July, 23, 2020by Reverend Dan on July 24, 2020
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”
Is there any such thing as “normal”? We talk about it all the time, especially lately. “I can’t wait for things to get back to normal.” But what does “normal” look like? Who defines it? What constitutes “normal”?
The reality is that “normal” is a dynamic, ever-changing, relative term and state. What was normal 200 years ago isn’t close to normal now. (Slavery, women couldn’t vote, no cars or airplanes, no paved roads . . . the list goes on and on.) Heck, what was “normal” seven months ago isn’t normal now. Covid-19 has changed all that.
One thing I hope everyone realizes is that we won’t ever go back to what was before the pandemic. Things will be changed forever. There may be some things familiar to how they used to be, but there will also be plenty that is vastly different. Change is inevitable because of new circumstances and if the church is just “waiting” for things to “get back to normal”, then there are problems down the road. (And not very far down the road, either.)
First, the nature of “gathering” has changed. We’ve been meeting outside for church for two months, and attendance is up. Maybe the inside of the sanctuary used to “scare” some folks, or maybe they had a bad experience and stopped coming.Maybe they just got out of the habit, or maybe they’re just bored and want to get out. Or maybe they just like the relaxed atmosphere of casual dress. (I’ve got to admit, folks are telling me that my sermons as of late have been some of my best ever and the only correlation to anything I can draw is that these sermons were delivered without a coat and tie.) Whatever it is, new folks are coming, and old members are returning, and that’s great. Will the church be willing to welcome them “inside” the same way they did “outside”? Will it be willing to change some of what it used to do to help keep those folks attending?
And speaking of “inside and outside”, we’re learning that church happens outside the walls just as effectively as inside. I was looking through the Bible and realized that all of the people God called into service were called outside of the church building. (Moses at a burning bush, David when he was shepherding sheep, most of the disciples while they were fishing, Paul while he was walking down the road, etc.) If we relegate church to 60 minutes on Sunday, we’re going to miss all that God has in store for us. “Out of the seats and into the streets” is one of the new battle cries for ministry I’ve seen on the interent. A church analyst has said, “Churches whose primary focus are those who are members and already attend have been on the brink of extinction for a long time. Our new circumstance will accelerate the decline of churches who focus exclusively on those who already attend.”
Finally, the church has to take a look at what would have happened if this pandemic had happened fifty years ago. Back then, the church would have been looked to as one of the leaders during the crisis because of the connection and status it had in the community. It’s been clear lately, however, that the church has been marginalized during the response. We hear politicians and health professionals address the issues every day, but how many church leaders have been given a voice? (I can’t help but to hear Billy Graham’s voice calling for nationwide and worldwide prayer.)
Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a-changing”. It’s just as true today as it was in the 60’s when he sang it. Maybe even more so. Are you willing to change with the times for God’s glory?
“Father, Help us to be open to the changes around us so that we can reach others in Your Name. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”