Ministry is weird.
It essentially boils down to being all things to all people “for the sake of the gospel” so that we can win them to eternal life in Jesus Christ.
That’s not a normal thing. Usually we’re told to be who we were created to be, never wavering, never changing. Be all we can be. Live our own truth.
And, as ministry leaders and ministers of the gospel, we’re to be flexible in our approaches. We’re guided by Scripture, yes, but we’re to flex and change as needed in order to reach the world for the Name of our Savior.
We’ve had to learn and adapt to each situation so that we can continue to grow.
For thousands of years, (side note - think about that: thousands; you are joining in on something that has been happening since the beginning of humankind), ministry has always been about people. Flesh and blood. Connecting people to the Lord. One to one.
And, in churches, the model we’ve been using for 2000 years has been one based on physical presence. Connecting with people face-to-face, shaking a hand, giving a hug. Small groups IN a house. Gatherings of many people to sing and learn together. All of those things.
Looking at a person face-to-face automatically allows you to read body language and subtle changes in communication. It allows you to truly talk.
Think about some of the language preachers and worship leaders use during worship gatherings:
“I can feel God in this place.”
“Holy Spirit, be here.”
“Look around you. That is a person Jesus loves.”
That sort of thing. A physical place, with a “physical” presence.
And now, we don’t have physical places. At least, seemingly still not for a little bit.
Transition plans are in place to work our way back into physical church spaces, but it’s looking more and more likely that we’re still in an extended time of social distancing.
That scares a LOT of pastors and church leaders. They’re afraid that the last 9 weeks of online church has made people complacent, unable to truly connect with their faith. They’re afraid that our online transition has made it so that people don’t know what to do in church anymore.
But this is a chance for Church Online to shine.
To leave an indelible, eternal mark on ministry practices.
We can teach our physical churches ONE BIG THING.
You can teach your church that the person on that screen that you’ve been watching or typing to or having meetings over Zoom with is an actual, physical, real-life, flesh-and-blood person.
It’s not a disconnected name or profile pic. It’s a person, with a family, wants, needs, desires. A person that needs to know and grow in their relationship with Jesus.
And that actual people are worthy of all of our ministry efforts. Online church included.
See, we’ve been conditioned to think that people on screens don’t exist.
Think about TV for a second. Normally, you sit in a room, passively watching things, not really engaging or interacting. Comedies have those awful laugh tracks. Hospital dramas have lots of good-looking people throwing weird acronyms at each other.
We innately feel distance between us and the character.
It’s one of the reasons I believe that The Office was such a hit.
Outside of being my favorite series of all-time, it was a show that broke a lot of rules. The documentary-style shooting brought us into the story. We lived with those characters.
People truly thought that Jim and Pam were married in real life. To each other.
We were brought into that show in a way that we can actually borrow for our church.
The biggest thing we can take away from all of this is the understanding that the person you’re seeing on that screen, or that avatar you’re chatting with, or that profile that you’re DM’ing back and forth with is an actual person.
We need to be brought into their story to be effective ministers. And we need to bring them into the story of salvation that is written in the Bible.
Online church can be a portal into lives in a way that physical church can’t. It can be a way to carry around community or groups literally in your pocket. It can be a way to transform the world for the sake of the gospel in the instant that it takes for Face ID to unlock your iPhone (yes, even with a mask on).
Online church is a way to bring others into this great salvation story, to break down the walls of digital connection a little bit more, to de-mystify the “screen,” and to truly transform what church looks like going forward.
Dream big during this time. Don’t stop at just status quo for your ministries. Truly connect with people, and let them know that a screen is not a barrier to the entry in the Kingdom.