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Local pastor shares challenges and wins of leading during the pandemic

Posted at 7:59 PM, Mar 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 19:59:15-05

SOUTHWEST, Fla. —
Pastor Matt Keller of Next Level Church says getting through the last year has pushed him to lean on other pastors in his group chat.

“It’s like I just need someone to cry with me, to complain to, to whine to, or to celebrate to,” he tells FOX 4.

He says when Governor Ron Desantis first issued his Safer-At-Home order last April, it caused the church to re-evaluate many of its operations.

“We had to give up all of the metrics of how we defined success.”

The sudden change, due to the pandemic, pushed the church to figure out how to continue services while keeping people safe.

The church, which also uses a virtual experience at its locations, physically closed their doors for five months - while continuing services online.

Keller says his team cut costs where they could, but he says the church did see a slight decline in revenue within the last year.

However, online giving remained steady - even after the church reopened last August.

That continued giving, coupled with cutbacks, allotted for additional funds that now help to provide assistance to people in our area.

“People have been giving to our crisis fund, which allows us to be generous to our community,” Keller explains.

The essence of community, Keller says, strengthened even more during the last year.

One example of that occurred recently and demonstrates that strength, Keller shares.

He says local churches worked together to give $15,000 to Morningstar Baptist Church in Fort Myers, after it suffered major damage from a fire in February.

Keller says Next Level Church did face challenges during the last year, but it’s also found new beginnings during that time - as the church recently opened a third location in Cape Coral.

Despite where you are in Southwest Florida, though, Keller says this is his message to you:

“We’re going to get through this together. If you need anything, you can reach out to the faith community. Through the good, the bad, the ups, the downs, you’re not alone. We have each other.