Where do we go from here?
This is a reality of life: How we approach our challenges will directly affect the impact and influence that we will have in the future.
The past few years have certainly been marked by political unrest, a decline in moral accountability, the rise in racial/ethnic injustice and violence against women and our most vulnerable populations both at home and abroad. COVID-19 also revealed cracks in the church’s unity and has specifically challenged the ways in which leaders respond when things are outside of their control; when the comfort of normal is out of reach, when their physical, mental or emotional health is ailing; when the sheep scatter, and the flock does not respond to their local shepherd’s call to come back home.
Disciples of Jesus and church leaders can respond to the challenges that they fear in several ways. One response is to retreat or focus inward. That’s what the disciples did after Jesus’ resurrection. They locked themselves in a room because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders (John 20:19). Jesus responds to this fear multiple times by proclaiming a blessing of peace upon them. He also invited them to receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). Today, our fears can rise if we do not align with this camp or that one, if we don’t support the “correct” political party or candidate, if we don’t read the “right” theologians, affirm the “right” doctrine or follow the “right” pastors.
“Our fears present an opportunity to look beyond ourselves and see that the harvest is plentiful.”
Is sound doctrine and orthodoxy important to our Christian faith? Absolutely. Yet one of the things that has most ailed the American church over the past few years is the fear of loss of control in various camps, leading to manipulation, control, slander and division among God’s people. Our real fear is the inability to control other humans who have been created in God’s image to exercise dominion on this earth.
When the disciples feared the control that the Jewish leaders had over their lives, they hid. In response, Jesus said, “As my father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). Jesus presents them with an opportunity. Our challenges and fears present an opportunity to look beyond ourselves and see that the harvest is plentiful. When Jesus prayed to his father, he said, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15).
When I consider where the church is going, I do not want her to retreat, do what’s comfortable or return to business as usual. As someone who is deeply committed to the local church, I am invested in the people of God as a united body. I pray that the body of Christ continues to intentionally extend its reach beyond the local church building, for that is God’s mission and desire for us.
We are a “called out” people who are purposed to go into the world as Holy-Spirit-filled, sanctified people who actively proclaim and practice the leadership example of Jesus. This is the Lord’s will for us.