Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Essential Church

In moving, one of the things we were most looking forward to was finding a good church home and getting involved.  To us, it represented one of the quickest ways to start finding friends up here in Indiana.  It was a way to meet people our age, in a similar life situation and get to know them. It was a place our kids would meet other kids their age and see who they might be going to school with.  I suspect for many, beyond the theological strengthening and encouragement, this social aspect is one of the great draws to joining a local body.

Of course, no one expects a global pandemic.  It has certainly prevented us from physically attending local services and meeting everyone like we had hoped.

And yet, in many ways, we feel more connected to our churches than before.

Every Sunday, now, we are watching two services and participating in a host of activities throughout the week.  We watch the service from Wills Point where we had been attending in Texas, keeping in touch with our church family there.  And we have found the church that we will be joining here in Brownsburg and are participating in their services and in their "welcome" meetings.

Finding a church in Brownsburg was surprisingly easy for us.  We chose a church based on their response to the Covid-19 pandemic.  How they were distributing PPE, food, and other necessities.  How they had actually increased their connection with their congregants by offering additional prayer services, worship hours, and devotionals online.  Admittedly, with their existing online presence, they were probably better prepared than most to make the transition, but they still made the most of it, making sure their people still felt like they could be connected to the church and connected to service.

Stonepoint in Wills Point did the same, adding a Family Game night, a morning prayer time, a morning song service, etc.

Where others saw an insurmountable obstacle, they found an opportunity to extend their reach.

And I would expect many others are finding churches in the same way - based on their response to this crisis.  I think we could see a great revival coming out of this time, all dependent on how the church acts now.

Here's why:

Google searches on prayer skyrocketed in March 2020.

The Bible publishing industry is seeing a Coronavirus boom.

Church attendance, though virtually, is up.

To the point of overwhelming servers.

There are people out there seeking for answers, seeking comfort, seeking hope.  This shouldn't be surprising; it happens in times of national crisis.  We saw it after 9/11, for example.

What matters is what we do now.

Will this be an opportunity to proclaim truth, to spread hope, and to show mercy?  Or will it be a breeding ground for division?

For example, is your church using this time to do all it can to reach the people around it?  Has it adapted and put out video messages on social media and other platforms?  Is it sending out words of comfort via email or snail mail?  Is it continuing to be active in meeting the needs of the community?  If it has a kitchen, is it cooking and sending out meals to those that need it?  Is it showing that it cares for the population around it by following social distancing guidelines?

Is it like the church in New Jersey that launched a nation wide local grocery delivery service?

Is it like the church in Alabama that is administering Covid-19 tests?

Or, instead, has it flaunted social distancing guidelines and held in person services anyways?  Has it complained about the government infringing on its rights?  Has it refused to learn new technology?  Has it simply been inactive during this time?

We've started talking about everything in this time as either essential or non-essential.  Here's the hard question during this time - is your church essential to your community?  Or has it become non-essential?

If your church disappeared tomorrow, would anyone miss it, beyond the people who show up on Sundays?

Would anyone even notice it was gone?

Here is the reality: In North America, Church has been considered ‘non-essential’ for quite some time, whether we’re willing to admit it or not. Even in the ‘Bible Belt,’ trends are not just moving post-Christian, they are post-Christian.

I would propose that the churches that will grow from this, the churches that will see revival are the ones that have remained essential to their communities.  Essential to the lives of those people that are around them, whether they are members or not.

They are the ones that have gone through great changes in this time to make sure they are still reaching and comforting those around them.

And it's those changes that we will need to keep when things get back to "normal," whatever that looks like.  I hope Stonepoint keeps the family game night, perhaps now virtually and on campus (or even just virutally.  I hope Connection Pointe keeps the Thursday song service. Keep the morning devotionals rotating through staff and leadership.  Keep the Monday morning prayer time, likewise.

Why not?

What would be the argument against it?

When adjusting how our churches operate, the question is not, ‘How do we make the future look as much like the past as possible?’
Instead, we should be looking for ways in which we can have the greatest reach and impact.  The greatest ways we can make ourselves essential.

Because if we come through this looking exactly like we did before, then we've failed.

Lord, let that not be said of us.

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