A global pandemic. Civil unrest. A society divided. A church struggling to find its place. These seismic shifts make us feel like we are on shaky ground. Our familiar church lives have been disrupted. Many of us don’t know when we will be able to participate in face-to-face worship again. Camps and conferences have been canceled. Sunday school and youth groups are meeting online, if at all. The routine elements of pastoral ministry such as meeting with parishioners in homes, hospitals, and the church office are different or nonexistent. Face-to-face board and committee meetings are not happening or are cautionary tales. How do we prepare a way forward when we don’t know exactly what to prepare for?
While right now the amount seems more than manageable, it is important to remember that change has always been with us. The North American twenty-first century church is not the church of the first century—nor the fifteenth, the eighteenth, nor even the twentieth. We are the “stewards of God’s mysteries” (1 Cor 4:1) for this time and this place. But regardless of the circumstances and changes we encounter, there are some biblical and theological certainties in which we can place our hope.
God will go with us into the unknown. From God’s promise to Abram to “go to a land
I will show you” to Jesus’ words that “I will be with you to the end of the age”, we know that whatever the landscape of the church looks like in the near or distant future, God will be there. This is a good time to remember that the words fear not appear over 150 times in the Bible. Even in the wilderness God provided, and can be trusted to do so again and again.
The body of Christ will not die. The Judeo-Christian tradition is based in communion with God and each other, beginning with Genesis where God declares that it is “not good to be alone”, to Revelation where it is prophesied that the nations will walk together in the New Jerusalem.
The true mission of the church will remain relevant. When Abram receives the invitation to be blessed by God it is not only for him individually, but for the legacy
of his progeny—by whom all the nations will blessed. Jesus echoes this love in John 3:16 and Matthew 28:19. Our hurting world needs the church to practice the healing balm found in passages like Matthew 5 and Matthew 25.
Be strong in the Lord. Hold on to your hope.
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