Rethinking the ways we engage in the mission
COVID-19 PERSPECTIVE: Jonathan Davis
Beale Memorial Baptist Church, Tappahannock, Virginia
The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have lasting impact not only on the economy but on the church. Many of the changes that we are putting in place now may impact the way we view ministry in the future, and many churches may emerge healthier than before the crisis. A crisis is an ideal time to focus on the things that really matter, and consider our true priorities as the body of Christ.
Like any pastor, I would be lying if I said I weren’t stressed. But I would also be lying If I said I weren’t strangely hope-filled.
The point here is to not radically rethink our mission (for this has always been to make disciples who make more disciples), but to rethink our ways of engaging in the mission. What if, for instance, we began to measure success based on the number of people we mobilized weekly on mission instead of the number of Sunday attendees or even the amount of money in our coffers? What if we moved from lecture and classroom-based discipleship to one-on-one relational discipleship? What if we detoxed from our addiction to come-to-us events, and began to think in more localized and incarnational ways regarding being church and spreading the gospel?
And what if when all this was over, we didn’t look back?
If you are a pastor or church leader, take heart and get creative. God’s Spirit has always led God’s people to creativity at key moments in history, and the moment we are in will possibly define existence for generations.
You may feel busier than ever making pivots in strategy during this time. I encourage you to take time for prayer and reflection with your leaders to consider how your church might function differently after the COVID-19 pandemic passes.
Under the Assyrian and Babylonian empires, God’s people lived in exile and were separated from their place of worship, their traditions and in many cases their own families and communities of origin. Many struggled to maintain devotion to God, to perform meaningful worship and to live out of their convictions instead of the prevailing culture.
For many in the church, today is perhaps our “exile-moment.” We are reminded daily that God does not reside in a building made of brick and mortar. We struggle to find connection and meaning with uprooted lives and routines. We are surrounded by idolatry—from people calling for the economy and financial stability over the lives of neighbors, to the embrace of hoarding scarce resources.
This is a moment for the church to shine, and for our faith to shape our own living. Loving God and loving neighbor has always been radical. However your church shifts, and however you remain faithful, don’t look back.
Read more COVID-19 Perspectives from pastors and church leaders.