Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

A different-looking church

MUCH HAS BEEN made of how Easter this year was markedly different to any that has been celebrated since Jesus blew up the religious rulebook by rising from the dead. And there has also been a lot of talk about how life might change for the better once our current enforced “time out” is over.

All that remains to be seen, of course. Without wishing to be an Eeyore about things, I wonder how much we’re all really going to hold on to for long. Most of us have worn some pretty big ruts in the way we do things over the years. It’s going to take some serious intention not to default to our old ways.

But I take some encouragement from the original Easter story. The Jesus who emerged on the other side was the same but different in some significant ways, too (passing through walls, for instance). Perhaps as His body now, the church may come out on the other side of this coronavirus season the same but different too.

From my (limited) observations, I think that the church that emerges in the weeks to come might do well to emphasize three things.

Connection over busyness. One of the frequent positives of this season I hear from other Christians is that with less things on their to-do list, they are finding more time to devote to just being with God, and how enriching that has been. What if churches focused more on helping people live into Psalm 46:10 and “Be still am know that I am God”? Perhaps the emphasis of discipleship should shift from knowing and doing to being.

Connection over activities. Most of what I have heard isn’t that people are missing specific church programs, so much as the people they get to be with as a result of them. So maybe we need to think twice about just starting up all the same old things in the same old way. Of course, we’ll still need programs and structure and events—they are the process by which connections can happen. But they are only the skeleton, and as Ezekiel’s vision in chapter 37 of his book reminds us, we need the Spirit of God to breathe on old bones if they are to bring life forth. It’s possible to get so focused on the packaging that we forget the content is what matters most.

Connection over experience. Whether it’s FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, or talking to each other through windows (real ones, not Windows), we have spent hours with sometimes dodgy technology when we could have been watching slick movies. Why? Maybe we have put up with fuzzy audio, wobbly video, and cross-talk because we are more interested in being with those we love than being entertained in high-definition by strangers. So, yes, we want to be people of excellence in our presentations, but let’s remember that church services aren’t performances, they are about presence. Maybe dry ice and strobe lights aren’t that important after all.

Finally, I hope the church doesn’t come out wagging its finger in a scolding, “told you so” spirit. I’m struck how the risen Jesus had power over the grave, but He didn’t strut. In confident humility, He shared and showed His wounds.

Photo by Wolfgang Staudt on Foter.com/CC BY-NC

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