Last week, I began this series of blogs by suggesting three questions for every Christian to consider as we navigate forward in reopening churches:
- What should never restart in your church?
- How important is the concept of safety in your church?
- When does honoring government dishonor God?
Obviously, there are many other questions that need to be considered. But today, I simply want to suggest that one question may rise above all of them as the most important:
WHY should your church reopen?
Now, don’t be offended by this. I am not at all saying that any church should not reopen.
But the fact is that some will not. Some will try and fail and will close forever. Thousands have been closing every year without a pandemic! Jesus told the church at Ephesus that if they did not repent, He would “remove [their] lampstand” (Revelation 2:5).
So the most important question to ask is, why is your church important to the advancement of the kingdom of King Jesus? What is it about your church that would be devastating to your community if it never returned?
If you can answer this question well, a lot of other questions about how to reopen will be easier to answer.
On the other hand, if you’re not happy with the answer to that question, now is the time ask the Lord to make changes in your church!
So don’t just reopen. Re-start! Revive!
And don’t ask this question thinking about the world before COVID-19. Think about the world ahead of us, not the world behind us.
At Life Action in the last few weeks, we have been asking leaders from around the country and from various walks of life to join us in a project of prayerfully projecting the changes we think will come in the days ahead in the Western church and the unchurched culture.
We received many diverse ideas, but there were some that rose to the top, both in the commonality with which these views were held, and the confidence level that these projections will actually come to pass.
We know this is not scientific, and only God knows the future, but perhaps these projections will help you think about the world we will be ministering in in the days ahead:
1. By far the top prediction is that churches and church experiences will become smaller, with a longing for community. Effective small groups may become church for many. Many may never or only rarely return to large church gatherings.
2. Fear and anxiety and a premium on “safety” will increase in those considering any church gatherings.
3. Digital church will become even more common but will tend to consolidate around larger ministries that do it well.
THE UNCHURCHED CULTURE
1. Pervasive fear, anxiety, and hopelessness will continue.
2. We may see a fresh openness to faith, especially authentic communities of faith.
3. Many will continue to work more from home, so traditional workplace environments will be significantly different.
Some of these changes may be positive, others not so much. But will we adjust to the new mission field? Will we hear the voice of the Lord calling us to needed change, and will we say yes?
So ask yourself, “In this new world ahead, why is our church essential?”
Don’t be afraid of the answer! If the honest answer is unsettling or disappointing to you, that may be the voice of God calling you to be a part of necessary changes. There may not be a better time to bring needed change to your church than now.
Take some time to read the letters from Jesus to the churches of Revelation. Jesus seems utterly uninterested in His churches staying the same. He wants there to be repentance, restoration, revival, and a re-emergence into His mission.
Asking the right questions is a great start to restarting. I know from experience that this is not easy in these days.
We are asking the same kind of questions about Life Action. Why does what we do matter in the post-COVID world? How can we join God, adjust, and matter more to the advancement of His kingdom?
In my next blog, I’ll take my best shot at giving some practical help to pastors and leaders about making some of these changes in your church.
That doesn’t mean these questions are easy to answer. My dear friend Byron Paulus shared with me a quote from Hudson Taylor: “The older and the more mature I get in my walk with the Lord, the more the will of God looks like a fog.”
I feel like that sometimes these days. I’ll bet you do too.
But when I look beside me, there is Another with me in the fog. And that will be enough to take me, you, and our churches where we need to go.