The other day, I was talking with some leaders about basic discipleship stuff, and one of them caught me. They said, “You are talking like we are going to be able to do all the things we used to be able to do before the pandemic.” They weren’t being mean. They were just pointing something out. They did mention that I seemed a little more optimistic than they were about the pandemic ending and what we will be able to do and not do.
My point is not to get into a pandemic specific debate, but I did think my friend made a good point. I don’t believe we can just go back to what was when it comes to the work of the church and making disciples. Nor do I think we should go back to what was, even if we are able to. However this all plays out or however it all lands we are going to have to make some very important decisions as churches which means all of us because we all make up the church.
- How to stay united? This has been a tough season. Besides the pandemic, there have been a couple of issues that have served to show us all where we don’t agree with each other, and it hasn’t always gone well. Some of the ways we have spoken to one another or about one another have not been full of grace or truth. Scripture tells us that a watching world should be able to know we follow Jesus by how we love one another, and in some cases I am not sure they can tell or want any piece of the love we have shown. So how will we work on staying united together as the family of God? How will we rebuild fractured relationships? We will need to figure that out.
- How to care for one another? It will be sometime before everyone feels comfortable enough to gather. How are we going to make sure those folks know we still love them, and they are still part of our community. There are people who have lost during this season. How are we going to come alongside them in real and tangible ways? How will we continue to connect with folks who we haven’t seen in awhile? How will we support folks who are lonely and struggling? How will we maintain or improve the level of people care, connection, and support we provided during the pandemic?
- How to connect and include folks? This is similar to what’s above, but not exactly the same. This has more to do with “programming” and follow up. We will probably need to provide some sort of hybrid in person or online experience for our services, small groups,and meetings. How are we going to follow up with folks? How are we going to welcome first time folks and give them a chance to connect? How does our website need to change to reflect a new way forward because for some time now your website has served as the front door to your church for most folks. We will need to figure out the needed balance for Sundays, prayer, youth, seniors, etc.
- How to fellowship? We are called to do life together. This is where I got caught. I kept talking about opening our homes and sharing our lives with each other, and most of what we have heard lately tells us that is not a good idea. So what does real, Biblical, “one another” fellowship look like? How do we practice it well? We are going to need to figure it out because it is part of the life we are called to together.
- How to engage or reengage with our neighbors/community? This is a corporate issue as some of what you were doing in your community may no longer be needed or possible, but what is needed? What is possible? How can you as a body love and serve your community for Jesus’ sake? This is also an individual issue. How are each of us going to keep or rebuild connections with neighbors, coworkers, friends, classmates, and so on as we go about our Father’s business of making disciples? How are we going to share our lives with folks so they can experience the love of Jesus and be pointed towards Him?
I know that all I have done is give you a lot of questions to wrestle with. I hope you will do that together and individually because they are important questions that we need to figure out in this next chapter of church life. So talk, pray, dream, wrestle, and plan together. The work God has given us to do hasn’t stopped. We will need to figure out how to do it for His Kingdom sake.
Director of Leadership Development and Church Health, the Free Methodist Church in Canada