Every once in a while, it is a good thing to look into the mirror and check out what is changing with the person you’re looking at? As a church, it is also good to take a look at ourselves during this time when we have time. What does it mean for us when five of our prayer pillars, givers and leaders have passed away in the past few months? What does it mean when members lose their jobs, when relationships are strained, when we can’t ‘do church’ like we used to do church? What does it mean when our giving is down 63% this month, when less than half of our attendees are joining us for morning services, and when we don’t have events or activities to keep us busy? Who are we now?
Sometimes I wonder if I value community so much because it gives legitimacy to what we do. If heaven is going to be made up of people from every tribe and tongue and nation then getting a taste of that here and now feels a little bit like a heavenly stamp of approval for who we are and what we’re doing. But what is happening now when we don’t have a place to gather and hug? Who is following up on those on the fringes, on those isolated in care homes or their own homes? Who is picking up the phone and having those important conversations about needs, challenges, spiritual growth and questions?
A small group of volunteers is beginning to reach out through our new Barnabas ministry – if you know of individuals with specific needs contact the pastoral team and they’ll let our team know. Of course, if you have the gift of encouragement and would like to be part of a team designed to reach out and care then please let us know.
Individually, this is also a good time to evaluate the strength and health of our faith. Statistics say that evangelical Christians are no different at compartmentalizing their lives than anyone else. We resurrect our spiritual selves for our gatherings and then fade off into our other selves for the rest of the week. What does that mean when there’s no gathering? Statistics say evangelicals get divorced as much as unbelievers; they beat their wives at the same rate as their neighbours; they struggle with racism as much as others; the young people think cohabitation is okay in the same percentage rates as unchurched kids –
Ron Sider, in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical says “Whether the issue is marriage and sexuality or money and care for the poor, evangelicals are living scandalously unbiblical lives…” Who are these people who dare to look at us and say we’re lousy human beings? That what we say and sing is not showing up in how we live and love everyday in real life.
By now, the daily habits we’ve started to nurture are revealing something deeper about ourselves. Has our extra time been given to nurturing a deeper relationship with Jesus and his word or have we defaulted to binge watching our TV and surfing the net? I definitely struggle with this balance as endless zoom meetings fill up my computer screen. I am by nature a busy person and I can’t say that I’m less busy but what has scooped up the attention of my heart and mind? Every day, I see why I need the prayers and encouragement of the body to keep on keeping on.
I am exposed in ways I didn’t imagine. I realize that my distant mentor Pete Scazzero is right when he warns that “work for God that is not nourished by a deep interior life with God will eventually be contaminated by other things such as ego, power, needing approval of and from others, and buying into the wrong ideas of success and the mistaken belief that we can’t fail. When we work for God because of these things, our experience of the gospel often falls off center. We become “human doings” not “human beings.” Our experiential sense of worth and validation gradually shifts from God’s unconditional love for us in Christ to our works and performance. The joy of Christ gradually disappears. Our activity for God can only properly flow from a life with God.”
Covid 19 is a mirror to our heart. The protests against racism are a mirror to our heart. The inability for us to gather is a mirror to our heart. And in all we face, we must continue to hold firmly the reality that we are loved more than we could ask or imagine. Blessings. Pastor Jack