With the Coronavirus landscape shifting again, readjustment is needed for community connections. Meetings are being forced to happen via Zoom or Google Hangouts. Germany’s public gathering limit is down to just two, perhaps a foretaste of what is coming up on Australia. What does this all mean for church’s voice beyond offering an initial online experience?
People of faith need the attitude of King Jehoshaphat when facing a huge army. He was concerned but also looked to God. In 2 Chronicles 20:12 he prayed: “We do not know what to do but our eyes are upon you.” Fear and preoccupation must give way to a faith that is voiced with the conviction that God is for us, and not against us, in times of trouble. This communicates and inspires powerfully.
Where is that voice needed?
1. In ‘external’ communities. Those who live outside the four walls of the church building need the answers that Christians can offer. People around us are dependent upon the people of God being the church and instilling hope and confidence as anchor points of certainty and direction. Every Christian is a community leader because our discipleship mandate makes us influencers, and we are able to show the way.
Continued contact with people outside our immediate circle of influence is needed at the moment. Practical help for those outside churches could be more significant now than ever before in building lasting connections with local churches beyond Covid-19.
One-on-one safe contact is still possible, but it needs to be intentional, as does electronic contact. Who needs more from you right now as their foundations are perhaps crumbling?
2. In ‘internal’ communities. Reaching the people in our regular circle is critical for their ongoing growth but also for our ongoing viability beyond the current crisis.
We have to face the possibility that the ‘new normal’ will extend for some time. Churches that are not maintaining direct pastoral contact by phone or Skype or some other alternative will find it difficult to bounce back. Megachurches that can provide the extra sparkle will quickly attract allegiances and dollars.
We have to adjust to this different reality, but a focus on prioritising people will be crucial.
So, in summary, what you can do to give voice to your faith right now is critical to building relevance that will prevail beyond the current crisis.
1. Connect with people. Let me say it again, personal contact must be ramped up. Even as small groups become more difficult to manage without technology, personal one-on-one contact is evermore vital in directing people’s growth, their praying, their giving, their care for the welfare of others, and their service of God.
Christian discipleship will need constant encouragement. We need to be able to talk openly about all these associated matters, believing that people are better off as a result of our proactivity, positivity and ‘pastoral-ness’. Caring doesn’t mean less intentionality but more, and it is not difficult to provide this.
2. Connect with God. Let’s be prayer-ful, not fearful. Pray about Covid-19 for 19 minutes at 1900, in other words be praying at 7pm. This call has come from church leaders around the nation and offers a simple way of continuing to pray, even on an individual basis.
The well-known verse in 2 Chronicles 7:14 speaks to the healing of the land for those who humble themselves and pray. May that be our commitment as we exude an inner and outer confidence that God is ultimately in control. Why not even believe that there will be a powerful story to look back on when the present days are behind us?
3. Connect with help. There are terrific resources available to assist, including for kids and youth (often free and available from larger churches with more resources who are only too willing to share). Don’t reinvent the wheel.
Other churches’ online experiences might help you too. One minister is offering some great tips on online pastoring. A popular site for creating an online church platform is an alternative to Facebook live. Remember that not all people can access Facebook. Links on websites or emails may therefore be useful. Elderly people without online access may benefit from a DVD of your services and other resources being burned and posted/letterboxed (and surely someone will be very excited to use their older technology to help people!)
Although churches are closing their front doors for now, the church itself can shine in this moment of opportunity. The church is, after all, its people.
What seems a dark hour for many is one in which the people of God can flourish.
Together, we can rise to our greatest heights.
Let’s be praying for the weeks ahead to be our best yet!