It’s a Sunday afternoon. Most Sunday afternoons I get home from the church, right about this time (it’s 2:15pm), after preaching 3 messages. Today was the third Sunday I didn’t do that, because the message was recorded on Video, and played (and watched) online. This, as they say, is the “new normal” for churches. It is a strange new normal. Especially in that this is Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday and Easter (next Sunday) are really important “events” for pastors and churches. For all intents and purposes, they still are this year, but our celebration of them is entirely different. If you had asked me even two weeks ago if I thought we would be celebrating Palm Sunday and Easter online only, I would given an emphatic “no.” But here we are, our new normal.
I have to say, I am really grateful for our leadership and staff team. I feel that our team members have adapted to this very well, and—as the leader of this team—I’m super blessed. Though it has been a fair amount of work to get it all moving in a new direction. Additionally, I’m really interested in seeing how God uses these challenging circumstances to move His church out, into the new marketplace (which, in 2020, is not so new, at this point).
In Acts 8, God used trying circumstances to move the early church out of Jerusalem, and into Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts. Jesus had predicted this move in Acts 1:8. He promised that the Holy Spirit would fill and empower the Church, and that they would be witnesses in “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts.” But by Acts 8, the church was still in Jerusalem only. And it’s not like Acts 8 was only a few weeks after Acts 1. It is likely that Acts 8 was years after Acts 1. The church was stuck.
The earliest work I did in ‘ministry’ was helping the church I grew up in (which happens to be the church I now pastor) get content online. In 1996 and 1997 I helped the church build its very first website. At that time we started archiving my pastor’s audio messages online using Real Audio (some of you might remember that technology). In the (nearly) quarter century that has passed, I’m sad to say that a lot of churches still have a website that looks like it was made in 1996, and they didn’t—until recently—have much in the form of audio/video content on their broken and old site. But trying circumstances have changed that.
The trying circumstances of the early church (persecution, largely from Saul of Tarsus) pressured the church to move out, into the wide-open mission field they’d previously been called to and empowered for. And, if we can receive it, the trying circumstances of Covid-19 has pressured the church to move out into the wide-open mission field of the Internet; a place we should have been taking ground in all along.
Yes, the content that is being put out by a lot of churches is not (yet) highly produced. But at least the content is out there, and now we can get better and better at it. This is a good thing, and I am rejoicing in these trying circumstances, because I believe God is going to use this for His glory, and for the growth of His Kingdom!