To all my friends who have not seen the inside of your sanctuaries for over a year. If you have known the pain of long-time members leaving to worship or even join the so-called “open” church around the corner. I want to give you a word of hope and encouragement.
Other churches around you may have “strategic advantages.” Perhaps larger spaces and staff that can help facilitate a safer worship experience. In some cases, perhaps they are the “virus is a hoax” group, or just blatantly disregarded Covid entirely because money in the plate was more important than human lives.
If your heart has been to protect the most vulnerable among your flock, I want you to know the Jesus who said “I’ve not lost one that you gave me” (John 18:9) is saying over you “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).
Here’s a couple things to consider. If we are in the business of packing butts in pews, we are doing something else than what Jesus instructed us to do. Other churches are not “competitors” stealing away our sheep. Our calling is about the kingdom, not growing churches. We are on the same team.
Besides, would we want to build a church of members who play church musical chairs? It’s only a matter of time before the song ends, they get up and move to another church, for the same reasons they left the one before ours.
Don’t we want to form a Christian community with people who are sold out to vision, mission, and values? Who believe that in our loving of God, “loving our neighbor” is the ultimate work of the church?
It appears churches that continued to meet throughout Covid spikes have a “strategic advantage” in this moment, at least if your goal is “church growth.” In my first book, Deep Roots, Wild Branches I claimed “resurrection is the monkey wrench” that disrupts all our death-dealing systems of business as usual. Resurrection is the force of new creation that disrupts all our strategies. It is when we come to the end of ourselves, when our brilliance and methods fail, when we are in the tomb, that God does God’s best work. I’m speaking as person that God just raised from my Covidian tomb.
The religious leaders who crucified Jesus appeared to have the strategic advantage. But they couldn’t “out strategize” the power of resurrection!
I have two congregations that are currently on the coroner’s table. I feel your pain. We have lost so many people that I love deeply. Yet the few and the faithful who endured this pandemic together, our love for each other has been forged in the fires of adversity. We have carried a cross together. I’ll go to Golgotha for them any day. I’ll take a handful of faithful disciples over crowds of fair-weather friends who came to see the show. Jesus did.
If we made prayerful and painful decisions for the good of our community, we did our part. But now is the time for God to do God’s part. Our strategies and methods can achieve a lot… but only God can raise the dead.
When God does the raise dead. When God raises up our congregations from the ashes of Covid, and I have faith God will. We cannot claim the glory. We cannot claim it was our strategies. It wasn’t our ministries, our worship services, our sermons, our lightshows, or our facilities. It was God alone.
God is the God of resurrection. Resurrection is the monkey wrench. Let’s watch God work.