Usually, on January 1 we are sad to say goodbye to the following year as we look forward to the possibilities the new year brings. This year, however, it seems we are glad to say goodbye to 2020, but we are apprehensive about what 2021 may bring. A new president, the growing tension between political parties, and a new strain of the COVID virus all promise to keep the anxiety levels high for the upcoming year.
A question we need to be asking is this: how are we to be the church during these uncertain times? By “the church” I mean Christ-followers, disciple-makers, evangelists, servants, ambassadors for Christ, etc. Social media allows us to have contact with many people from all over the world, and Zoom allows us to have a sense of being together on Sunday mornings, but these are meant to be temporary, stop-gap measures at best. We can communicate via the computer, and we can watch and listen to a church service via the computer, but we cannot be the church God calls us to be this way.
I understand there are no easy answers. We need to be safe. We need to be considerate of the health of others. We should not be reckless or foolish in our actions. No one is suggesting this.
Yet we still have a mission in this world. COVID is not a “time-out” for God’s church. Satan has not called for a cease-fire until the pandemic is over. The lost still need to hear the gospel. Believers still need to be strengthened and encouraged. The church still needs to be the church.
But I have heard from several pastors that the number of people watching the live streaming of their church services has dropped dramatically since last March. Some pastors report that the numbers have dropped as much as 50%. This makes sense because this is not how God designed the church to exist. After 10 months of doing things this way, we need to start thinking of new approaches.
Having said all this, I am not suggesting any concrete answers or solutions. I just want to challenge each of us to begin considering how we can move forward after almost a year of sheltering in place. Some of us are more ready to do this than others, but eventually we all need to start thinking this way if we are going to fulfill God’s purpose for our church, and for our lives.
2020 truly blindsided all of us. But now it is 2021. Let’s prayerfully think of new and exciting ways we can minister to those around us by bringing hope and encouragement into their lives. After sheltering for so long people are yearning for human contact. What an opportunity to invite others to experience the fellowship if the body of Christ. Let’s make this sooner, rather than later.