It has happened. We have entered a period of history for which there is no exact template.
The time we are in is kind of a mash-up between the Spanish Flu and the Vietnam War: there is a virus affecting the entire world, and we on our couches get a front-row seat to the front lines for the first time.
Regardless of differing opinions on causality, leadership, and procedures, we can all see this one truth: things are now different and it is beyond our control.
At last, the whole world agrees on something.
But what we do not agree on is how to move forward – again, we have no template.
It’s even worse in the Christian church: worse, only because we are supposed to exhibit unparalleled unity. It’s one of the last things Jesus prayed for before he was crucified.
However, unity is elusive.
There are so many questions, and so many opinions among church leadership. Amidst pandemic today how do we proceed? What will church look like post-pandemic?
How do we move forward as a unified church in this space of time that has no template?
For All of Us:
Refuse to Live in Fear
It is easy to be fearful right now.
There are questions of conspiracy, power and capitalism. Was the virus intentional? Are world leaders all corrupt? How do we resist being tracked? Is democracy even real? Is this modern ideological domination?
These questions are all insignificant right now – red herrings.
Any message you hear that gives you a fear response, whether documentary or radio broadcast, is not helpful. Sure, they may be true. But any message that utilizes emotional manipulation to be heard manifests fear in those who listen.
Fearing the world and following Jesus are incompatible.
If those conspiracies are truth, they will resurface in a different way more reflective of how Jesus confronted falsities when he took a stand.
The fact is there is a real virus out there and people are dying. And other people may or may not be capitalizing on this sickness.
No matter the circumstance, we are to be a people marked by peace, love, joy. These attributes only come from trust.
Fear destroys peace. It uproots the fruits of the Spirit.
So refuse to fear.
Respect Government Authority
This is not the time to spurn government guidelines. Refusing to abide by the rules and claiming we only answer to God damages His name.
Combating micro-rules is the wrong battle to fight.
Choosing to ignore guidelines is like a student in school defying their teacher, claiming they only listen to their mom. It is a wrong interpretation of authority for a student to think they do not have to follow their teacher’s rules at school. It is, at the moment, likely driven by selfish ambition.
When we are in pandemic mode, we listen to government authority. Pay to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s.
Act above reproach. Do not tarnish the name of God and the image of His body in taking a stand that does not eternally matter.
When we stop living in fear we can easily accept the changeable rules being put over society.
Those rules and guidelines ultimately do not matter. How we act within them does.
Remember the Authority of God
When focusing on fearing authority leads to spurning their decisions, we lose sight of truth. Truth is this: above all government leadership and their decisions, God Is.
Rest in this truth.
So whether or not this is an evil plot to take away all our freedoms and usher in persecution, rest in the safe and protective authority that is above it all.
God’s plans are not fooled or diminished by worldly authority.
Jesus looked Pilate in the eyes right before he was given over to be killed and said, “You have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” God used submission to worldly authority to usher in eternal freedom.
Rest into the irrevocable power of God, and focus on your family.
This basic family unit, when healthy, is the anchor for self-esteem, self-efficacy, resilience, attachment, faith, and all-around success. If we can heal our family units, we can heal society.
I find it profound that the government mandated we retreat to our family core units to protect ourselves from the virus. I wrote a whole post about it here.
Just like the Vietnam War, we are witnessing this virus and its effects on our screens. Unlike that time, those same screens are also being used to broadcast Jesus. Prayer meetings, bible studies, sermons. The internet is flooded with Jesus.
Two or three gather live from different continents. Where now is the presence of God?
When church is out and we experience the service on our couches with our individual families, where now is the presence of God?
A building does not hold the presence of God – the curtain was torn.
Like many candles in a previously dark room, multitudes now have the opportunity to see light. Many of whom would never before walk through the doors of a church can click and be invited in.
God can use crucifixion and persecution to flourish the church just as well as liberty.
The roads are empty. God will rise up in his power.
Above all the commotion of pandemic, there is Peace. Lift your eyes to it.
Be present with your family, trust the God who is above all this, and keep broadcasting that revolutionary trust.
Grow Critical Thinking
This is a time where the internet is flooded with information, a lot of it false. Traditional news sources have lost their reach, either by being bought out or being diluted by opinion-based pieces that spread quicker than objective description of events. This is due to both algorithm and our sensationalism.
We’ve lost the ability to think critically to discern truth from both half-truth and outright lie. We’ve lost the ability to discern.
If you cannot tell real news from false, do not despair. It’s systemic and generational.
The questions in school that all students find hardest are the ones requiring sorting information and applying it in a new way: critical thinking. Check your child’s curriculum and ask their teachers. Their marks will agree with this fact.
Discerning between fact and fiction is a skill we all need to work on. This is an information shake-up similar to the Reformation; methods of information we took for granted is being proven unstable. We need a new way of thinking.
It is time to grow discernment as families.
How do we grow discernment? Spend time learning the truth. Read the bible. Start in the gospels. Read them over and over. Marinate.
We can easily see messages as false if our hearts and minds are steeped in truth.
