God’s creation is something I have been in awe of my entire life. Growing up in Chicago, my world included much concrete and not a lot of natural wonders. My bedroom window faced the sunrise, and I always loved watching the sun pop up, gray and dismal as Chicago could be at times. The light of the sun always brought me joy.
Living in that environment caused me to look harder at what was around me in nature and see beautiful, wonderous things many people walked past without noticing. I would lay on my roof, watching the clouds go by at night, gaze up at trees while sitting next to them reading. Once, we found a snake, and it was the most fascinating and fantastic thing that happened to any of my friends and me for that whole summer. We carried it around in a bucket to show all our less than excited adult neighbors. To us, this garden snake was an exotic creature. An alien could have landed on our front lawn, and we would not have been more excited or surprised.
I have to say, since moving to Kansas, my appreciation for snakes has declined a bit. Kansan snakes are scary, big, and some are venomous. I won’t be carrying any around in buckets, nor encouraging anyone else to do so.
I am, however, always in awe of the sky here in Kansas. I have never seen more colorful sunrises and sunsets, and they fill me with deep joy. The sunflowers, too…standing in an ocean of yellow as the sun rose on the edge of the horizon was a sacred moment, full of God. Capturing moments like those in words or photography will always be a challenge, but I am up for it. I want to share God’s artistic genius with the world so they will know and love Him, see Him for who He is, a wise and wonderful God who made all of it for us to enjoy.
This post is for the women and men that have invested their lives in full-time ministry. It’s for the volunteers in churches worldwide that have had their lives and ministries interrupted because of the worldwide pandemic. It’s for those who love the Church and are doing all they can to keep it together.
I know you. I know you started in ministry because you have a wild heart with audacious tenacity. You have weathered storms no one has seen. You have fought battles on your knees and in board rooms. You have spoken up for the poor and the weak again and again. You work so very hard.
Rob, my husband, has been on Zoom calls hours every day since the pandemic began. Every day he speaks to pastors and church leaders around the country in crisis counseling through these troubled times. Some of the stories he tells me are remarkable. Some are tragic. Some leave me to hope-filled and others not so much.
Never in recent history has the Church been faced with the challenges we have in front of us now. Many churches have decided to open their doors so members can come to the weekend service. Many have not. Perhaps many churches will not make it to the other side of this pandemic intact. Church bodies that are stage-centric and dependent on Sunday attendance to maintain normalcy are shuttering windows and closing doors. These churches are filled with godly people with godly leaders, leading with wisdom and grace, but they are not immune to the ripple effects of this global crisis we are all facing.
With all of this happening, I see an ever-brightening glimmer of hope and light on the horizon. The Church of Jesus, the one that exists outside of church building walls, is ever more alive. Microchurches are springing up from where the Gospel has been planted in communities. In the KC Underground, we have 26 microchurches and have experienced a six hundred percent growth in the past year. It’s fantastic, to say the least. Small communities of people gather together in homes, workplaces, baseball games, rodeos, and many other places, multiplying growth and leadership by planting the Gospel, studying God’s word, and building disciples. These microchurches are mission-minded. They are not watch parties gathering to watch a video of a sermon; they are studying the bible, reaching lost and lonely people, baptizing, and growing their faith in Jesus together.
In our neighborhood, we meet on a driveway a few times a month to share a meal, do a Discovery Bible Study, and share what we are thankful for and where we need prayer. It’s been a great way to get to know our neighbors, especially during this very trying time.
While we are in this mush pot of political turmoil, racial unrest, and the worldwide pandemic, I hope that the Church worldwide will begin to think outside of the ordinary Church on Sunday box. How necessary is it for all of the church members to come together once a week, pouring mega dollars into lights and sound equipment, stage management, etc.? How can we begin to think of Church without a stage? Can that be a thing? What is the way of Jesus in this?
Let’s use this unprecedented time to rethink our intentional and unintentional racial biases. What are we doing in our churches that promote anti-racism? Anything? What is the way of Jesus in this? There is an epidemic that is so deeply entrenched into our culture; many don’t even realize it’s there. But it is. Racism is a systemic evil that needs our immediate attention. The Church in our nation needs to repent of our ineptitude and disregard for the cries and pleas of People of Color-Ignoring them or shaming them and setting them straight will not be tolerated by their Father God, who created them. Let there be light. Let there be joy and love and freedom. Use this time to examine your heart and your leadership in these matters.
We have the time. We have had to restructure. There are no excuses to leave these issues untouched as we begin to rebuild.
Are you going to rebuild your Sunday audience or rebuild disciples, so they are capable of planting the Gospel in their neighborhoods and networks, or even leading a microchurch?
We can all do better. Don’t skip the hard stuff on the way to rebuilding your audience. Look at the methods of Jesus and the early Church.
Big churches with big budgets, buildings, and staff are not wrong in and of themselves. They can Be instruments of tremendous blessing to their communities. So many of them are! I’m just talking about shifting a mindset away from keeping attendance high on weekends toward something else. Drawing crowds is easy. Building disciples into missionaries isn’t
Know that you are not alone. You are never, ever alone. You don’t have to do this work on your own. We have this chance to rebuild. Don’t rebuild alone, and don’t rebuild the same.
Let’s kick racism’s ass.
Let’s give more to the poor.
Let’s equip men, women, and children with the gospel message that Jesus loves them so deep in their souls that they cannot help but return the gift by loving their neighbors well.
God is good. He is in this. He was in the storm before, and he is here with us in the storm now. Ask Him to still the waters and waves and ask him to show you the way home. I know he will. God is able. He can do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine.
Regardless of where your Church is or what decisions you have made, I’m guessing it’s been challenging. While the pandemic is still in full swing, the heat of the nation is rising around politics and racism. Never before have we experienced all of these things at once. An intensely heated political battle, a worldwide pandemic, and the embers of racial justice all heating us in a stew pot of feelings, mixed emotions, and strong wills.
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