Over the past week or so, churches have experienced a massive disruption, as large gatherings have been banned and face-to-face interaction has been discouraged. For many churches and their leaders, this has caused a critical re-thinking of our faith practices and how to keep the church connection encouraged, and growing. We know this disruption will not last forever. We pray fervently for God to heal the sick and to stop the outbreak. And yet, this does provide a unique opportunity for the church to wrestle with what does church look like when the ability to have a large public gathering in a church building is unavailable. Here are a few areas where I believe re-thinking can occur:
Re-thinking Fellowship – Previously, fellowship was largely an experience of seeing one another and visiting before and after worship gatherings or other ministry events once or twice a week. Now, fellowship is happening through social platforms and digital spaces day by day. While Christians still need face-to-face encouragement (and hopefully this can return soon), social platforms provide new opportunities for the church to stay connected in smaller networks regularly.
Re-thinking Worship – Previously, worship was largely an event produced in a large auditorium by professionals. Now it is being experienced in homes by small groups of Christians. While the preaching and worship leadership might still be streamed live, the collective worship experience is more digital and is spread out among many different spaces.
Re-thinking Evangelism – Previously, evangelism often happened through inviting someone to worship services or special events, following up with guests, or making contacts through ministries happening at the building. Now, the focus shifts to our neighbors and the neighborhood in which we live. How can we minister to those who live close to us and be a blessing to them for the sake of the gospel?
Re-thinking Discipleship – Previously, discipleship consisted of Sunday school, Wednesday night Bible classes, and other group gatherings. Now, Bible studies are being shifted to Zoom meetings and Facebook Live devotionals. “Sheltering-in-place” has provided moments of solitude, Sabbath, and personal time with God.
What will the future hold? When will the world get back to normal? For the sake of public health and the economy, we hope soon. But in the meantime, let’s be alert to new ways in which we are learning how to practice our faith. A de-centering of discipleship, ministry, and mission is happening. Ministers are becoming supporters and encouragers for the church to engage in ministry rather than just doing it themselves. Social platforms and digital connectedness is keeping the church connected throughout the week rather than just one day. Mission is becoming neighborhood-centric rather than building-centric. Maybe this is the way that it always should be.