The Church is not a building.
This is not breaking news or new information, but it is more real in the Spring of 2020 than ever in recent history. Around the world, the Church is growing in places where there is not a physical building. In our western culture, we are viewed as a “real” church when we have a building or physical location. But now, here we are in 2020 not able to meet in our facilities.
More people are seeking answers about their existence, people are hurting, and the Church is shining the light of hope as bright as ever. More people are viewing services online than average attendance pre-shutdown. Pastors and church leaders are working more hours than ever during this crisis. Now, talk has begun about how we will go about reopening churches. How we will gather again once social distancing is behind us?
Church During a Crisis
Before this crisis, I and many others were skeptical of “online church.”
I may have said that wasn’t church. Some chose not to venture into online church because of their convictions. Their theology said, “We, the Church meet in person, gathered together, to worship or participate in sacraments.”
But now 10 weeks into COVID-1, we are all meeting online. During this crisis, the Church has continued to meet while not being allowed in our buildings.
We “go to church” in our living rooms.
We gather in small groups on Zoom.
So now, churches are all weighing the decision to reopen. This decision and pressure weigh on the church planter and the pastor of a giga-church equally. But just as there is not a cookie-cutter approach to multisite or church planting, the decision to reopen and the path taken may be different for each church.
Questions to Consider for Re-Opening Churches
Consider the following questions as you and your leaders discern and develop your plan to reopen:
- How does our theology inform our decisions about gathering?
- What is essential for us as the Church?
- When we meet, what is our purpose; to gather for worship or to unite with our friends?
- What do we need to do differently from the past?
- Are we talking about gathering to worship, or are we just talking about programming?
- We know some people will not come back immediately. How will we continue to connect with our online audience?
- How will we engage the online audience to be functioning members instead of an audience of numbers?
- How do we need to change our space to meet in this new paradigm?
- What steps do we need to take to be considerate of others as they join us?
The Right Timeline for Your Ministry
Part of the pressure that pastors are feeling is that some percentage of our communities are ready to open back up and shake hands as we did before. But, others need time and space.
Balancing the needs of people will not be easy. Weighing your decisions based on your beliefs is a good line to hold to. Consider everything from your gathering to your online services and discipleship pathways. If a solution does not fit within your theology and convictions, then throw that option aside.
There is a great harvest and revival ahead. We must be the Church and let our theology guide how we engage those that join us.
This may mean we need more members of the body to personally disciple their families and their neighbors in their homes and local communities. This may look different to a senior citizen who may not come back for 8-12 months, or a new believer who has never been to church. Yet, through it all, we the Church must remember the Church is not a building; we are the Church!