When reading words other than the bible, consider the source of the message. Be aware of bias. Deduce any agenda for the bias.
Analyze for emotional manipulation. Ask who would benefit from this message being believed. Read 3-5 articles on the same topic from various sources, then find the points that are repeated: likely those are fact.
Then teach this process to your kids (their high school teachers will thank you).
This is not the 30’s. We cannot ingest media at face value, because many sources of information are not focusing on spreading fact, but garnering clicks.
Steward information in your own home, because those paid to do it are often not anchored to truth.
For Church Leadership:
Reconsider What and How We Teach
Right now you are restrained from pastoring like you have been habituated to. We need to find new practices of leadership.
As pastor, priest, or lay person, you are no longer the weekly source of everyone’s wisdom. The modern church’s consumer model has suddenly become obsolete.
Instead of being the star on the stage every weekend (willing or not), pastors now have to figure out how to foster intimacy with Jesus at home.
The truth is, many people who go to church don’t read their bibles at home. Many do not know how to be still and listen for Jesus’ voice. Many do not pray aside from bible times.
Christians need to be taught how to know Truth on their own.
It’s like grocery stores suddenly closing and every family having to go back to subsistence farming for food. Most families would have no clue, and starve before they figured it out.
So in your community of believers, what skills do your people need to be taught? How can you foster their ability to find, hear and know Truth?
Our church model has been wrong for so many years. It is time to return to the apprenticing of faith, rather than selling. I wrote a (pre-Covid) post about what that might look like here.
Check the internet: many Millennial and Generation X leaders are rising up. Don’t just make way for them, reach out and offer to mentor them. Truth is easily corrupted when the wisdom of elders is forsaken.
Abolish your preconceptions of denomination and age. Team up. Pray over and apprentice the younger generations.
No individual, no generation, has the sole revelation of Jesus. No individual, no generation, has the ability to reach the world with Truth.
Generations need each other.
Sunday school is gone; parents are now needing to intentionally foster faith in their homes or their children will not hear of Jesus.
Full-group church body gathering is gone; leaders are now needing to discern, apprentice, and selflessly build a team to fulfill their role.
Continue Filling the Internet
As mentioned before, what we are doing right as the Body of Christ is filling up newsfeeds with Jesus. Continue posting bible verses, 2 minute devos, and worship songs. Continue streaming services, prayer times and bible studies.
And challenge your entire congregation to do the same.
The internet needs to be full of Jesus, even after regular services resume.
My only thought is that Hope should be free and unprotected by passwords. Just stream. Put Jesus out there. These hearts full of fear hiding behind screens inside their homes are ripe for harvest.
Many lights on many hills will appear as though dawn is rising. Indeed, I believe it is.
Consider the New Wine as Perfectly Aged
Some of you in church leadership may be feeling stretched, fearful and joyless with your practiced way of religion gone.
Consider these questions:
Why are you in church leadership? Do you feel fullest in the presence of Jesus? Do you know the presence of Jesus? Are you missing the stage, or missing friends? What is your most basic motivation to be a leader in church?
Feeling stretched is normal. Nobody is fully capable of leading in this time. Not even you. We are all out of our comfort zone.
But that is the beauty. You are weak, I am weak. We do not know how to even grocery shop properly month to month.
Where our ability reveals giant crevices of inability, that is where Jesus steps in.
Let him build his church from within your community with you as the broken vessel.
What an honor.
Unwilling to change your practice, or pursue Jesus in the way he is stepping out and leading, is not normal. If that is you, please return to your first love. If you are unwilling, then perhaps step back and let someone take your place. Right now we need humble truth, not tradition.
This is the shake-up of church. I believe God is using this pandemic as the death of church as an institution, and is now graciously breathing life into the Body of Christ – dry bones rising.
Jesus talks of new wine in old wineskins. Well, our wineskins seem to have become obsolete. It makes sense, then, that we need to be listening for the message of the new wine.
Not that there are new revelations to be added to the scripture, but that distraction is being peeled back and The Word can be revealed for what it is. The new wine is aged perfectly, and is very, very good.
The purpose of church leadership, regardless of congregation size, is this: to live and teach the simple truths of Jesus, and disciple others to do the same.
Share the amazing freedom of the soul that only Jesus can give.
Share the comfort and counsel of the Spirit that feels like blanket of peace.
Share the overwhelming, generous love of the Father, who we can look to with no shame and know we are perfectly accepted as we are.
We, as a church, are totally out of our comfort zone. But Church, listen. Our God is so, so good. And He is ultimately responsible for His Body, not those whose face has been seen on the stage.
Let us not fear.
Let us not desire to predict the future.
Let us be bathed in humility.
Let us lay in the sunshine of His Presence and allow all the Fruits of the Spirit to grow within us. Let us desire to hear and follow the voice of God.
Let us be content with vulnerability.
Let us be content to be as sheep following our Shepherd.
Let us trust the divine authority of God as we rest in our houses painted with the blood of the lamb.
Let us seek Truth.
Let us come together in unity to represent the name of Jesus well.
And let us, as many candles lit in our own homes, come together at last to be the united Body of Christ.