For people of a certain age (and actually that’s probably any age over 22) change is uncomfortable. Many of us have established patterns in our local manifestation of church which could almost be classed as tribal traditions. It’s how we like to do things, and I’m not knocking that – I’ve been part of it for more than 60 years. In the past few days and weeks the world has changed, these are no longer things we do, they’re things we did.
Rather than lament what was, or even to simply seek to replicate it using technological means, I’d like to suggest that local church leaderships should grasp the opportunity to lay aside some tribal tradition, and to seek to find ways to be the church our Lord wants us to be, a united body under Him as head.
In the natural scramble to organise how we replace the things we can no longer do as a face to face activity, let’s give some thought to who the we is. For example, whilst our town would normally have a broadly evangelical service of worship organised in 15 different places every Sunday morning, is there any reason why we should not, unshackled from the constraint of buildings, meet together in a single virtual space? The bonus of this radical? move is that the technical arrangements can be made by those who are technically capable, and have the musical gifting to lead worship in the cloud – what a foretaste of glory divine that would be.
Other posts on this site will no doubt plot, for the uninitiated, the precise technological means by which we can do these things (for a head start just consult the 12 to 17 year olds in your circles), but I want to encourage you to lift up your heads to grasp a vision of the opportunities God has laid before us at this time. We are always concerned that no one has time in this day and age to study the word; pastoral care is often left to the few who can spare the time; the house bound, whether by age, infirmity or infant care, cannot easily join in; seekers can find it difficult to ‘infiltrate’ our cosy face to face meetings, or are scared off when they turn up to a room of less that two dozen earnest worshippers. Well we’re all experiencing the same conditions now – the slate is clean and we have a great opportunity to start afresh with activities which enable us to be church in a way which is relevant to the needs of the day.
As another example, for many of us the prayer and bible study meeting is a weekly affair, and has been for as long as we can remember – hands up those for whom it’s Thursday evening at 8pm. On Thursday our fellowship gathered at 8pm in a virtual room – it was the biggest prayer gathering we’ve had for 20 years (more about how we did it in another post), and one of the questions we asked ourselves is whether we go on with a single 1½ hour gathering each week, or whether, freed from the need to physically travel in order to gather, we arrange a completely new pattern for prayer – daily, at different times and for different periods, in sub-groups, by pair or triplet using smart phone technology (again, there’ll be other posts). We’re really excited that the prayer life of our fellowship, the engine room of the individual parts of His body, can be revolutionised.
Our town church leaders are currently continuing to meet weekly (in a large hall and observing safe protocols). This week we were reminded that in Christ we are called to be overcomers, and not undergoers. Standing on the Rock of our Salvation, whom shall we fear. Let’s grasp these opportunities in both, well washed, hands to the praise of His glory and the extension of His kingdom.
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Neil Walker is semi-retired and is an Elder in a small, fairly traditional, assembly