Many Christians have understood the COVID-19 pandemic as a detriment to the Church in general and their local church families in particular. Indeed, the virus has caused upheaval on multiple levels. Some have experienced the death of friends and loved ones as a result of the illness, while others have battled significant health challenges overcoming personal bouts with a COVID infection. In the meantime, public services have been modified to virtual digital experiences, age level and education programs have been modified, worship attendance has dipped, and relationships have been strained as well-meaning Christians clash over different perceptions of Christian freedom and responsibility to others.
The natural response is to hope for a “return to normal” as soon as possible. However, uncertainty continues as to the timetable for such a return, with the variables of vaccine distribution and effectiveness, continued threats of COVID-19 spread, the possibility of new strains of the virus, and the like. Add to that the shifting political landscape, and it combines to tempt Christians to discouragement about the impact for their churches in the days to come.
In response, let me offer hope in the midst of these challenges. While COVID-19 has been disruptive, it has also opened doors to new opportunities for us as Christ followers, because it has highlighted the human need for life connection. For Christians and non-Christians alike, the pandemic has magnified the fact that “relationships are the main thing.” The good news is that the core of the Christian message is relational. My relationships with God, with other Christians, and with those who haven’t met Jesus yet are the centerpiece of a life of discipleship.
All else the Church does—worship services, classes, teaching gatherings, large group service opportunities—function best as supporting scaffolding to nurture those relationships. Church activities have never completely filled the need for relational connection, and even if church activities are limited, relational connection can continue. The essential DNA of Christian relational discipleship chains— “Paul-Barnabas-Timothy” connections—can be cultivated intentionally even in an environment where large gatherings are limited.
That’s where we at the Regional office might be of assistance to your local church. We are available to talk with leadership teams about ministry in the “post-COVID” reality, and we have resources to come alongside with relational discipleship training and Paul-Barnabas-Timothy (mentor-partner-apprentice) basics. Let us know if you’d like to talk more about how to build those relationships in your ministry context.
One thing is certain: the COVID pandemic has highlighted the need for relational connection and support, and the core of the Christian life is relational. That means the opportunity for intentional person to person disciple multiplication is greater than ever, as lonely, hurting, disconnected people seek answers to their heart longing for relationships. Don’t miss the “virus opportunity” to demonstrate God’s love and desire for connection: “So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (2 Corinthians 5:20, NLT)