As I talk with more and more pastors whose churches have regathered, I’m hearing some common themes about what their congregations are learning. Here are some of them:
- What’s been frivolous. Churches do a lot of “stuff” that doesn’t matter much – except that we’ve always done them that way. Now, we’re being pushed to focus on what matters.
- What’s been ineffective. If the ministry didn’t work prior to the COVID shutdown, I’m seeing more churches now willing to adjust it or end it. In some ways, this situation has forced us to speed up a slow death of some ineffective ministries.
- Whether or not we really understood New Testament fellowship. Fellowship used to be just eating a “fellowship meal” together. Now, it’s just being together because it’s good to be together—whether or not there’s food.
- Why worship wars are silly. We fight less about our preferences when we’ve missed being together. It’s just cool to hear singing voices again, even if we may not know the hymn or the chorus.
- Where our budgets have been out of whack. Many of us have been grateful for the faithful giving of God’s people, but many have also been forced to tighten our financial belts because of this crisis. Any tightening requires that we rein in spending and adjust a budget to make more sense.
- What it means to put others before ourselves (Phil 2:3). Here, I’m speaking specifically about wearing masks, maintaining social distance, etc. I don’t know anybody who likes this situation, but it’s right for us to think about others first.
- Why corporate worship matters. I realize many still are not comfortable returning to an indoor worship service, and I honor that decision. At the same time, we’ve realized the sweetness of God’s people gathering together, worshiping Him, expressing gratitude to Him, ignoring the insignificant things, holding each other accountable, and publicly worshiping our Creator and Redeemer. I suspect that worship was just routine for many of us prior to COVID.
- How much we miss the sound of kids in the church. If your church has regathered but hasn’t yet opened your children’s ministries, you know what I mean. Little ones might be rambunctious at times, but they bring fun and life into a building.
- How grateful we should be for the freedom to gather. All around the world, congregations stopped gathering during COVID. As the world returns to some sense of “normal,” though, many of our global brothers and sisters still can’t gather – but it’s not because of a virus. It’s because of persecution.
I’m sure you could add more to this list, and I invite you to do so via the comments. I end, though, with my fear – that the things we’re learning will be quickly forgotten when the routine is in place again. May God keep it from being so.