Dear friends in Christ,
Last week in Forward Today, I wrote about the opportunity we have as a church through this time of disruption to refocus our mission on making disciples.
Even a week ago, I thought we were mostly headed out of our pandemic crisis, but increasing case numbers – coupled with continued low vaccination numbers – suggest that the pandemic may be approaching another peak, unless our public health response and vaccination rates change.
There are plenty of places on the internet who offer commentary on the pandemic, so I won’t say more. But I do want to say a few things about what it means for disciple-making within the church.
Lately I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with lay leaders and clergy in the church. Several patterns emerge consistently.
Parents of school-age children are exhausted. Many adults are stepping away from ministries or volunteering in the church. Attendance numbers for in-person services have not returned to pre-pandemic levels, even in places where case numbers have been quite low.
I suppose it’s obvious to say, but we need to give up on the idea of returning to a pre-pandemic church. As I suggested last week, I’m quite sure we shouldn’t want to go back. We have the opportunity to chart a new, more vibrant future for the church.
So what do we do about exhausted and more distant leaders? Certainly I hope we begin with empathy, prayer, and compassionate care.
If you are an exhausted person who can’t muster the energy to be part of your church in the way you were two years ago, it’s OK. Rest. Even Jesus needed time for refreshment and prayer, so take the time you need. The church depends on Christ alone; the church will carry on as you rest.
If you are a church leader, the same advice about rest applies to you, too! But also, there’s a gift in all this. If people won’t sign up to continue some ministry or other, maybe that’s the sign it’s time to let that ministry go. If Sunday School doesn’t look like it did in 2018, that’s OK. Maybe it’s time to think about a new way to engage people of all ages in Christian learning and formation. And it doesn’t have to be figured out this month!
I guess what I’m saying is that if your church and your church’s people aren’t “back to normal” that’s perfectly fine. Rest. Be well. Re-examine. Realize that the start of the program year in September isn’t a hard deadline for anything. In God’s time, the church will do what it needs to do.
I really believe that. Our task is to cooperate with the Spirit’s guiding, but also we are human. We won’t always get it right, and we need times of rest. All of the chaos of our church is a detour on our journey of following Jesus, but we can still continue on the way.
If Forward Movement can support you, let us know. We offer lots of resources, and I hope you know that we are praying for the church and the world every day. We’re grateful for your prayers, too.
More from our ministry:
New online course from ChurchNext: Walking the Labyrinth, with Mel Soriano
From Grow Christians, our family blog: Sealed with the Holy Spirit
Reading suggestion: The Path: A Journey Through the Bible