As we approach the one-year mark of when our lives were turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic, we could all name many things we’ve lost over the past year. Even in our congregational life, that list is long and worthy of lament.
But we are also approaching Good Friday and Easter when we are reminded that, in God’s story, out of death comes life! We have lost so much this year—but what have our churches gained, especially in our ability to love our neighbor? Here are a few things I’ve noticed with churches:
1. Our new technology allows us to share the gospel far and wide.
Encounter church in Kentwood, Michigan, saw its YouTube subscribers increase by 222% in 2020 and a recent campaign for their new campus received donations from four states outside of Michigan. Recently Encounter celebrated four adult baptisms, celebrated Covid-style with a small group of family and friends before sharing the recording with the congregation. Comunidad Cristiana Internacional CRC, a church plant in Wyoming, Michigan, broadcast its Spanish-speaking worship across Facebook. Their network of relationships grew to include people tuning in from South America. Now Pastor Robert is mentoring new church planters in these areas to start churches of their own.
2. Staying home more has given us new opportunities to know our neighbors.
Lynette, a member at River Terrace CRC in East Lansing, Michigan, participated in a Joining God in the Neighborhood cohort with Resonate in the fall of 2020. While spending more time at home than usual, she made an effort to step onto her front porch to wave at the new neighbors whenever she saw them outside. Over time, the young neighbor girl excitedly came over to show her the caterpillar she found, and then another neighborhood boy joined in the fun. Now, three households are developing a friendship together. “This happened just by being outside. I’m looking for these opportunities now," said Lynette.
3. We’re asking different questions.
Concerns I often hear from churches are: How do we keep young people from leaving the church? What time should our worship service be to make it accessible to unchurched people? How do we get more people to come to a worship service on Sunday mornings? How do we attract our neighbors to church? Now, I’m hearing churches asking new questions: What can our young people teach us about being a community of faith? How could we make better use of our church building seven days a week as a blessing in our neighborhood? How do we make discipleship available in a variety of ways, at a variety of times? How are we seeing where God is at work in our neighbor’s lives?
The hope of the resurrection is that God is doing a new thing—in us, in our churches, and in our world. How has God been shaping your community of faith over the past year to join in God’s mission?
Written by Amy Schenkel, Resonate's regional mission leader for the Great Lakes region.