Well, this is my first time leading a church through a global pandemic. It has been four weeks now since I made the decision to cancel all on-campus worship gatherings, indefinitely. Since then, much has changed, and even more has been said about what has changed.
At the risk of adding more “white noise” to the flood of commentary coming out about COVID-19, I do have a few things to add to the conversation. We know that God is not the cause of our pain, but He never wastes a hurt. Here are five ways COVID-19 helps our church.
#1 – ALLOWED ABSENCE TO MAKE OUR HEARTS GROW FONDER
I recently posted a picture of the inside of our empty church sanctuary. Within just a few hours, hundreds of people responded to express their longing to gather together under the same roof again. People are longing to connect more than ever. Really connect.
However, proximity does not always guarantee intimacy and distance does not demand disconnection. I am seeing people of all ages reaching out to communicate and connect in new and creative ways. There is an enhanced sense of intimacy and connection that will only build momentum once we gather together once again. From now on, we will enjoy new avenues of communication and connection that complement our in-person gatherings.
#2 – ACCELERATED OUR PACE OF EXECUTING EXISTING PLANS
When I arrived in the summer of 2016, our church did not live-stream any services. We first began live-streaming portions of our services in late 2017. Here we are a little more than two years later, and live-streaming is our primary way of connecting and communicating during this global pandemic.
Only in the last few weeks has our church geared up and committed to providing a full online worship experience. Because of our inability to gather, our vision of using current and future strategies to reach people with the gospel has accelerated. Now, more than ever, we are positioned to take action on existing plans to enhance online engagement. Over the past few weeks, our team has replaced “attendance” with “engagement” as our primary measurement of ministry effectiveness.
#3 – REMOVED OUR “WE’VE NEVER DONE IT THAT WAY” EXCUSES
The past is powerful, and we honor the past by not living it. My church is over 100 years old, and for many, fear has been associated with the idea of moving forward in faith. Much of this fear is rooted in a genuine desire to stay rooted in the precious truths God has revealed in previous seasons of our church’s rich history.
However, God is using this new challenge to allow us to pause and focus on what is essential. Our rich history has brought us to where we are and prepared us to take our next steps into a new and exciting season of ministry for our church. We are now uniquely positioned to gaze forward. Our past has prepared us for progress, and we are honoring our past by not living in it.
#4 – NORMALIZED OUR CHURCH EXPERIENCES FOR INTROVERTS
Let’s be honest. The local church experience has been biased toward extroverts for a long time. Unlike extroverts, introverts feel exhausted and drained after social engagements. Think about it. In the past, we have consistently created opportunities to connect that make the experience painfully exhausting for those who are more introverted.
However, we are entering a new season of connectivity with those who prefer to observe from a distance. For example, many of our connection groups are having first-time guests join their Zoom gatherings. There is such an ease to inviting people online, especially those who are more introverted.
#5 – REVEALED OUR SMALL TOWN CHURCH HAS A BIG REACH
Bigger is not better. Better is better. My church is in a small town. I realize that there are towns that are smaller than ours, but I am thankful for the sense of community we have maintained. Small town churches work very diligently to serve those in their community, and this global pandemic has created a new normal.
Online connections have helped our church realize the mobility of the gospel and a broader sense of community. Recently, we have seen ten times as many people connecting with us online. When I share with longtime trusted leaders in my church that tens of thousands of people, including people internationally located, are viewing our online content, it is an encouraging reminder of this new normal.
You don’t have to be a big church in a big community to have a significant impact on the lives of a non-local community of faith. The fact that the playing ground is now more equal among larger and smaller churches has caused me to feel more common ground with other pastors and churches. It is an excellent reminder that we all work for the same guy, Jesus Christ.