Y’all church folks are funny…. I thought we were living in ‘A.D.’ not ‘B.C.?
I’ll come back to that point later.
I know those of you that are reading this probably don’t know me; allow me to introduce myself to you and then we’ll jump into the content.
I’m an old school guy. Michael Jordan gets a slight edge over “King” Lebron James. I remember getting a Big Mac, large fries and a coke with a $5 bill and getting change back. In high school, we would go to the movies when we were bored; I recently took my 3 kids to see Space Jam and had to sign paperwork to fill out a small business loan to afford it. College tuition for me my first year was slightly less than $13k; that same school is now over $50k. I remember when Amy Grant was controversial, I remember when special music was innovative in traditional worship services, and I remember when folks were ready to die over hymns vs. contemporary.
Some of us are still there.
My point in providing all those details is not just to point out I am an old man. I’m assuming you’re gleaning that not-so-subtle point. The larger point is quite simple, yet rarely embraced: everything changes. The only thing that has stayed the same is Him. His truth, His justice, His grace and His love is everlasting. Hallelujah! But He is also pliable, adaptable, flexible and big enough to wrap Himself around each and every one of our situations.
So, then answer a question for me, all you leaders, pastors, elders and the like:
Why do you want your church experience to stay the same? Why are you in a rush to “get back to normal”? Why do you equate doing what you used to do with success? Why is change the enemy? Why are you afraid to educate the people you lead on how to navigate change both within and outside the church? Why is “let’s do the same things” the mission of your church? Have you considered that maybe—just maybe—God is trying to do some Isaiah 43 “new thing” in your church but you’re more concerned with getting your church back to B.C., (Before Covid)?
I know you all know this story, but I’d like to reference Bartimaeus for a bit. Blind Bart got a little too happy at the traditional service. While church folks were singing “Bringing in the Sheaves” or whatever was happening, Bart began praising God not because he could see Him but because he knew of His power, he knew of His works, he knew who He was. Once he gets Jesus’ attention, Jesus heals Him and the Word says He didn’t even have to physically touch him. Bart’s faith made him well.
The scriptures and especially the Gospels are filled with stories of how the Lord came to the people to transform lives. Yet we are much more satisfied with our rituals, our wants and needs, our desires. We are satisfied with just being around Him, not calling on Him. Jesus came for everyone, but everyone doesn’t get all of Jesus because we are more focused on talking about Him instead of calling on Him.
Would you give anything to have Him speak to you? Would you do anything to have Him heal you of what plagues you? Wouldn’t you love to have Him close enough to you to fix your situation? For that to happen I would humbly suggest that a move of God would require us to be open to transformation. Jesus could have blessed blind Bart without healing Him. Certainly, Paul struggled with the thorn in his side his entire life. But maybe, just maybe, God might want to do something more in your life, in the life of your church, in the life of your family, in the community your church is in, the world your community lives in.
But, oh yeah, I forgot…our focus is getting back to pre-pandemic activity.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting God can’t do both. God has called your church to fulfill a mission made especially for you. It’s our job to figure out what that mission is, discern what God is telling us as it relates to that mission and chase after it with every activity of the church. If that is providing a place of refuge and stability for your community that looks similar now than it did B.C. (Before Covid), then God bless you. My in-laws attend a small little country church where innovative technology won’t ever be something they dedicate a lot of time, energy or resources to. But they have found wonderful, spirit-filled, God-honoring ways to consistently reach their community. It will have some B.C. elements, but it will also evolve into new arenas. They are open to Him moving them in different ways.
What is the one thing Covid taught you as a pastor, church leader, church attendee or just as a Christian? For me the answer is simple: church was never supposed to be about the building. As I said before, I find some church folks funny. While some people are up in arms about Covid being a conspiracy to shut down religious assembly, other church folks were having services in their front lawns, in city parks, on social media and more. The pandemic forced churches to transform their thinking, the way they do ministry. If you lead your church to go right back to what you used to do, you very well may be missing Jesus walking past you.
Does Christian education have to be Sunday School, or can it be small groups during the week? Do you have to have an organ or a praise team to sing praises or can you rent instrumental tracks through a tablet to do praise and worship? Will your community only hear salvation if they walk through your doors, or can you go live on a social media platform every Friday at five for five minutes to let the world know He still loves us? For every march, outdoor concert or family friendly event happening in your city, could evangelism look like your church passing out free bottles of water with a message of salvation without trying to get them to attend your church?
Deep in the throes of the pandemic I was sitting on the floor of our family room feeling a little down. I had no church to go to, no job office to sit in. As a musician I had no performances and as a choir director no classes to teach. I looked around that room and saw my wife on the couch helping my youngest son with homework. My middle son was playing his guitar and my oldest was laughing at something on his phone. It was right then I realized everything I’ve ever wanted and loved was right here in this room, all at the same time. I made a vow that when this pandemic is over, I would not go back to B.C. busy. I am being more intentional about spending time with the people I love most.
Leaders, God is trying to do a new thing in the life of our churches. We are now ready to re-open and serve His people in-person in a lot of places. Don’t have Him pass you by because you don’t call out for change! We are not called to be the same. We are called to be continually transformed by the renewing of our mind. Don’t get distracted by stylistic and cosmetic changes, but be ye open to God wanting to do something that is new. The more you pray, the more you read the Word, the more you hear good preaching, the more you study—when this happens, don’t you learn more about Him?
So, tell me again why you can’t wait to get “back to normal” again?