It seems like the phrase of the day is, “When can we get back to normal?” There are some who are ready to be done with all of this and begin the next season. Others are wondering when it will be safe to go back to work, or church, or spend time with friends in a non-socially-distant kind of way. Everyone is adjusting by creating a new standard of “normal”. This creativity in finding new ways to thrive is good, it’s healthy and necessary.
Many of our pastors are asking, “When do you think we can get back to normal church? We miss gathering for worship, for prayer and fellowship. We miss seeing our church family. Will we ever be able to share coffee cups or grab a donut from the donut tree in the lobby?”
Well, forget the coffee sharing and donut trees. We will have to wait for those congregational goodies. We will return to church gatherings soon, probably somewhat differently, but we will be together. Like you, I believe in the gathered church and I love standing with my family and friends, arms and voices raised in praise and adoration to the One True God. I cannot wait for that.
But while I’ve been waiting, I’ve had the sense of something changing. Something that needs our attention.
The sense of church that we are longing for is familiar to us. For some, it’s been their experience since childhood, for others it’s what they’ve known since they first found a faith community that would love them and disciple them in the ways of Jesus. Really, it’s kind of what the first church experienced. In Acts 2:42-47 we read about the fellowship of believers, how they gathered for teaching, held everything in common and were blown away by the miraculous works of God. That is a beautiful picture of the church and it is what many people are longing to return to.
The change that I am sensing has more to do with people that do not belong to a church. The ones who are lonely and struggling, the ones who lost someone they love, the more than thirty million people who are without employment. Returning to normal is impossible for them.
I am wondering if there is a collective space where our return to normal and their shattered normal intersects? Where what we value and what they desperately need comes together in a way that brings us all to a new, more divine normal?
In my wondering, I am fairly certain that we will need a more complete picture of the church than Acts 2:42-47 provides. It’s a good picture but it may not lead us to a place of holy empathy and action. Other scriptures address the reality of caring for vulnerable people in different stages of need. James wrote about faith in relation to deeds and how the church should place taking care of others at the top of their “how to show them I’m a Christian” to do list. It’s kind of harsh so buckle up!
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? . . . faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)
So, here is where I find myself, where my sense that there is a new normal to explore and to embrace is taking me. Will we focus on the needs of others BEFORE we rush back to what is familiar and comforting to us? Will we lift our head to Heaven and ask the Holy Spirit to lead us, each one of us, to people who need our faith and our help? Can we become the Church that confidently steps into a broken world with the good news that God has all that is needed for those who are poor in spirit, for those who mourn, the meek and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness? Yes! We can be the Church that shows mercy and with the power of the Holy Spirit, be people who are the pure in heart (Matthew 5:3-10).
Let’s explore a renewed definition for what it means to be peacemaking children of God. Let’s bring the peace that comes with real help and real faith to everyone, everywhere, before our focus returns to Sunday gatherings. We can be the hands and feet of Jesus and minister to the communities around our church now. We don’t have to wait. Let this be our new normal.
Ideas you might consider
Encourage your members to:
- Make masks for people who need to get out of their house (How To Make A Mask Covering)
- Organize a blood drive
- Begin a church food distribution program
- Send “You are our Heroes” post cards to your local police, EMS and Fire Departments
- Provide lunch for Healthcare workers or offices
- Partner with other churches to establish a relief fund to care for people in the community who are in need.
- For your church members that did not lose their jobs or suffer any real financial hardship, encourage them to donate the stimulus money they received to a family or organization that cares for people in need.