I’m going to assume that if you’re a pastor, you’re suddenly rethinking everything, too. How we do Sunday ministry, but also how we do midweek. Knowing that next week the advice might change.
And we’re doing it in a global context of barely controlled rising panic and undisguised fear.
You’ll already be all over this, I’m sure. You’ll have rethought what you need to teach, and how. How worship will happen. What to help people to pray, and how. Elbow bumps rather than handshakes. I hope you’re in a grouping of churches as sensible as the denomination I am in, those advice is exemplary.
So I want to suggest that in the blizzard of questions, the central principle of relationships in church must visibly remain central. Namely, the issue of love.
‘What is the most loving thing to do?’ must be our watchword. By which I mean not ‘What is nice?’, or even ‘What is kind?’, but ‘What will practically, relationally, build love?’
The global culture is telling us to self-isolate, so we have to work out how to love those who are shut in. And we must make sure that that isn’t degrading into fearfulness, or anxiety.
More: those who are most vulnerable are most likely to need support day to day anyway. So, we’re going to have to get the church acting out of love – doing the shopping, making a phone call.
They’re the weak ones we are told to treasure most.
More: those who are most elderly are the ones least able to take on a technology solution.
Let me spell that out. Like loads of churches, we’re looking hard, and quickly, at live streaming. It’s increasingly easy and affordable, and something which looked like a rather pretentious move six weeks ago, now looks like a sensible and caring act.
The most vulnerable age group is the one least likely to own a laptop, or even an iPad. I’m not being ageist here – honestly. I know lots of older folk who are webbed up. But I’m noting, as a son of an elderly father, that the move to online banking, which I find so helpful, leaves him less in control of his finances. As his great-grandchildren WhatsApp, he doesn’t overhear their conversations. As Christmas cards and letters turn into Christmas emails with a little video embedded, he misses out on the fun, and just gets fewer cards each year.
I think live-streaming services is obvious and easy. It is, and we’ll do it. Putting more of the resources for small groups or kids ministry online is obvious and easy. Heck, if we are in complete lockdown, you can do a one-to-one bible study via Skype. And, to be honest, many of those things just move us faster in a direction we were heading in anyway, and one that I like.
But think about that most vulnerable group. They’re the weak ones we are told to treasure most.
They are more likely to need a phone call than an email. They are more likely to need a phone number than an email address. They’re more likely to need their groceries done than have them delivered. If we move church onto a discussion stream on YouTube, they’re the ones who will miss the fellowship. While the cool kids play.
They’re the ones who will miss the fellowship. While the cool kids play.
So make a point of having the most vulnerable in mind, and ask ‘What’s the most loving thing to do?’
I’m keen to hear your answers, so pile in!