Before we get into this conversation, I want to be excruciatingly honest for a moment. For a while now, I’ve felt a bit ridiculous discussing “how to church” in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. I can’t shake the feeling that, while I’m sharing tips for connecting virtually or formatting our website or drafting a social media post, there are people putting their lives on the line to provide for us. There are people in the medical field who have to make impossible decisions every single day. There are people who are genuinely, completely alone. There are people who have to live in unsafe environments where they can’t escape. There are people so vulnerable, they don’t have a choice in how they are isolating. At times, I am overwhelmed by the guilt of my privilege–that my job as a Creative Director is to stay home, attend webinars about livestreams, edit videos, and figure out the best color scheme for our next sermon graphic. I know it’s so much more than that. I know that work for the good of our communities and for the Kingdom looks different for everyone, but I wanted to acknowledge that any of my input during this pandemic is skewed by all of the privilege I have, and I encourage you to read stories from those whose experiences differ from mine.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase “according to his ability” that is repeated several times throughout scripture. Whether in the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:15, the story of sharing possessions in Acts 4:32-35, or in the entire process of building the tabernacle outlined in Exodus 35 and 36, all of scripture points to a community of people expected to bring different skills, gifts, and purpose in times of need. The Bible is full of stories like this! I especially love the subtle remark in Acts 11:29-30 when, in the midst of a severe famine, Luke writes that the disciples “each…according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers and sisters who lived in Judea. They did this, sending it to the elders by means of Barnabas and Saul.” At this time in the story, the church has been scattered (a little bit like we are now) due to persecution. And though they are separated and in the middle of a crisis, the disciples themselves only act within their own capacity, reaching those they can, then trusting the ability of others to continue in the ways they are able, and so on.
Spend some time identifying those specific ways that you were made to reach those around you, metaphorically of course. What are those abilities for you? Maybe yours is a natural gift of bringing joy into any room (or video meeting). Maybe it’s cooking food and delivering it, safely, to neighbors. Maybe it’s how incredibly organized and precautious you are, and you can quickly and efficiently make trips to the store for those who are more vulnerable. Maybe you’re just really really really good at convincing people to take a break and rest a bit (please reach out to me if this is you). Our real life superheroes are bagging our groceries and saving lives at our hospitals and finding cures. And we are going to continue on, according to our abilities. We don’t need to change the core of who we are to love the people around us.
I’d like to give you some practical tools, because that’s what I do. Because this is my ability: I have the passion, gifts, and calling to help creatively make the gospel tangible. When I lead teams of artists in taking the spirit-led vision of our leaders and turning it into something concrete, I start with identifying the thing that needs to be fixed. I believe the foundation of being creative is solving problems in innovative ways. And I don’t know about how things are going for you, but for me, there have been a lot of opportunities for problem-solving lately. After identifying a problem, it’s time to take inspiration from the Five Senses to help get the juices flowing and start brainstorming. So if our problem right now is staying connected as a church while isolated and being the hands and feet of God without being able to actually use our hands and feet, how do we solve that? I’ve broken down some of the ways we’ve been making the gospel tangible specifically at North Circle Church by using the outline of the Five Senses. Hopefully these can help you start a process of identifying the ways you can solve the problems around you creatively, tangibly, and to the best of your ability.
We created encouraging device wallpapers so that our people could be reminded of the presence of God anytime they unlocked their phones, tablets, or computers—which we’re all doing a lot of right now.
We’re posting and reposting photos of how we’re loving those in our homes with the hashtag #NorthCircleStaysHome.
We love coffee here, so we’re making sure to support local and provide for our communities in this small way by brewing locally roasted coffee in our homes or buying gift cards for our friends, whether from Tinker, Indie Coffee Roasters, or Rivet Coffee.
We encouraged our North Circle Kids to make Resurrection Rolls along with us through this fun cooking video!
We are continuing to partner with Food Rescue in taking food donations from some incredible local businesses to families in our city.
We have always prioritized bringing meals and baked goods to those who live closest to us. We’ve seen our people deliver Easter bags full of candy, pans of cinnamon rolls, or ordering from a food delivery app for their neighbors.
We know that there’s so much screen time these days, so we encouraged our city during the week of Easter to print out our custom Westfield Egg Hunt Coloring Sheet and spend time as a family creating and problem solving on their own—without using any screens!
At North Circle, we used to begin every Sunday Gathering with a team huddle, a word of encouragement, and a fun hand-stack. We probably won’t be able to do that for a while, but we hope our people continue this tradition with the people (and pets) they have at home!
We’ve shared a playlist of joyful worship songs to encourage our people.
We also had a group video dance party with our kids (and older kids), and one of our leaders taught us groovy moves to some fun Disney songs!
Our At-Home Studies have included other forms of media, like this cover of Simplicity from one of our friends serving on the front lines at a hospital right now, or this spoken word from another friend to remind us to pray.
Church has always been about more than buildings and gatherings. We have to remember now that church is more than live streams. In making us in His image, the ultimate Creator gave us the opportunity to create with Him. And when you have the chance to create something out of nothing, or to solve a problem in not-so-obvious ways, the possibilities are endless. The ways we get to show the gospel to people right now could look different than they ever have before, and I’m so excited to see what this means for the church both currently and long into the future. I’m excited to see the ways God’s people will problem solve, create, and serve their communities each according to their abilities.