A Year in Review: Returning to the Altar

A Year in Review: Returning to the Altar
A Year in Review: Returning to the Altar

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Returning to the Altar—During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Online Services at Calvary Chapel Maryville, MO, Expanded Reach Into the Community

Story by Tim Hoelle
Photos by Hayzlee King

Senior Pastor JD Dirks of Calvary Chapel Maryville, MO, was thrilled after the church’s first-ever online services. “During our time of virtual church, three people were saved, we had two weddings and a baptism,” he happily reported. “Two of those making professions of faith had been invited by church members to our online services, and one had been coming to church for about a month.”

There was also a freezer full of food to give away at CC Maryville during the shutdown. “We have some folks who raise beef, and they donated meat for us to distribute. That’s something that a food pantry usually doesn’t have. We just told our congregation that if they have a need, it’s in the freezer—take what you need. The Lord has blessed many people through it. We didn’t plan it, God did it.”

Singing worship

Congregants enjoy being back in corporate worship with Kamryn Demarr singing and JC Dirks leading on guitar.

Like many churches during this time of shelter-in-place orders, CC Maryville stopped meeting in person and shifted to presenting services online. It was a difficult decision, but the church leadership wanted to be a good example to the community. “We stopped meeting after the first municipal order and did our first online Sunday service March 25,” JD recalled. “We could have done multiple [in-person] services with fewer people, but that wouldn’t have been in the spirit of what the county wanted.”

JC leads worship

Worship Leader JC Dirks leads the live congregation in singing “Christ Be Magnified.”

The leadership team prayed that God would continue to work in and through the body of believers, and He provided opportunities. The church responded when one of their own faced a challenge. “We had a young man who had just started a remodeling business, and his partner quit right before the shutdown began,” JD shared. “The church needed some work completed, and we were able to hire him to paint and do repairs. He did a great job, and that kept him busy the whole time.” A typical Sunday at CC Maryville would see about 280 adults and 80 children during two services. The church’s 2020 Easter service this year during the shelter-in-place order was viewed by over 800 people. “Our church has been able to better connect with members who cannot attend physically—the sick, those caring for them, and people in nursing homes or similar situations,” JD said. Their new online service also reconnected the church with college students and graduates. “Northwest Missouri State is the local college, and many of the students who had to return home have also been able to stay connected with us,” added JD.

Two women laughing together

Amy Allen reunites with Anna Peterson. They enjoy fellowship after the shelter-in-place order was lifted.

Pastor JD’s son, worship leader JC Dirks, had already been working with Aaron Baker to have an online version before the quarantine began. “It took the circumstance [of COVID-19] to push us to embrace virtual services, but this will stay an integral part of our process going forward,” said JD.

In addition to working with the technical side of services, Aaron will soon be installed as an associate pastor to the online community. “This is all very new, so we’re still trying to figure out exactly what the duties are,” Aaron admitted. “I think the main idea is to have someone available to reach out to those people who ‘attend’ via livestream—we’re here to meet the need, whether that’s answering questions about the teaching or the church, or just being available to listen or to pray with someone. Recently when people made decisions for Christ online, we needed to be able to react to that in real time.”

people fellowshipping

Tara Harvey and her husband Maverick, left, reunite with Tara's sister, Summer, and her husband Hugo Montiel and their child.

Worship leader JC recognizes how the Lord has used the shutdown to help bond the ministry team making the online presentation. “We’ve gotten to know each other better with this intense time of fellowship,” offered JC. “This has also given us a clearer understanding of the pastor’s vision. This probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise [without the shutdown]. We asked God to show us how to respond and He did.”

Pastor JD Dirks“Our church has been able to better connect with members who cannot attend physically—the sick, those caring for them, and people in nursing homes or similar situations.”—Pastor JD Dirks


For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6

The children’s ministry tried to stay in touch with parents and children. “The teachers worked with the older children using Facebook Live doing some fun activities,” said Rod McKinney, children’s ministry team leader. “Another class made May baskets. Each one did something a little different. The teachers love those children and they worked hard to stay in contact.

“When we decided to go back live [and in-person], I contacted all the children’s teachers to make sure they were ready and willing [to come to church], and we had great success with that,” Rod confirmed. To make sure no one was surprised or uncomfortable, church leadership clearly communicated how things would go, and members would determine if they would return in-person or continue virtually.

Based on observations, the leadership team expected a large percentage of the body to be in church. JD recalled, “I had heard that three of our elderly widows told their families they expected to be in church on Mother’s Day!” The pastor stayed on track with teaching from Scripture, verse by verse, and the Old Testament story of Elisha and the widow’s oil was the text.

Pastor JD Dirks preaching side view

Pastor JD Dirks faces a live congregation for the first time after months of only doing online presentations.

Attendance for the in-person Mother’s Day service was significant. “I’d guess we were at about ninety percent for adults, and maybe eighty or so in the children’s ministry,” JD stated. “There was a great sense of joy throughout the sanctuary.” The worship team opened with “Bless the Lord.” JC shared, “Sunday morning was awesome; I may not have fully realized how much I missed everyone being together, hearing voices singing [in unison].”

JD fellowships with Jeff and Kim

Jeff Kennedy, left, and Kim Watson, middle, spend time with JD before the service began.

Rod explained, “We wanted to be respectful of those who wanted their space, not hugging or shaking hands if they didn’t want that. But it felt like most everyone was ready to be back together in person. The kids were excited—it was like the first day back to school for them. They were giving fist bumps and hugging the teachers. We even had some new families show up who had watched us online and came with their children.”

JD Dirks gave his life to Christ while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. He grew in his faith at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, CA, under Pastor Chuck Smith while stationed in Southern California. JD served at Calvary Chapel Omaha, NE, and later began the church in Maryville, MO, where he is the senior pastor.

Calvary Chapel Maryville, MO:

Woman hugging kids

Kamryn Demarr reunites with young friends Sophia and Ava Peterson.


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Women talking

Jenny Dirks (left), wife of Pastor JD, catches up on Sunday with her son’s mother-in-law, Amy Allen.


Group of people talking

The McKinney family (seated) reunites with church friends. Tanner McKinney (right) drums for the worship team.


All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 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.