We’ve been in awe over the last couple of weeks witnessing the extraordinary resilience, creativity, and faithfulness of pastors and lay leaders all across the U.S. and the world. It’s amazing to see how quickly we can interpret the circumstances and adapt when necessary. It reminds me of Esperanza Spalding’s Exposure album from 2017, in which she experimented with the dynamic of creativity and constraints by writing and recording an album from scratch in 77 hours. It seems our God-given creativity and imagination often emerges in the most condensed and challenging moments.
Our team is also very aware and sympathetic to the simple fact that this is really hard right now. Pastors and congregations are venturing into uncharted territory and are attending to the most vulnerable in our communities while simultaneously running experiments with worship, local mission, and discipleship. Please know that we see you, we are with you, and it would be our privilege to extend support however we can.
The numerous pastors we’ve been in touch with over the past two weeks have been proposing all sorts of faithful and creative approaches not only for dealing with the immediate challenges, but also for envisioning how the immense and accelerating cultural change taking place will have a long-term impact on ministry. There is of course a lot of uncertainty around all of this and therefore uncertainty about how to respond and initiate something in the present moment.
I’d like to suggest one simple metric – one basic criteria – that can help us navigate the growing complexity of ministry right now: Is more of our energy pushing out or pulling in? Over the next several weeks and months, will we steward most of our energy and resources trying to figure out how to get our congregations and communities to keep coming back to us via the web or other avenues? Or, will we also able to push ministry out to our congregations and communities with resources, ideas, and models of discernment for how they might be faithful in this moment? The most encouraging emails and public messaging I’m seeing from congregations these past few days revolves around questions like: What do you see the Spirit doing in your families and communities right now? What do you think God is up to at this moment in our culture? What ideas do you have for serving the community with Christ’s love right now? How can we help you keep in step with the Spirit, discern next steps, and navigate faithfully? How can we support you? What haven’t we thought of yet?
No doubt, congregations are necessarily having to figure out how to keep people connected, engaged in worship, and not isolated (especially among those who were already isolated and vulnerable). But if this is ALL we’re doing, I worry that we’ll eventually be crushed under the burden of technical fixes while also missing an extraordinary, adaptive opportunity. I imagine the pulling in / pushing out scale will tip back and forth quite a bit in the short term, but for the long term I’m excited to see how we will come up with new, creative ways to “push out,” to equip people to do ministry wherever they are, alongside the spirit that blows in unpredictable, holy ways.
In that Spirit, what are you seeing? What is God calling you to right now? How can we come alongside you?
Hope to see you at our Zoom webinar conversation, tomorrow, Wednesday, at 2:00 PM ET (https://zoom.us/j/106343103) when we’ll consider topics and questions like these. No registration required. Just click the link and join us!
But if you’re unable to join us, know that we thank God for you and your faithful leadership, especially in these extraordinary times.