How Shall We Then Live? (after a pandemic)

Yeah, that’s the name of a book and video series by Francis Schaffer from back in the late 80s (well worth watching), but its more than that. It’s a valid question.

Churches across America, if not the world, are discovering that there are new ways to do old things. We’re busy adapting ourselves to communications via the internet using Facebook Live, Zoom and various other platforms. I even wrote a guest blog for Exponential about this and its long-term implications. https://exponential.org/change-upon-us-ready-not/

But there is more to glean from COVID-19 than just swapping a Sunday show in a box for a Sunday show streaming over the internet. How shall we then live in light of a master who said he came to heal the broken hearted, set captives free and bring hope to prisoners and homeless people? What are the implications of a call to mobilize our members to ministry in light of a pandemic?

Not So Wonderful Thoughts

Well for starters, the implications are frustrating.

A couple of my friends are rejoicing that the church has become so missional in light of this terrible tragedy. However, I think they are overly optimistic. I don’t think we switched from, “We’re friendly, come join us,” to “We stopped by to see how you’re doing,” just because a bunch of people are dying.

I heard of a church dealing thousands of meals to very poor children in an urban neighborhood who normally get one good meal and a couple of snacks, each day, in their public schools. Others have organized to make grocery runs for old folks like me. Some are even organizing neighborhood prayer watches, etc. However, I’m afraid they are the stand-outs due to their rarity. For most of us, it’s business as sort of usual.

Because we’re adaptive, we’ve moved from church in a building to church online fairly easily. Some are vastly expanding their footprint among people who are probably scared into giving God a chance. But what will happen when this is over? And it will be over in a couple of years if not a few months?

At Least Two Possibilities

I can imagine two scenarios.

The first is that we go back into our buildings bruised but functional. In this picture, a few churches close because they couldn’t take the financial hit. Not a few pastors resign because recovering financially is out of the question. Virus born alcohol problems, spouse abuse and even suicide take their toll on our world, but our churches are good at counseling and we’ll manage to get our people through. On top of all this, we’ll all be live-streaming our services with a few more people watching. Not so much will have changed.

The other possibility is more encouraging, also a little confusing.

In this world, we return to our buildings but with wider vision. For starters, the holdouts among us will have adopted a meaningful small-group ministry out of necessity during the pandemic. A few churches will, indeed, close due to financial problems and some pastors might leave the ministry. Others will take jobs in a new and different economy becoming freelance, bivo, covo or whatever you might call it. The home run hitters will be the churches that prepared their people to minister in the marketplace before COVID-19. These congregations will multiply as they recognize potential in the emergency appointed leaders in their midst. Some of these will plant microchurches, others will extend the reach of their traditional churches into places they’ve never gone before. The depression, drug and alcohol problems, unemployment and domestic problems around them will open doors to the gospel in shoe-leather and a church adapted to meet needs where they exist.

The point is that those of us in leadership will answer the question, “How shall we then live?”

None of us know how this thing will end or how many lives it will claim. We have no idea if we’re in for a lengthy depression or a quick economic turnaround. We do know this, we’re called to make disciples, equip and mobilize people to do more than greet people at the door and we face some wonderful opportunities to multiply the church in days to come. The path is unclear, but the fork in the road is today.

Most often the blog gets vastly expanded (preached) in a parallel podcast–this one is really worth a listen. CLICK HERE to access it.

Before you leave, what are you doing during the pandemic that mobilizes people to mission? We’d like to hear about it in the Comments box below. Your feedback make this site more useful for others–commenting is ministry!

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3 thoughts on “How Shall We Then Live? (after a pandemic)”

  1. What are we doing during the pandemic that mobilizes people to mission?

    Our primary mission is through broadcast ministry. We have doubled-down our focus on the message of creating and enriching our horizontal relationships. An example is connecting with your spouse, your kids and reaching out to neighbours. It also includes a focus on loving one’s self all as part of sharing and demonstrating the Greatest Commandment in action. We have just released a new worship remix of “Way Maker” that echoes Michael W Smith’s call to be missional –“Love God, Love Others and do things” as he says. The message is simple: God is working, so should we. This song is also airing during shift-change times for local hospitals in select markets with an invitation to join in prayer for our first responders, medical professionals and those who are otherwise on the front-lines of the fight.

    Our local church re-plant is innovating to stay connected and support those most at risk in the manner you’ve already described here. Our neighbours work in emergency medicine and as an EMT. Last night while I was mowing their yard I started working on the idea of a local prayer group or even prayer walk. (Socially distanced of course).

    Personally, I continue to minister to an online forum as an encourager and catalyst to seeking God and His will for us in the day. This ministry has an eschatological focus and is wholly Christ centred. It seems like I’m busier than ever and am thankful for the teams that God has built for this mission.

  2. We have been reaching out with our food ministry. Connecting with a lot of folks with a bag of groceries, in our community as well as a local retirement community. It’s something we’ve done for years now. It has helped serve the “food security” challenge that many have felt. But we just made a decision to stop for a few weeks for 2 reasons. 1. Nearly all of the people we serve have enough food now. There has been a great response from the community at large to reach food needs of the community. 2. It typically takes 15-20 people to unload, organize, pack and distribute the groceries. We want to give our very dedicated volunteers as much separation as possible. So even though we are not providing groceries, we are still contacting them by phone or social media, checking on their spiritual and emotional well being. Even though 1/2 of our people here at Hope are in small groups, in the months ahead we will be working towards getting all of our congregation connected in personal, impacting groups. Thank you Ralph for your insights for leaders during this time!

    1. Thanks Sean, we need to hear more people doing what you folks have organized. Just moving the church online is not missional. What you, and others like you, are doing will help touch the world that needs Jesus.

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