In most parts of the world this Coronavirus pandemic has been felt. Its impact varies depending upon the severity and spread, but here in the UK, we are into our 3rd lockdown and it looks like this year is going to be punctuated with yet more virus related restrictions and problems.
For many this has presented all sorts of difficulties and challenges, not least to Christian churches. Not well known as early adopters, churches can often be slow to respond to change at best and at worst drag as if they have an anchor buried in the ground. Perhaps we should be seeing things in a different light, after all if God is God, then God can work through any situation to bring good.
It is challenging our ways of meeting, not being able to meet in person, its challenging our online abilities, its challenging the way our finances work, its challenging the way we make decisions, especially those with a congregational view of church governance.
But is this really an opportunity rather than a difficulty? Is it a chance to explore new paths on the journey? Is it a challenge to rethink our approaches and our ways which we have got so used to? Well that possibly depends upon how we approach things. For me the faith life has never been a controlled, everything nicely in its place journey, its had surprises, bumps and also fun and excitement.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Finance is perhaps the most challenged area for many churches. Where a significant portion comes from the service collections or from hiring the premises out, that has caused big issues. Is this really a challenge to the way in which we support church ministry and staff? Perhaps more use of regular giving through the bank would help some? But does it really honour God that we, his church, rely on those outside of the church to provide for our activities? Is this an opportunity to re-think how we do this in church life. Let me use a simplistic if imperfect example - If a church was made of 10 couples 5 single people and 5 who have non church partners so might find it hard to give, and based upon the average household income (yes I know there are all sorts of reasons folks can't or don't but all examples have flaws) at a giving of 5% that would amount to £18K a year. There is the challenge on all Christians (including the churches IMO) to be generous to each other? Giving to support other poorer, embryonic and smaller adapting churches - the UK Baptist Union try to to do this through Home Mission, which could be better supported than it is (IMO). Opportunities abound.
Another challenge to our Church lives is that of meeting in person, many I know struggle with this not happening, wanted to keep the churches open regardless of the potential increase in infection that might cause. I know of many churches where whatapp, Zoom, Teams and other online apps, used on mobile phones (which a large number have), pads, laptops etc, have increased prayer times and the numbers engaging in prayer. Many churches now able to go "online", some have seen a big increase in their attendance. Now we don't know the future impact of this, but there are many who do not come into church services who are joining online, and in some cases that has led to conversions to the faith and joining the church. Again there are many churches who cant do this technically. If we were truly generous could not those churches with the resources and technical expertise, help those which do not?
I think this pandemic can be seen as a difficulty to be weathered and then we can return to the old "normal". I hope and pray, that this is not the case. That we will listen to the challenges, learn and adapt as we seek God for a new "normal" and embracing the opportunities. A new way to be the Church that God is calling us to be. To hold on to what is good and let go of what needs to be let go off. An opportunity to shine in a new and different way.
May God bless you as you and your churches struggle and face the opportunities that all of this time can offer.