As I begin this post, I want to make one thing clear. Our churches are not re-opening. I’ve been guilty of using that phrase, too, but I don’t think we should talk like that anymore. It belies a sense of location-based organization, like a business or school or restaurant. But as the classic AVB song reminds us, U Can’t Go 2 Church – ’cause the church is you. I pray that our churches haven’t closed. We’ve just been scattered for a bit.
So when we come back together as a body for that all-so-important one to one and a half hour worship gathering on Sunday mornings, what is that going to look like? It’s going to be different for sure in the immediate future, what with social distancing, sanitation guidelines, etc. But I’m not talking about that. When the dust settles and the real threat is over, what will it look like?
I think there are things that we need to bring with us into the future. I think there are some new things that we need to implement or improve. And I also think there are some things that need to be left behind – which is the topic of today’s post.
Here are five things I think need to stay in the past.
1) “We’ve never done it that way before.”
This phrase can kill a church faster than just about anything. We get comfortable with the way things are. It’s like the opening line of the Full House theme song: “Whatever happened to predictability?” Well, guess what? Things are anything but predictable right now. Yes, we need some form of consistency. But the “habit” is “meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25). There doesn’t have to be a set form or order to our worship. God doesn’t want two songs, a prayer, a song, communion, song, scripture, sermon, song, prayer. God wants your heart that continually seeks after him. The attitude that resists change might very well be fighting against the work of the Holy Spirit among God’s people.
2) Replace the mirrors with windows.
I’m getting tired of the inward-focus of many churches and church goers. We care about attendance numbers and contribution. We care about paying utilities and mortgages. But how many of us are intentional about getting out and serving our community? We show up to worship just to look in the mirror at ourselves when we should be looking out the windows to the world in need. Let’s be more outwardly focused as we come back together. If nothing else, this pandemic has exposed some serious needs in our world that are not being filled by the government or the free market. Church, it’s our time to shine and to show that we exist for those outside our walls.
3) My personal micro kingdom
I’m a minister in a Church of Christ. There are maybe half a dozen or more other Churches of Christ in my county. Do you know how many of them work together with us on anything? Zero. I’ve been here for five and a half years. Only one other Church of Christ minister has had any contact with me. And yes, part of that is on me for not reaching out to them either. I need to get better about that! But we get so caught up in building our own little micro kingdoms and are unwilling to partner with fellow Christians in serving our communities. God’s kingdom should not be divided. We are all one church. Let’s start acting like it.
4) Strong opinions about “disputable matters”
I don’t think it’s wrong to have convictions. However, some of us have a stronger opinion about politics than we do about serving the poor. Some of us have stronger opinions about gender roles than we do about spreading the gospel to every nation. Some of us will find any and every reason to leave a church family because of something that really doesn’t matter in the long run. Love covers a multitude of sins. Do you want to be “right” or do you want to restore the relationship? Which is more important to Jesus? Maybe it’s time we started holding our opinions more loosely for the sake of preserving the body of Christ.
5) Us vs. Them, Martyrdom Complex, and Culture Wars
This is specifically for Christians in the US that I know and have seen on social media. We are not being persecuted because of a Starbucks Cup. We are not being persecuted because of stay-at-home orders. We are not being persecuted. Period. The main stream media is not your enemy. Hollywood is not your enemy. We have one enemy. By engaging in this endless “culture war” and crying “martyr” every time a show mocks our faith or a law is passed we don’t agree with, we are taking up our swords to defend the name of Jesus just like Peter tried. But Jesus healed his enemies, too. Jesus prayed for their forgiveness as he was nailed to the cross. He warned us that the world was going to hate us because they wouldn’t understand us. But he also told us that they would know we are his disciples by our LOVE, not by our bumper stickers, our virtue signaling, or our Christian subculture.
So what do you think? What would you add to the list of things that need to stay in the past as we come back together? Did any of these hit close to home? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to share this article with others.