For the first time, there seems to be the beginnings of the thought that there may be a return to a semblance of normalcy sometime this year. There is a vaccine and IF everything goes right with the distribution (a big “if”), maybe there could be a return to something resembling normal sometime this year.
I put about a million qualifiers and caveats in that paragraph. First of all-think about where you were this time last year. Virtually no one saw this pandemic coming this time last year. And-once the pandemic hit, I do not think that most people saw its effects lasting this long. So to try to predict when things are finally going to end and what will happen next, literally, only God knows.
Moreover, I think that even when (and it might be better to say “if”) things return to “normal”, I do not believe that things will ever be “normal” again -if by “normal “, we mean, exactly the way things were before.
But I do believe that in the absence of things going from where we are now directly into the time of trouble and the end of time (and it is fairly easy to see how that could happen), I think there will come a time sometime this year when COVID-19 is manageable and not killing 100,000 people a month in the United States-as it did last month.
If that should finally happen (and, it may not), then what will our church and ministry look like and be like post-COVID-19?
I do not even pretend to know for sure-but here is one thing that I do know-and it was true before COVID-19: What kind of church we shall have then is being decided by what we do -and don’t do-now. That has always been true.
As a little boy growing up in church school in Cleveland, Ohio, I remember one of my teachers saying, “What we are to be, we are now becoming”. And that is true.
I hear a lot of people talking about how different things will be in the church when the pandemic is over; I believe things will be different. But whether that is a “good” different or a “bad” different is something that remains to be seen.
I am not sure that I hear as many people planning on how things will be different as I hear them saying that things will be different. But if we are going to come out of this terrible ordeal better as a church then we have to plan what we are going to do for things to be different and better than they were before.
That is not to say that things were terrible in our church pre-COVID-19. It is to say that I believe we have learned some things during COVID-19 that can make us more effective in ministry and in fulfilling the mission of the church. But applying those things will not come easily or automatically.
One of my favorite expressions is: “Everyone ends up somewhere. But not everyone gets there on purpose”. To apply the hard lessons of COVID-19 is going to take what success has always taken: Intentionality and purpose. In other words, what are we going to do differently, rather than just talk about doing things differently?
Here are some thoughts/ideas/suggestions:
- Most of us believe that ministry will be different post COVID-19. But what does that mean? What does that look like? And what will it take for whatever changes that we believe will inevitably occur to be good changes and not bad ones?
If we are talking about post-COVID-19 Ministry, then we are talking about the future. Here is what I have learned about the future:
Ready or not, the future will come. We can either prepare for the future now-in which case, we can help shape our future-or we can do nothing about the future except talk about doing something-in which case, all we shall be able to do is react to the future.
When COVID-19 first was discovered overseas, there were some things that could have been done to shape the course of this disease. But those things weren’t done and we have spent the past year reacting to COVID-19.
If some of the things that are being done now in reaction to COVID-19, had been done before the pandemic, there wouldn’t have been a pandemic. We either prepare for the future on the front end-in this case, we can help shape it. Or, we cannot prepare -and just react to it.
Which one of those things will happen to your church or organization is being decided right now.
- It is going to take all of us to be involved in the planning that will help shape our future. That includes the older generations in our church, i.e., the Elders and the Boomers, plus, all of the generations below them on the age scale. Why would we have a discussion about making the decisions that will shape the future of our church without including the people who are the future of our church?
Most of the decisions in our church-from the local church to the General Conference are made by older people. That needs to change; and that change primarily has to be made by older people (i.e., people of my generation).
However, that change usually does not involve older people having to move out; all we usually have to do is move over. There is enough to do and there is enough room at the decision-making table for everyone if we are intentional about it.
Leadership author Carey Nieuwhof said, “A diversity of opinions makes for better decisions”. We need everybody.
We need people who understand that everything old isn’t bad and everything new isn’t good. That before you tear down a fence, you need to make sure that you know why it got put up in the first place.
But we also need people who understand-as Carey Nieuwhof says: “Not every new idea is a good idea-but having no new ideas is a bad idea”. That is simply saying, “We’ve never done it this way before” can never be (as it is in some churches) the sole reason for not doing it a different way now.
- It’s also going to take all of us to get involved in the funding of our church. If it’s true that most of the decisions in our church are made by older people, I suspect that most of the dollars that operate our church come from older people. Both of those things need to change.
Older people need to stop assuming that younger people will do what they did-fund the church automatically and virtually unquestioningly. They won’t-and, that does not make them bad people. People ought to ask questions about their church and how it is funded.
But younger people need to stop thinking that they get to support the church only when they want, at whatever level they want and only if the church does what they want.
I keep hearing that younger people don’t feel motivated to give. That might fly if you were giving to man-you’re not. You’re giving to God. It’s not about the conference-it’s about the cross. And if the cross doesn’t motivate you, in the end-nothing else really matters.
That does not mean that churches, conference, unions, etc., are not accountable for what they do with God’s money. They absolutely are. But each of us is accountable for the monies that we have. Because all of it belongs to God.
The fact is that God has set aside a certain portion of whatever we have to fulfill the mission that He gave to the church: To take the gospel to all the world. Not just to your church. But to all the world.
To do that, requires an organization. That organization requires funding. Funding that organization requires faithfulness. And faithfulness is what God asks of all of us.
And faithful is what God gives to all of us.