Each morning as I walk our dog Louie I listen to a message. Recently I listened to four of my pastor friends from across the country; Brandon Grant of Rise City Church, Cody Walker of Hope City Church, Dave Pretlove of Life Church Reno and Mark Lee of VantagePoint Church. Each of them reminded me in their own characteristic way, why we need more churches, now more than ever. The church is hope.
I was given this topic – why we need more churches – before coronavirus (BCV). I intended to share my typical response, pointing to the book of Acts, quoting Tim Keller, referring to Stadia’s go-to list of reasons, among those compiled by Leadership Network, along with the seminal Pinetops Foundation report, The Great Opportunity, then refer to one of my mentors, Stadia’s Dr. Tom Jones’ book, where he tells the story of his home church. My “big close” would have been sharing more about my home church as an example of why we need more churches.
While all of that is true, it is not new, it’s all BCV. And the paramount importance of the church will continue long after coronavirus.
In this unprecedented season we find ourselves in, we need more churches for the same reasons we always have; the church is the body of Christ, the hope of the world. What the world needs now more than ever is hope and the embodiment of Jesus.
The way the church has pivoted these last couple weeks has been inspiring. Pastors and leaders are stepping up in powerful and innovative ways in response to the pandemic. Likewise, Stadia has proactively leaned into our digital and online church experience and is serving as a conduit for resources and convener for real time learning and sharing; we are committed to serving the church through coronavirus and beyond! The stories of how God is at work in and through our church partners are extraordinary. I am so proud of everyone who is responding with hope, being the church.
The church is made for this. Throughout history we have proactively met needs, spiritual and physical, and responded to challenges in caring and creative ways that embody Jesus’ good news, the Kingdom of God is at hand! Just as the early church was known for and grew through her care for the marginalized in heartbreaking times, the church today can be good news for a terrified and crashing world amid the coronavirus and beyond.
I pray the lessons we learn in and through this crisis long outlive it, prompting us to constantly embody Jesus through word and deed. Coronavirus is reminding us that the church has always been about more than Sunday. We’ve always taught discipleship, yet we’ve sometimes struggled to live it throughout the week. The prophetic Alan Hirsch who previously pointed out “The Forgotten Ways” and “Shaping of Things to Come,” recently noted, “If you want to learn how to play chess, you should start by removing your own queen. Once you’ve mastered the game without the most powerful piece, then put the queen back in and see how good you are! For the church, the Sunday service is our queen. We’ve been relying on it too much. Now that the queen has been taken off the board it’s time to rediscover what all the other pieces can do.” She may not be entirely out of play, but clearly our idol of large gatherings is demonstrating weakness.
The church gathers for connection and to physically serve as an act of worship. I already long for the presence of the Spirit I most often experience in the company of others. One takeaway that digital is demonstrating is that content is ubiquitous, connection and community are craved. Yet another lesson from Jesus’ incarnation, physical presence is a crucial aspect of the gospel. We need more churches in order to be with and for one another, as the Trinity is with and for us. Spiritually, physically, personifying the hope we both need and simultaneously have available to share. We need more churches to so that more of us can be the church, together for the Kingdom!