So much bold, imaginative, and tiring work has gone into the last few weeks, for pastors and church boards alike. It’s been a time full of “how on earth do we …?” questions. Those questions will keep coming, but the urgency of answering them all at once, and for the first time, may (blessedly) begin to wane.
And when that happens, pastors and church boards will wake up to a new set of questions about the future for our faith communities. At that point, it will be important to pause, slow down, and start by talking about the lens through which we are viewing that future.
To not talk about the lens – the assumptions and “givens” that will frame our decisions about what lies ahead – would be tragic. It would allow us to believe that what got us to yesterday, before the crisis, will get us to tomorrow, after the crisis. We can be pretty sure that will not work anymore, if it ever did.
Lots of lenses will compete for our attention:
Survival… (feel free to insert your list here)
But a different lens might help us to see that in all things (word, deed, organization, and communication), we should show that God loves the world more than God loves the church.
Making a priority of loving the world above all else puts us in good company with so many voices in scripture, including Philippians 2:
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
The church is God’s idea and God cares for the church. But scripture tells us that God loves the world more. In everything a congregation does from this moment of crisis on, that should be our lens.
For a practical example of loving the world more than the church, see this sample eight-week ministry strategy from Less Chaos. Less Noise, which wisely puts the External Column first, and the Internal Column second.
Which column is coming first in your checklists and church board agendas?
Be well and know that God loves you and your faith communities so much!