I had a conversation with a friend recently about his church reopening for in-person worship. His unfiltered response was simple, “Why would I go to church when I can watch it on the couch in my pajamas.”
As a faith community, we have been doing this social-distancing thing since the third week in March. That’s over 80-days of not gathering in person for worship, spiritual formation, community, and ministry.
While participation in the church's life has always been voluntary, the elements of this crisis have made it even less pragmatic for many.
When you stop and think about it, unless someone voluntarily chose to participate in the online streaming of worship, spiritual formation conversation, or digitally connect in community with other members, participation in the life of the church has been on hiatus for three months.
The nature of this COVID-19 crisis has raised a lot of questions in people’s minds about the necessity and relevance of the church in their lives. These are entirely legitimate and understandable questions.
Depending on how an individual answers these questions, they will determine whether or not they reengage the church in this new normal. Unfortunately, I am willing to bet that many churches will mournfully never see some beloved members darken the doors of a sanctuary again.
An equally perplexing question the church must ask in light of these relevancy questions is how to meaningfully reconnect with each other with continued social-distancing guidelines in place? How can you genuinely connect with someone who feels disconnected from the church's relevance in their lives, when we can’t exactly go back to normal yet?
If I am honest, the ramifications of this virus on the church have me worried for many churches. Will churches be able to reconnect with the disconnected? Will churches live into a new relevance in people’s lives and the life of the community?
My worries subside into hope when I remember that the church has been here before. Not long after its birth, the church found itself hiding behind closed doors and scattered throughout Asia. They, too, faced setbacks, frustration, and questions of irrelevance.
And yet, the Spirit of God empowered them to see beyond their circumstances, to find new ways of living out their faith together and introducing people to Jesus. The church saw rapid growth amidst a crisis.
However, what it took for the church to pivot in this crisis and boldly stepped forward was people saying yes to be used by God in other’s lives. Relationships were forged, visits were made, letters were written, and giftedness was shared to build God’s church.
That is what the church needs right now. It requires a connection stronger than social distancing will allow. It needs people, out of the authenticity of God's love in their lives, to reconnect with others in relevant ways. It needs people to share their best selves for God's purposes.
But will we say yes to being used by God? Will we individually do our part to forge relationships and share our giftedness to change lives?