Just as most pastors and church board members were easing into a few Thanksgiving days of leisure and the anticipation of a “more normal Advent,” news of Omicron filled our feeds. The groans and exclamations—”Not again!”—could be heard everywhere. Certainly, it was the most common liturgical refrain of every church board we know.
After all the plans made and re-made and disrupted and re-made again, all the months of masking, all the social distancing, all the grudging acceptance of a “different way of being church,” we were thrown back on our heels just when it seemed we could start to plan again.
All of which suggests that it is time to stop the “planning and re-planning” of our life together using traditional markers. It is time to cease the longing backward glances at what was. In this unbalanced (again) moment, it is time to move forward into the needs and opportunities God is presenting to us.
This latest news presents us with a lot of both.
Take one need as a place to start. According to a recent Pew Research Report, most Americans say they have spent some time in the past year thinking about big questions like the meaning of life, whether there is any purpose to suffering, and why bad things happen to people. Nearly a quarter of U.S. adults (23%) say they have mulled over these topics “a lot.”
If that is the need, what is your church board’s opportunity? Could it be to find and talk to the people who are mulling ultimate questions “a lot?” They are in your congregation (and on your church board) and in your community. Get to know them and bring to your conversation with them the power, tenderness, and hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
And since we are in the season of Advent, which began as a season to consider the tilt and arc of our life as we prepare for the generosity of God’s judgment, how about discussing together—first as a church board, and then with new friends who are thinking about the meaning of life—the purpose (if any) of suffering, and why bad things happen.
Luke 21 is often used in Advent. It is about the end of time and Christ’s return. While this period may not be that apocalyptic, the groans we heard (and expressed) last weekend must be taken to acknowledge how much has changed in our lives and ministries. After talking about nations confused and the earth in distress, Luke writes: Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. (Luke 21:28)
Raise your heads.
Christ the redeemer is drawing near.
God rarely, if ever comes to us when we are looking back. God comes in times of tumult, need, wondering, cries for help, moments of distress, and out and out confusion. And in those moments, God lights a path forward.
It is time for our churches to introduce that God to our tumultuous, needy, wondering, distressed, and confused culture.
Is there a collective groan of frustration on your church board? Have you taken time to listen to that and interpret it to one another?
What are the needs of our culture in this moment? What are your opportunities?
What is the well-lit path God may be providing your ministry at this moment? What is the percentage of time your board spends discussing “back” instead of “forward” opportunities in your ministry?