March27 , 2023

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    By Roger Alford

    More than 5,000 people watched and listened to small-town pastor Mark Helton’s sermons on smartphones, tablets and computer monitors over the past month.

    First Baptist Church in Monticello, Ky., has embraced the relatively inexpensive technology that has allowed congregations of all sizes to vastly increase their reaches.

    “On a weekly basis, some of our churches are reaching thousands of people who may not otherwise hear a Gospel message,” Brannin said. “And they’re finding it’s really not that expensive to venture into livestreaming. All they need are a camera, a computer with streaming software or hardware and relatively good Internet service. Armed with very modest equipment they can literally reach the world.”

    On the typical Sunday morning, Helton preaches to about 200 familiar faces gathered in the pews while analytics show that lots of others from his community and beyond tune in remotely.

    “It has been an eye-opener for me,” Helton said. “Technology provides incredible opportunities for sharing the Gospel.”

    The Pew Research Center reported last month that nearly nine out of 10 Americans are online, a fact that isn’t lost on Helton’s media crew led by Calvin McFarland, a mail carrier whose professional training was in chemical warfare during his years in the military.

    “I don’t have a background in technology,” McFarland said. “It’s just something I picked up.”

    “I call it a spiritual gift,” Helton joked.

    Larry Brannin, the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s media production specialist, said he is excited to see more congregations taking the Gospel into cyberspace where so many people have an opportunity to hear about Jesus. Brannin said churches that haven’t yet taken the step should consider doing so.

    “On a weekly basis, some of our churches are reaching thousands of people who may not otherwise hear a Gospel message,” Brannin said. “And they’re finding it’s really not that expensive to venture into livestreaming. All they need are a camera, a computer with streaming software or hardware and relatively good Internet service. Armed with very modest equipment they can literally r