Should Church Buildings Ever Open Again?
Our world has changed radically. We are in a Kairos Moment, a crisis, a liminal time. It’s an off-balance and creative moment, a disruptive and devasting moment. But in the midst of our brokenness and sadness we also carry hope, the hope for a different kind of Church, a different kind of leadership. The hope of a Church unleashed and a Church as Jesus intended it to be.
This new context is one of stress, uncertainty and anxiety – replacing for many the sense of being comfortable and secure, of being in control of life… This was always an illusion but now we have a new, unmasked reality as this pandemic creates relational stress, economic uncertainty, political unknowns and emotional anxiety – but also greater spiritual openness…
A principle of spiritual renewal is that it always follows periods of crisis, change, and transition, and I believe that this moment of transition and change could provide a catalyst for it to happen again – for personal and corporate renewal. But we will not experience this by following the same patterns of life and ministry that failed to deliver renewal in the past. No, we need to be interrupted and have our patterns halted. Selah….
No one is enjoying what is happening and none would have chosen it for 2020 but if we don’t back away or resist, what might God do? Renewal always comes when we align ourselves with His timetable and now is a chance and time unlike any other to do this. So we need to lean into this time of transition, primarily through surrender, a response that says, ‘I want to know what You are doing more than all the things I think I should do.’
So let me explore three opportunities that I believe COVID-19 has given the Church.
The opportunity to pray like never before.
So often we are so busy doing that we don’t stop to simply pray.
What if in this season of fewer meetings, less setting up and packing down, less driving and less activity, we spent more time in prayer? To lament and praise, to weep and laugh, to retreat so we can advance?
In this season, deepening the work that God does in my life will be the key to what God wants to do through my life. We need to live in and from the presence of God if we are to exercise greater spiritual authority to build and extend the Kingdom. Now is the moment to establish rhythms and practices of discipleship around the dimensions of firstly looking up, then working within and finally going out.
The Opportunity to be the Church.
With our buildings closed, we are having to ‘be’ Church in our homes and neighbourhoods.
Instead of going to music practice, men’s group, women’s group, toddler group, seniors’ group, craft group – and all the other groups we can’t go to anymore! – we can connect with neighbours and find out what they love doing whilst planting the seeds of the gospel.
What if after this crisis, we break the model of Sunday-centric attractional church and don’t focus all of our attention on providing this event but scatter ourselves across the villages, towns, and cities. What if we permeate every corner, discovering where our imaginative God is already at work and partnering with Him there!
Already I know of many stories of Christians who have seized this opportunity to be the Church rather than simply attend it, from making up hampers for neighbours, to giving store workers hand written thank you cards and boxes of chocolates, to praying with those who are anxious.
The Opportunity to Innovate
The churches that are growing are those where there is less emphasis on gathering, and more emphasis on making disciples, who in turn make more disciples – rather like what Jesus modelled in the Bible!
The churches in Iran, China and Indonesia are just some that serve as incredible examples of this.
What if at the end of this pandemic we actually chose to keep our buildings closed on some Sundays? I’m not saying we should, but simply asking what if we did? What if we had found a more effective way to do church during this season? What if when we reopened our buildings, they were completely repurposed to reflect a new – or maybe old (think Jesus and His disciples) – revelation?
A church that embraces the fivefold ministry mindset, not just in individuals but as a community, one where we are all apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoring and teaching.
Everything has changed in recent weeks… including for the Church.
Should it mean change for our buildings too?