The Gospel is Not Quarantined
Story by Debra Smith
Pastor Frank Ippolito of Calvary Chapel Vineland, NJ, was packing up after preaching on Sunday, May 17, 2020. He felt energized by the ways he was seeing God reach people with His Word during the COVID-19 pandemic, though he was grieved by the separation from his congregation. CC Vineland had begun holding livestreamed services instead of in-person worship two months prior. The church building didn’t feel right without the actual church, the people themselves present; yet believers and seekers near and far were tuning in regularly for Bible teachings. Knowing that unchurched and distraught people were watching, Frank preached again into a camera rather than people’s eyes.
Pastor Frank Ippolito and his wife Gerri wave to online attendees who filled the parking lot after Sunday service.
Afterward, his grandson, who was one of the handful of people present to handle technical needs, walked up. “He put his arm around me,” Frank stated, “and said, ‘Hey, Pop, some folks want to say “Hello” to you outside.’”
The full parking lot erupted in blaring horns when Frank and his wife Gerri stepped outside for the surprise ambush of gratitude—church members had driven to their building and listened to the livestream from their vehicles. “I instantly started crying,” said Gerri. “I don’t have enough words for what happened Sunday. We just had tears. I rethink it over and over.” Several believers brought cards, posters, or flowers to express their appreciation for the Ippolitos’ many years of ministry at CC Vineland; vehicles streamed by the couple one by one to thank them like a receiving line at a wedding. “I’m so pleased that our fellowship is so close,” Gerri continued. “We never asked for that or even thought of it. We are so blessed, and it makes me want to give back so much more,” she concluded.
A car full of congregants drives past Frank and Gerri with a homemade sign expressing their grattitude.
Frank and Gerri moved a few years ago onto the farm of their daughter and son-in-law. There, Frank laughed, “I’ve become a farmer.” Toward the beginning of the lockdown, he filmed a short clip giving a spiritual lesson illustrated by nature, as Jesus often did. “I wanted to remind the congregation to stay in the Word and close to the Lord,” Frank expressed. “People started asking for more, so now I put them on Facebook on Tuesdays and Fridays—well, the tech guy Phil Wojcik does. Tech guys have become the MVPs these days!”
Expressions of love poured out for the Ippolitos from grateful online churchgoers.
Frank reflected, “It’s cool how technology has made all this possible. Phil Wojcik set up a button that people can press to say they responded to the Gospel, and he can also see how many people are watching. We probably have more people engaged on the website than we did in person. The lockdown itself has become a blessing in disguise for many, driving people to deeper faith or to know their need for Christ. One lady posted about missing fellowship and not realizing how much it kept her sane. We’re hearing other comments from regulars who want to become more involved in ministries that they’ve taken for granted before.”
In addition to signs, the church also blessed Frank with encouraging cards.
Frank comes from a traditional religious background, and he added that his own relatives are being exposed to the Bible in new ways. “One cousin watches all my videos on Facebook and shares them with all my family,” he stated. “The Word is going out further than we could imagine. Paul was chained, and we may be quarantined, but the Word of God is not.”
Parents show Frank and Gerri a sign made by their children showing their appreciation.
Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. 2 Timothy 2:8-9
© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.