A small community like English, Indiana (population 645), is not where one would expect to find a worldwide ministry. But that is exactly what happened through the creative and diligent work of a southern Indiana church and its pastor.
Neither would one expect to find a person in his 70s assuming his first pastorate and learning about videography, editing, lighting, sound technology and more. But that is exactly what happened with Dr. Roger Dillman, pastor of English Wesleyan Church, a congregation of 50 members, some 60 miles south of Bloomington, Indiana.
“Most importantly,” Pastor Dillman said,
“we were telling others the good news about Jesus.”
Dr. Dillman had a dental practice in Paoli, Indiana, 17 miles north of English, for 35 years. During this time, he faithfully attended English Wesleyan Church, of which he had been a part since age 6. He received Christ at the age of 12 and saw an immediate change in his life.
In 2016, Dr. Dillman began assisting his pastor by conducting some Sunday evening services and the Wednesday night Bible study. Three years later, when a pastoral change occurred, the congregation asked Dr. Dillman to become its full-time pastor. After prayer and seeking God’s will, and with the approval of the Indiana South District, he accepted his first pastorate at age 70.
The first year went well with the church experiencing some numerical growth. A Wednesday evening service for youth attracted 25-30 young people. The church started a food pantry, which grew in its outreach each month.
Then COVID-19 hit and the church suspended live services. The youth program came to a halt. The food pantry remained open with reduced staff.
As Pastor Dillman watched online services by his colleagues, it seemed a practical way to deliver a gospel message to a quarantined world. Although the English Wesleyan Church congregation had no experience with such things, they began — first, in the sunroom of the Dillman’s home using a smartphone for audio and sound. “It was very amateurish,” he said, “but it could be seen and heard.”
The church applied for and received a grant from Centers for Congregations, allowing them to purchase equipment. They bought cameras, lights, microphones, tripods, monitors, screens and more. With little prior experience, they studied and began online services. “Most importantly,” Pastor Dillman said, “we were telling others the good news about Jesus.”
As the congregation learned more about producing and editing, they learned to add captions, use the zoom and pan features, and the teleprompter, which, Pastor Dillman observed, was “one of the biggest assets. It keeps the message on point.”
English Wesleyan tried doing the video live at church. But the equipment was distracting. They had to set up and remove the equipment each week. They needed a room where they could put the equipment into a fixed position and leave it there.
Pastor Dillman remembered the golf simulator room in their home’s garage. Soon the room was full of recording equipment. A routine developed of preparing the message early in the week, shooting the video on Wednesday or Thursday, then doing the editing. Some weeks, the message had to be “re-shot.”
But the effort has paid off. While many from their own community have watched, putting the message on Facebook has helped English Wesleyan target central Africa and south Asia. With nearly 10,000 friends, mainly from people who contacted him due to exposure overseas, 20,000 or more views was the usual response. Messages came via Facebook from over 70 countries worldwide.
Pastor Dillman developed friendships with some of the people overseas, mainly pastors. Through the Internet, he has been able to preach live in their churches, despite the 8-10 hours’ time difference.
Unfortunately, after Easter, the online ministry had to be suspended. In addition to the regular services and ministries of the local church, growth of the food pantry has required the construction of a building to house this ministry. With the help of a local company, English Wesleyan has a used 18-foot box truck that delivers seven truckloads of donated food monthly. Volunteers work tirelessly to help 2,000 needy people in their area monthly. The congregation hopes to have the new building finished soon after Labor Day.
In the early summer of 2021, English Wesleyan Church began broadcasting again. At the time of this writing, overseas response has been greater than before. Pastor Dillman observed, “I think it would be well for the church in 2021 to embrace all means available to tell others about Jesus. It takes work. But it can be done.”