In the wake of coronavirus/COVID-19, there has been a lot of contemplation, concentration, and consternation around preserving our churches in the pandemic. Anything that could be reproduced digitally has been, regardless of the size or expertise of churches. Services are streaming from empty sanctuaries, living rooms, and outside spaces. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Zoom, Google and numerous other platforms are being used. Some churches have even set up FM transmitters to broadcast music and messages into their parking lots so parishioners can remain in their cars. This is all brilliant stuff.
Texts, emails, social media, video chats, phone calls, and even traditional postal services have been used to keep connected with each other. Drive-by visits, parades, and “hellos” from afar have replaced handshakes, hugs, and high-fives. We’re managing to adapt for the purpose of preserving our churches.
As we’re forced to be separated, it’s important that we’re not so focused on preserving the institution of the Church, that we neglect preserving the mission of the Church. In the words of Reggie McNeal, “The church was created on purpose, for a purpose–to partner with God in his redemptive mission here on earth.” The mission hasn’t changed, regardless of the changing circumstances, challenges, and context. While it may feel like the mission has been put on hold in this season of uncertainty, nothing has transpired that is a surprise to God. He must have a plan, even now.
In some ways, it’s an exciting time of innovation and discovery. Complacency and the status quo have been left on the curb like an old TV. We’ve willingly or unwillingly become learners of unfamiliar subjects. We’re being stretched and reshaped for a future none of us expected. But are we preparing ourselves for this new future or clinging to old forms and methods, hoping that once the pandemic is past we’ll just go back to how things were before? Most importantly, are we preparing ourselves for a reshaped mission field that looks very different from the one we left behind?
Every day is a whirlwind of questions and conversations with precious few answers. There are no blanket solutions so every church/missional outpost has to come to their own conclusions. But this is where I want to remind us that God is not surprised and that He has a plan. His love for the least, last, and lost hasn’t diminished. His passion for the redemption of the world has not been put on pause. So, if you’re hunkering down waiting for all this to blow over, I want to encourage you to lift up your heads and see what God is doing and where He’s going. I want to encourage you–and all of us–to relentlessly seek His plan for our churches as part of His mission. Ugly churches are needed as much as ever, even as our methods and modes of getting ugly have to change.