(This entry is part of an ongoing collection of blogs that examine the future of congregations post-COVID19. Each entry forms itself around a question looking for clarity or even answers.)
The Church has always kept its vitality because of its capacities to draw people into the realm of God’s love, and then to send them out to preach and live that Gospel. But as an institution, the Church has sometimes suffered from a one-sided attention to self-care. In that mindset, members help pastors operate congregations whose functions primarily benefit members. From a different viewpoint, members are equipped by the Church—and its clergy—to enter the world as messengers of God’s truth and bearers of that truth in every place they find themselves.
COVID19 may have radically upset the presumably ideal balance between those two points of view. Two hopeful, interjoined possibilities come to mind, though….
In spite of the duress of COVID’s hold on almost every facet of our lives, the people of God have spread into other contexts where they find purpose and meaning. Occupations, education, friendships, family, politics, service—these parts of daily existence have required greater attention because of COVID’s threat to destroy human enterprises. A dispersed Church continues to meet that challenge.
As this phenomenon occurs, the presumed assets of the Church—emotional, physical, financial, spiritual—are taken by Church members into the places where they find their primary calling. What used to “stay down at Church” is now disbursed in full measure to the worlds in which members find themselves. Whether as acknowledged representatives of congregations or not, the people of God grant to others what may not have been available pre-COVID.
Congregations as institutions may seem to suffer from these phenomena: Who will volunteer to make the Church work well? Over time, many of these dispersed disbursers will continue to reform their congregations to be vital for each other’s vocations. Members will return for sustenance!
And the Church will remain vital….
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