent body. Each verse is punctuated by the chorus “You are important to me, I need you to survive.”
We need each other in this time of fear, uncertainty, and financial strain. We need to hear and share words of hope in Christ. We need to mourn with our brothers and sisters who are experiencing loss. Pick up the phone. Text. Email. Reach out. Offer your time and a listening ear. It will bless others. It will bless you.
GARY D. MYERS is the director of communications and marketing at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College and serves as a deacon at First Baptist Church in New Orleans.