“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.
“If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.
“Right now, I am shaken. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’”
John 12:24-28 MSG
As of late I have been criticized in using the phrase “post-pandemic church.” Last year as I was finishing up my book, Being the Church in the Post-Pandemic World, I like many others was being cautiously optimistic that we would see a vaccine in 2021 and thus move out of the pandemic. Regardless of when we eventually emerge from the pandemic, the book was written from the standpoint of the potential and possibility for the church in the midst of the crisis of the pandemic.
Yet, here we are in the latter part of the third quarter of 2021 in the midst of yet another surge in the pandemic. While I still remain optimistic that we will eventually emerge on the other side of this pandemic, it is taking longer than anyone expected. Here is what I have come to understand in the depths of this prolonged pandemic season. We don’t need to think only about being the church in the post-pandemic world, we need to think about being the church in the pandemic world.
Granted, many churches have stepped up in unbelievable ways during this past 18 months. Praise God! Unfortunately, so many churches became even more inwardly focused as they struggled to stay connected with their own congregation. As some churches returned to their buildings, they rushed to “get back to normal” and missed opportunities to relaunch their churches into their communities only to welcome an average of 30-50% of their congregation back to the building. In addition, those same churches took their focus off their online presence or discontinued their online presence completely (online – the most fertile unchurched mission field).
What could it mean to be the church in the pandemic world? Like in the scripture above, it seems that if we were to put the needs of the community above the needs of the ourselves (the church), we would become more like the church Jesus desired. What if we were listening to the community and what they needed? What if we were building new relationships with our neighbors? What if ministries were created based on neighborhood needs and desired rather than congregational and historical preferences? What if we were a joy-filled sent people eager to serve rather than a cynical people expecting neighbors to show up at church on Sunday morning to enjoy the ministries we’ve done for twenty years? What if we were willing to transform the church, be a transforming agent for our community, and be transformed ourselves as a Christian if it meant that more people in our community had a relationship with Jesus Christ?
We have an opportunity as the church in this pandemic time and coming in the post-pandemic time. What intentional actions is your church taking with this opportunity?