SOUTHFIELD - For many, heading to church is just a part of the routine, but during this pandemic the way that we worship had to change.
"I believe that this is a virus that was sent to remind us how fragile life is, of how important it is to maximize every moment.” Pastor John Gray said.
“I think that's what faith is for. Faith is not for the good times; faith is for the times that make no sense, faith is for the moments we don't understand. Faith is for the moments when it's darkest."
Moments like when nearly 100 thousand Americans have been killed by the Coronavirus. Hateful imagry, nooses and confederate flags. Anger boiling over as fear of the unknown seems to be getting the best of us.
These moments are when many look for something to believe in, a bit of hope to hold onto.
John Gray, is one of the most prolific preachers of our time, head pastor of Relentless Church in South Carolina. His one of a kind down to earth delivery garnered him a global following in the millions! Every Sunday the online community tuned in from the states to Europe and Beyond. Most have never seen the pastor in person but they are all loyal.
That’s why when the pandemic forced the doors of his church to close, Relentless thrived.
MARUIELLE: How has taking your service online completely changed things for you?
“Aw man, we are more creative, I get to be more free. I get to have conversations. I’m more conversational in my approach. I also think other ways to express myself, so it’s great, it’s been a great opportunity for me to try some new things,” Gray said.
Relentless Church has seen growth in their online audience and has experienced uncommon kindness and generosity from people.
“We have been able to feed people in our community, we have been able to drop off groceries to the elderly, we are doing things that a church should do, so we are not confined to a building,” he said.
MAURIELLE: As far as faith goes, with everything that we are dealing with right now in Michigan what do you say to people who feel stuck and maybe forced to choose between their livelihoods and their life?
“I think that this virus was sent to remind us that every human being we will ever see has equal inherent value, and we should treat each other right, with dignity and respect. And even if I don't agree with you, that doesn't give me a right to dishonor you. Those are the things that I have learned, and my faith has informed the way I treat every other human being,” he said.
MAURIELLE: Several churches here in Michigan, and really across the country, we have seen churches that are choosing to keep church open because they feel that they should. Here in Michigan, there is talk of some of the pastors trying to get together and sue the governor to be able to get into church now. What are you looking to, to be a sign for your church to reopen?
“Well I think the sign for me is the flattening of this curve. I am very practical in this regard. My faith is not confined to a building. I have no comment on what pastor’s desire to do or how they navigate their own congregations, but if I have an 80-year-old church mother, I am not going to bring her to a building to sit her next to a stranger who could be asymptomatic, who coughs once, and now, there is a disease in her lungs that ends her life prematurely just so I can say that I joined. Now there are people who say "you lack faith." It takes more faith to keep your doors closed as a non-profit then to keep them open, so that's a nonstarter for me. The faith that I have also informs me to make the wisest decision for the most people. I don't think the church should be the control group on how this virus transmits.”
MAURIELLE: Sometimes I find myself praying, praying for a lot of the same stuff and if you’re supposed to give it to God, how many time, you just wonder, if you’re doing it right.
“Yeah, I think this is the thing, the beautiful thing about a relationship with God. There is a scripture that says we cry out with a spirit of adoption 'abba father' which literally means daddy God and so this idea of the far off God that I can't connect to is juxtaposed with the father relationship, the daddy-son, the daddy-daughter relationship where I can be vulnerable, where I can ask the same question 50 times like my son does every day, and he asks questions he already knows the answer to, and I have to answer it again and I do it with a smile on my face, and it is not so much that he wants to know, he wants to be reassured. So there is nothing wrong with you talking to God over and over about the same thing, we all need reassurance, we are just kids after all. And we have never been this way before, none of us who are living have seen anything like this, so we need to give ourselves the grace to navigate this, and not know all the answers. Its okay to not be okay.”