Thursday, April 23, 2020

Pandemic Pedagogy

Things I have learned during the Season of Weirdness:

1 - We can change. The idea that the church is incapable of change is a myth. Suffice it to say that myth is thoroughly busted.

2 - It is all us. People are the church, not the building or the pastors or the staff or the membership roll or the budget or the policies, processes, and procedures. The church is us and there’s no them. Every congregation is now and forevermore a “multisite” congregation.

3 - Belonging is more important than believing. Non-essential beliefs, like non-essential activities, have faded into near obscurity. For the past six weeks, the church has been all and only about “God is with you no matter where you are” and “God is love” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” and other such foundational truths. Isn’t it interesting that in a time during which the term “essential” has become so prominent, the “essential” doctrines of the church have also?

4 - We need each other. The categorizing labels of the church are all but meaningless any more. The lines separating “Evangelical” and “Social Justice” and “Liturgical” and even “Conservative” and “Progressive” have become permeable. Individual people and congregations will still lean into a particular perspective, but those who lean into another are no longer demonized. We have seen just how interconnected we are, and it will change how we interact.

5 - Who we are is more important than what we do. It has been tricky to “do what we do” as the church, and working to figure all that out has given us pause to consider why we do all the stuff we do in the first place. Asking the “why” question leads us inevitably to finding out who we are. It peels away the layers of irrelevance and reminds us of what truly matters at the core of our identity.

I cannot help but think that the church will emerge from this “Season of Weirdness” in a better place. “Stay at home” orders that limit gathering sizes, define essential activities, and establish personal spacing minimums have compelled the church to do some deep self examination. I am hopeful that we will have learned a few things in the process.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Tech Support Evangelism

Evangelism these days looks more like tech support.

Helping people get connected with Jesus in a time of “stay at home orders” looks like helping people get internet access. Inviting people to church looks like “Liking” and “Sharing” social media posts or creating “Watch Parties.” Sharing the love of God with a neighbor looks like helping them create a Facebook profile or walking them through joining a Zoom meeting.

As the Easter Season continues, the call to share the abundant life of Christ with the world is a call to help those who may not be “tech savvy” become so. Buying someone an electronic device is the equivalent of driving them to church these days. Having reliable access to the internet is a social justice issue now more than ever. The skillset to navigate online content is a spiritual gift. 

One of the things we have done at Manchester UMC is divvy up our list of phone numbers among our Stephen Ministers, the entire database, and they have been calling each and every person connected to the church. For some, who are very well connected, these calls have been a really wonderful “extra” point of connection. For others, those who are not online, these phone calls have been a Godsend, the only way they have felt connected to the church at all.

So take a minute and ask yourself: Who do you know who needs some “tech support?” Who do you know who may be feeling disconnected right now? We are beginning our sixth week of a “stay at home order” in St. Louis County. Although there is some talk of a plan to relieve the order, it is likely it will not happen for quite some time. Who can you reach out to this week to get them connected to the life of the church, and thereby connected to the resurrection life of Jesus?

In the “Season of Weirdness,” evangelism looks like tech support. Our mission is to make a difference for Christ by transforming church and community, and a specific way each of us can “transform the church” is by helping others get online to get connected.