May 13, 2020
There are few times in my years of ministry that I have felt such a degree of excitement while at the same time such a degree of disappointment with the church. I'm not talking about the church I pastor, because frankly, it is one of the more encouraging stories in the midst of this pandemic. In fact, I think we are crushing it as a church. (Add applause here...)
The church has been my life for the better part of my professional career, and for the most part, it's been incredibly rewarding. But this is the first time I've been torn by feelings of extreme joy by the church and feelings of extreme discouragement at exactly the same time. It's like I'm living in two totally different dimensions simultaneaously.
As far as the joyful part, there are churches around the globe who are using this opportunity to show that the church is not a building with prescribed meeting times, but vibrant, engaged, and dynamic people who are actively being the hands and feet of Jesus to the world around them - twenty-four seven!
One such example is the UK Blessing video. If you haven't seen this video you should pause right now and give it a look here. If this doesn't move your heart to worship, celebrate, be inspired, or any number of positive emotional responses, then you've just proved that aliens do live among us.
Admittedly, it is only one example of countless churches who have recognized that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not contained or limited by a pandemic. In fact, the very message of the Gospel is pandemic proof. It's this aspect of what we are experiencing that I try best to remain focused on.
Then, there is the other, more disturbing side. As I said in a previous post, there's nothing like a pandemic to bring out the best and the worse in people, and churches appear to be no different. You can read my thoughts on how churches are embarrassing Jesus here.
There are tons of articles and resources out right now about the questions we need to consider as we begin to think about reopening our worship spaces. Those articles are helpful and needed, but I think there are a couple of questions leaders need to ask that are the preamble for those other questions. Here are the two key questions we should all be asking?
Am I protecting the people under my care?
As church leaders, we are good at feeding, casting vision, leading the congregation, and creating structure in our churches. So were the Pharisees. In Jesus's time, these were the clergy of the day. The ones entrusted with the Word of God and the people of God.
Though they were exacting in performing the rituals of the Law and its sacrifices, it was their people skills that were sorely lacking. Jesus wasted no time calling them out on it.
John chapter 10 is rich in contrasting the shepherding skills of the Pharisees with Jesus. As Jesus makes clear that he is the one true shepherd for salvation, he goes further in verses 11-13.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep. (John 10:11-13)
At the heart of this passage is a key question, who are the sheep most safe with? Jesus of course, and if we are shepherds modelled after the Great Shepherd himself, shouldn't sheep feel safe with us too?
Okay, I think you get the point. Do we take the responsibility of protecting the people God has entrusted to us? This is such an important question, because it forces us to be clear about our motivations for reopening.
Are we more interested in protecting our people or protecting our platform? If we are okay with putting people at potential risk then it seems we may be better at being a Pharisee than being a shepherd.
To be irresponsible at this time with decisions related to meeting sooner than recommended, or not taking social protocols seriously, is a breech of a shepherd's requirement for protecting the flock. My second question follows.
Have I reflected on what God is trying to teach us during this time?
To experience a season like the one where the entire globe is in lockdown and just continue as if nothing happened when all is done, would be tragic beyond belief.
In the course of a few scant months, our entire economic, social, and cultural foundations have been upended, if not shaken to the core. It almost feels - apocalyptic.
All drama aside. Church leaders should take notice. It is in these moments that God often means for us to lean in and listen. It's now when we should be deeply reflecting and being still before him, in order to see clearly the path ahead.
Great upheavals are also great opportunities, especially for the church. And for the leaders who pause, reflect, and recognize the new opportunities the Lord is opening for us, great advancements for the kingdom can be made.
But only for those who are truly listening. For those who see the ecclesiastical model as one dimensional then bless you as you go blindly into the abyss.
The church has survived centuries of attacks, persecutions, lockdowns, lockouts, and every imaginable pestilence this fallen creation can throw at it. We will survive this too, and for those whose ears are fully open to the Spirit, the days ahead will be stronger than before.
I, for one, am listening with heart wide open. Are you?
Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay
May 14, 2020
Thanks Jeff. I appreciate your viewpoints. I truly cannot understand the lack of wisdom being shown but some church leaders. I too, really hope we do not go back to normal. Blessings, and glad to be part of a good start to your day!
Good morning Jon, thank you for another timely perspective in today’s world. I’ve been following the local stories in Aylmer and more recently, the letter campaign to the premier to reopen churches.
There is ‘tone’ to both of those that seems to lack wisdom. As we heard as kids, just because you ‘can’, doesn’t mean you ‘should’. People are more engaged and intentionally living out their faith in some very real ways of caring for one another. That’s my observation, and I wouldn’t want to see the church lose that by going back to ‘normal’.
Thanks again Jon, this has been a good start to my day.
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April 29, 2020
There's nothing like a pandemic to bring out the best and the worst in people. I can't say I'm surprised, these things have a way of showing people's true colours and where their confidence, or can I say, suspicions, lie.
What is disheartening is what I'm seeing and hearing from those who claim to be followers of Jesus, Worse yet, are those who hold leadership platforms who are using them in ways that is, at least in my mind, not only disheartening, but downright embarrassing.
April 16, 2020
This is my newest grandson, Noah. I already have scads of pictures of him even though he just turned two months old, but this one is my favourite.
For a time I couldn't figure out why it rose to the top, but after one gruelling day of trying to manage life in the midst of a pandemic it suddenly hit me.
March 10, 2020