Within the past year, many changes have been forced upon us. The church has been forced to be safer in regards to one another’s health due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For nearly three months (March-May), our church closed down in-person worship for the protection of our people while transitioning to an online-style of worship, bible study, and ministry.
In late May – early June, our church began to open back up slowly with in-person services beginning with Sunday morning worship. Slowly, we began adding services back – our mid-week Bible study on Wednesdays and Sunday School prior to Sunday morning worship. Our church has yet to return to Sunday evening worship due to the pandemic. Through all this, our church has pulled through, by the grace of God – to Him be the glory! He even allowed us to be a blessing to others throughout the beginning of the pandemic to provide meals for the first responders and many others in our community.
I’ve often heard the statement many times and from different people – “I’m just ready to get back to normal.” As much as I hate to consider it, what if this IS the new normal? What do we do now? I would like to challenge you to consider if “normal” is even worth returning to.
The first consideration I present to you is this: Was the church acting like and BEING the church prior to COVID-19? Don’t get me wrong when I say this, many programs are great, but sometimes (especially if we aren’t careful), the church gets so focused on activities and programs that they fail to remember the purpose behind it all – God and His Word. Pastors and churches have been challenged to return to the basics of “being” the church as many programs have been shut down, in-person services were halted, and other different challenges were presented to them. Programs are great in their own way, but pastors and churches have been forced to returning to the basics of prayer, preaching, and teaching in the most basic fashion. This is a GREAT thing! If the church is not focused on Christ, His Word, and reaching others through His Word, then the church is missing the mark. Speaking from experience, through COVID-19, I was forced to slow down, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I prayed and sought God while also speaking with other pastors who were facing the same things I was, and we came to the conclusion: “We’ve just got to study, preach, and teach the Word like we have never done before.” Because of COVID-19, God has grown my faith, my study, and my ministry by opening my eyes to His Word in ways I never could have imagined! Would this have happened if things were “normal?” Therefore, returning to normal may not be as good a thing as what we think it is.
Second, I wonder if “normal” is nothing more than a term or state of comfort. In many instances, congregations throughout the world were possibly some of the most comfortable people in life. We were living life, working our jobs, doing our everyday activities, going to church, hearing (or doing) preaching, etc. In our comfort, I’m afraid many people and churches, myself included, got into a rut. I would prepare a sermon throughout the week, visit my people, and try to reach the lost. “But those are not bad things to do preacher,” you may say. You would be right, but the fact is we get so used to doing things that we forget WHY we do those things. Because of the last year, and even today, we are reminded that we are frail human beings and we are not here forever. Recently, we have peaked at 400,000+ deaths due to the pandemic. I can’t help but wonder how many of those were prepared to stand before a righteous, just, and a holy God. I don’t want to be lulled to sleep in the comfort of normal and forget why I do what I do, and I don’t want my church to fall into that same trap. Instead of cursing the curse of COVID-19, why don’t we thank God for waking us up to reality – DEATH is a reality for all, and it pays to be ready to die. Life insurance, inheritances, etc. are all important things to consider, but knowing that we are forgiven by God and justified through faith in His son Jesus Christ, we can be ready to die. Not only can we be ready, but we can help share this reality with others – not because we have to or are told to by a pastor, teacher, preacher, etc. – but because of the reality of death.
Third, I see people coming out of nowhere DESIRING to be and do something for God. Prior to COVID-19, everyone was so busy with everyday life. After things were shut down, everyone was forced to slow down and face reality. God has blessed us in our area to see people who have a desire to, not just claim Christianity, but to BE a Christian by ministering to others, learning more about His Word, and loving one another now more than ever! People want to be with one another, feel the fellowship that can only come through the community of God, and share experiences to help one another through life. I can’t help but ponder if this desire would have risen in people’s hearts if everything remained “normal.”
After reflecting on these things, I honestly can’t say with all certainty that I want to see us return to “normal.” Why? Simply stated, God sometimes has to shake us up in order to wake us up to reality. We’re not here on this earth forever; therefore, if we claim the name of Christ and faith in Him, we should be able to rejoice in spite of all that is going on. For that, this pastor raises his hands to heaven and rejoices because of God’s marvelous works, even though they don’t seem to be “normal.”
Habakkuk 1:5 (KJV) Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days which ye will not believe, though it be told you.