By Shannon Youell
Summer is here! Many folks have at least one vaccine and, increasingly, two; Provincial Health Orders are being incrementally relaxed, and people are just aching to get back to normal activities. Perhaps your church has already started meeting again, (in some provinces, such as BC where I am, we haven’t been able to have even limited church services until a few weeks ago), or you are just now experiencing an increase in the number of people who can congregate.
Whatever your current situation, I am hoping we are not so excited to finally see our brothers and sisters gathered for worship that we quickly forget everything we have been learning these past fifteen months about ourselves, our societal and church cultures, our mission beyond a Sunday service, our discipleship, and our gatherings.
So I draw us back to the question I asked last month:
“In what ways do we meet again?”
As much as I am looking forward to meeting in person again, I must also confess that some aspects of online is enticing, especially the aspect where I actually have a Sunday left to be present with family, friends and neighbours. For people involved in hosting, facilitating and ministering on Sundays there is often little time and energy leftover for just hanging out with whoever might be around.
I am a walker. I have walked and prayed in my neighbourhood for more than a decade, usually after work or in the early evenings when the days are longer, and I rarely met other people. With a one hour service online, my walks have often been in the middle of the day and what I observed was how many people are actually home and about the neighbourhood on a Sunday! It turns out the one day I may have more opportunities to meet people who don’t know Jesus is the same day I predominantly spend with other believers.
This has alerted me. Here are the ripening harvest fields, yet the harvesters are not in the fields but beautifully and meaningfully gathering together in a building. I will say again as I have previously: I am not advocating brothers and sisters in Christ cease gathering – I am simply asking the question through a missional lens: “in what ways do we meet again”. This is a rapidly growing conversation being engaged by pastors and denominational associations and, I pray, by all of us who are followers and co-labourers of Christ.
As I was writing this article, my inbox box reminded me of unread emails (I hope I’m not the only one who has those!) and one of them was a post from Carey Nieuwhof earlier this week on his blog. The title caught my attention, “5 Confessions of a Pastor about Online Church Attendance”. It caught my eye since I am in the mood for confessing. In the blog Carey confessed his own enjoyment of a more relaxed Sunday and also shared the same observation in his neighbourhood as had I. Hmmmm.
Read it HERE and let us know what you think; what worries you; what challenges you and what excites you; and where you see God at work amid the things that are shifting. In everything we’ve gone through and learned during this pandemic experience, what have you been learning about joining God on His mission of reconcilliation, redemption and restoration in the world he so loves?
Shannon is the CBWC Director of Church Planting (and passionate voice for churches growing towards missional communities). Drop her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to hear from you!