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It is amazing how fast change occurs. Over the course of a week we watched as our plans quickly eroded away in favor of social distancing. This sudden shift in the way we live our lives due to the Coronavirus is, in many ways, a path that has been walked before.
The children of Israel found themselves home one day and in Babylonian exile the next (2 Kings 25; Dan. 1:1-2). The Israelites had to adjust to a Babylonian way of living. They were forced to navigate a new language (technology anyone?) and new customs. Many were separated from their families without ever knowing when, if ever, they would be able to see them again. They worked to figure out the celebrating of feast days and the worship of God away from Jerusalem’s temple (Psalm 137). Perhaps worst of all, they had no idea if they would ever get to return to the comfort and normalcy of Israel.
There are certainly differences between our situation and that of the Israelites, but I believe we can take comfort from the fact that in other times throughout history the people of God have successfully struggled with the navigation of unknown and uncomfortable times. We will too. It is not the ‘during’ that I am concerned about, but the ‘after’.
Israel went into captivity because of their idol worship, to put it simply, but after their exile that problem seems to have been expunged. They learned their lesson. Likewise, this time of quarantine has brought with it some lessons for Christians to consider. My hope is that we will, my fear is that we will not. More specifically…
My FEARS for the Church after COVID-19
That we will become too reliant on new technology. Social distancing has caused churches to adapt. For many that adaptation was the adoption of resources like Facebook Live or Zoom meetings. Churches that formerly would have had nothing to do with technology were forced to figure out how to use it and have found that it is not only very effective, but easy to use. This is great news, but if we are not careful, I fear we may allow the pendulum to swing too far to the technology side of things. Technology is great in many respects, but it is a poor substitute for true connection and intimacy. Find the balance between the two.
That everything will return to normal. Change tends to really bother people and I fear that this irritation may cause us to try and get everything back to normal again, at least as much as we can. Some things need to go back to the way they were, but others do not. Evaluation was forced upon us and it would be irresponsible to ignore it.
That the building will become king...again. I am afraid that our time away from the building will cause us to cling to it tighter than before. The building is great for serving as a central point for our assembling together to worship and as a place for group activities, but often it becomes the place that we leave our Christianity. During our time of being bound in our homes the word of God has continued to travel (2 Tim. 2:8-9). Our homes have turned into places of devotionals and Bible discussion, they ought to remain as such when the ‘church’ doors reopen.
My HOPES for the Church after COVID-19
That we will continue to explore new ways to reach out. It would be a shame if all our exploration into reaching others online and in their homes died with the reopening of our doors. The church has made in-roads in communities all over the nation. I hope that we will continue to question how we can best reach out to the community and experiment with new ways to evangelize and equip.
That we will evaluate our priorities as Christians and congregations. Our schedules have been upended from both a personal and congregational level. I hope that we will continue to evaluate what matters most, as well as where we spend our time and how we spend our money both as individuals and collective Christians after we come back together.
That the time apart helps us appreciate the time together. It has been about two months now that we have been asked to be socially distant. Many of us long for real interaction with others. I hope that this does not change once things settle back down. As bad as it has been to be locked away from others, how much worse would it be to be able to get together and choose not to.
That we will become more patient with our leaders and each other. These are unprecedented times and our elders and ministry teams have had to make very tough decisions about closings, reopenings, and what to do moving forward. I hope that this time apart will all cause us to have a little more grace with one another. I hope as well that the pettiness that comfort so often brings with it will not be tolerated, but will instead be met with kindness, listening ears, and tender hearts.
That we will continue to long for the day when Jesus will set everything right. Viruses are good reminders of the way the world is not supposed to work. Viruses, panic, and anger are all a result of a sin-distorted creation (Rom. 8:18-25). I hope that we will continue to cry out “come Lord Jesus!” and I hope that we will continue to tell others about Him as we anticipate His return.
Imagine returning from Babylonian exile only to go immediately right back into your worship of false gods and idols. If our Old Testaments read that way, we would shake our heads at the foolishness of Israel. It would be even more foolish for us to ignore both what they and this virus have to teach us by rushing back to the way things were. My greatest hope is that we, after seeing God’s handiwork in this mess, will continue to learn from these lessons long after the time of instruction is over.