It’s one thing to preach on the power of praise. It’s another thing entirely to live it.
That’s what the pandemic taught Pastor Herb Reavis last year. When COVID-19 began spreading in Florida in mid-March 2020, North Jacksonville (Jax) Baptist Church followed the federal government’s advice to shelter in place. That meant no in-person services—and no in-person tithes and offerings.
Even for a mid-sized congregation like North Jax Baptist Church, that’s a scary thought.
Reavis admits the first week was difficult. He wrestled with the same questions many other pastors were asking: “How will we afford to pay our staff’s salaries and support our missionaries?” At the time, not many had the answers, including Reavis.
“That first week meant struggling to practice what I preach,” he says. “But what I preached is that faith comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of God.”
During that week of testing, Reavis came across Psalm 20:1-2, which says, “May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble. May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion!” (ESV). The worried pastor felt the Lord impress on his heart that He would send help from His sanctuary and that Reavis’ church wouldn’t just survive but thrive during this difficult season.
“When I got that word in Psalm 20, I focused on the promises of God,” he recalls. “And after those first few days, it was full steam ahead.”
Walking by Faith, Not by Sight
Reavis shared the word of encouragement with his congregation and, to the best of his ability, lived it out. At 9 am every Sunday morning, he would preach on the flatbed of a truck while his congregation listened from the safety of their cars and gave an occasional honk of praise.
Then he would drive around in a golf cart to wave to congregation members and staff, encouraging them and providing as much personal (yet socially distanced) connection as he could. At 10:45, he would preach again, this time from the pulpit in front of rows upon rows of empty pews.
“I would say, ‘Even though you're not here in these pews, we're here live at church. God's still on the throne, and the gates of hell will not prevail against the church!’” Reavis says.
Thankfully, Reavis wasn’t the only one who chose to praise through the pandemic. Nearly the entire congregation made the same commitment. Every day Monday through Thursday, the church held a prayer walk on their property during which individuals and families could sign up for time slots to walk around the church building and intercede.
“Every day they were out there walking, praising the Lord,” Reavis says. “They were praying just like at the midnight hour.”
The Power of Praise
To find an example of the power of praise in the Bible, Reavis didn’t have to look any further than Acts 16.
“One of the stories that has gripped me over the years is the story of Paul and Silas in jail at midnight, the darkest time of the night,” Reavis says. “All hope seems to be gone. They're beat up. So what do they do? The Bible says they began to pray and sing hymns of praise.”
During Paul and Silas’ worship, an earthquake broke open the jail doors and the prisoners’ chains. And as if that weren’t miraculous enough, the jailer and his entire family gave their lives to Christ!
As Reavis and his church decided to make the same choice as Paul and Silas, they saw similar fruit. During those months of faithful praise and prayer, the church never lacked. Just the opposite—online offerings for their virtual Easter service surpassed those of their in-person service the year before!
Through miracles like those, Reavis and his congregation witnessed the power of praise firsthand. And with each display of God’s grace, they were reminded of an important truth:
“Our praise is not motivated by our feelings,” he says. “Our praise is motivated by two things: who we are in Jesus Christ and what we have in Jesus Christ. When all hope seems lost, and all your earthly resources have dried up, that's the moment when you really need to praise the Lord.”
Come listen to Pastor Herb Reavis preach live on the power of praise at 40 Days & Nights of Gospel Music at the Ark Encounter! Grab your tickets before they’re sold out!