There is no better time for a church to shine than when the world and its system is in crisis. Crisis exposes who we really are by our reaction to it. It also provides an opportunity for radical change; for times of crisis are typically the only times radical change is considered. This makes this event a prime time for a church to be a catalyst for people to turn to God as their hope.
What I want to lay out here are some of the ideas my church has had for adjusting to this never-seen-before-in-our-lifetimes crisis. Of course, this list is not exhaustive or anything. I’m sure churches everywhere are doing amazingly creative things. It’s just our ideas for how we can shine brighter than usual.
My church is made up of 2 networked house churches (that are a part of a bigger global network) with a total of 20 families in it. Although this situation is a different challenge for all of us, we’ve seen the advantages of doing church as a family (as we do) spring to life even further during this time.
Here are some of the things we’ve been thinking about…
Pay closer attention to health and wellness
Educate ourselves on the virus and how it spreads.
As Frank Viola put it recently…”Faith isn’t opposed to knowledge. It’s opposed to sight. It’s not opposed to wisdom. It’s opposed to worry. I believe in God’s protection. But I also wear a seat belt.”
In response to what the experts are saying and recommending, we’ve decided to break our church down further into little micro-groups of 3 or 4 families. We figured these micro-groups help us follow the social distancing recommendations not to be in large gatherings while providing balance with continued fellowship and support for each other.
Avoid depression and loneliness.
For some (especially introverts), the temptation to isolate may be there because the normal structure of church interaction isn’t supplied in a predictable schedule.
So with the formation of these micro-groups, we’re focusing on being intentional about regular interaction. This has required discussion, brainstorming and planning around when we’ll get together and what we’ll be doing. Without doing this, we figured days would likely go by quickly and the effects of increased isolation would kick in.
Also, we’re encouraging people to be honest with each other about their feelings and how they’re coping. We won’t know how and when to help each other if we don’t know what each other is going through.
Overall, our plan is for each micro-group to make it a point to be interacting with each other on an almost (if not) daily basis, at least virtually through phone or video. Each little touchpoint helps those who are more prone to depression.
Support a strong immune system.
This is always a good idea, but we’d like to use this opportunity to pay even more attention to how we take care of our bodies. We figure it will help to make a commitment to follow a stricter plan and schedule, especially for those who’s immune systems may not be as strong.
It’s wise to avoid “fake” food that has been processed like sugar, dairy, carbs, etc. My naturopath’s guidelines are only to eat things that “grow or had feet.” This is a difficult task, so you may have to ease into it a bit.
Also, up your time spent doing exercise. Exercise at least 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes at a time.
A Kingdom principle is that God requires human bodies to accomplish his will on earth as it is in heaven. This is a principle He will not violate. We cannot optimally serve the Kingdom if we’re sick and tired all the time. Therefore, we need to take responsibility to protect and care for those bodies.
Develop closer-knit relationships
We’re attempting to include each other more in regular activities. Our micro-groups can be together a little more often than usual since we have so much downtime and we’re not seeing as many people. We’re trying not to feel like each get-together needs to take up an entire day or evening. You can just have dinner together and go your separate ways. Consistency is just as important as longevity.
We’ve also tried to identify some activities that we would all enjoy doing together and trying to make those part of a regular routine – even if this is just short-term. For example, my micro-group loves to hike, so that will be a common activity for us. But it could be playing cards, watching uplifting movies, or whatever.
Spend more time with the Lord individually and as a household
We’re paying attention to the urge to fill more downtime with only additional entertainment – i.e. binge-watching our favorite streaming services. Not being legalistic about it (I will be watching some shows for sure), but we’re considering more time turning to the Lord, journaling more, working on the goals we have for development, and developing new goals if we don’t have any.
We’re thinking about mixing in spiritual content into our likely increasing entertainment time (for those that don’t already). There’s a ton of good online resources. For example, there’s The Bible Project on YouTube that gives people a much deeper understanding of what the Bible means in it’s cultural and historical context. I’m sure Facebook friends would have a ton of other great suggestions.
We could also choose a book or a podcast that the family will consume together and work their way through it on a daily basis. I’ve been listening to The Insurgence podcast that covers a lot of practical topics about what it means to live in the Kingdom of God.
We’re also attempting to spend more time turning to the Lord and being still. This might be the hardest of all the ideas here. Because we live in the most overcommunicating society in the history of the world, many people start to get the shakes after a couple minutes without stimulation. This event provides a great opportunity to use the time that was going to be spent on canceled activities on being still before the Lord and gaining perspective on life.
Care for the more vulnerable among us
Almost instantaneously, those who’s instincts (spiritual gifts of mercy, giving, and helps) are to care for the elderly and more vulnerable among us started developing and acting on a plan. They not only made sure these people were being communicated with regularly, but they developed a cooking and grocery delivery plan for specific individuals prone to more serious effects that need to stay quarantined away from public places where their chances of catching the virus would increase.
The #1 descriptor for the church in the New Testament is a family. Healthy families take care of one another.[3/26/20 Update: Here’s a specific idea along these lines that a reader shared]
“We reached out to our neighbors on our block, about 36 households, to let them know we’re here to help them out in any way. A couple of us walked the neighborhood and passed out little postcards and some of us are continuing to walk for exercise and reminding them that we are here.“
Support struggling churches in our network
Because of the form of our church, we have about zero expenses. When we do spend collective money, it’s directly tied to activities that establish or expand churches. There are no salaries to pay, no electric or heating bills to pay, etc. Because of this (and because we’re an American church), we have a surplus of funds. The reports from other churches we network with in other countries are that they are in more dire straights.
People are lacking in the basic necessities of life, even going without food. But, this is how a family works…
The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. (2 Corinthians 8:15)
So, we’re sending money. As a global family, we’ve got the responsibility to take care of each other for one purpose – grow the family of God.
Take care of each other
Each person has a responsibility to take extra good care of themselves and each other. God owns our bodies and we’ve been given dominion over them to use them for His purposes (building His family) in this temporary physical realm. This includes not only our individual responsibilities of our own selves, but also of each other. This is how a healthy church operates, and this time can be used for experiencing that even more deeply.
The world is watching.