It's been touted on social media quite a bit (amidst the rumors, panic, and pictures of empty grocery stores) that many of humanity's great thinkers, creatives, and academics all had incredible breakthroughs during times of global pandemic or war.
I cannot help but wonder if there isn't opportunity for the church to enjoy some of the fruits of this global crisis. How can CoVID-19 mold us more into the likeness of Christ? How will it force us to change, adapt and better connect with our neighbors?
One of the practical implications for many of our Brethren Churches is a move to reaching our flock through technology. While some Brethren churches offered live streaming of their services prior to the outbreak, most did not. Even fewer offer other spiritual or devotional content throughout the week.
We've compiled a list of resources and things to consider in this strange time. Before we share that, might I offer a final thought:
We (the Church) have been heralding the end of the "45-minute sermon" for at least a decade. Culture has changed around us. We are more likely to watch a video on our phones than we are to sit and read our bibles. The Church can fight this (we've yet to win a culture war), or it can find new ways to meet people where they are.
I heard Andy Crouch speak last year, and one thing he spoke deeply stuck with me. "The Church changes its primary form of communication every time the world changes its primary form of communication. But usually quite a bit later". We have been a sermon-driven communicator for a long, long time. But the world is not. The printing press changed the church. Musical instruments changed the church. Amplification changed the church. And on and on. The world no longer communicates through long form speakers as its preferred way to spread ideas and shape lives. We might be smart to put our ears to the ground and listen to how the Spirit might be gently leading us into new ways of communicating.
OK. Here's the resources and considerations:
BIBLE BEFORE PHONE
If you (or your congregation) are picking up your phone/social media for information, connection and spiritual content, then social media and your phone are discipling you. This is a great time to aim ourselves and our people at scripture. What we consume disciples us. There are loads of resources to help with this.
• Create a PDF with a Bible reading plan, and then "meet up" on social media/facetime to chat about it.
• Use a series from The Bible Project. This stuff is awesome. Schedule a time to discuss it via video chat with your small group, or even with your whole church!
• Download The Bible app (there's even a kids version!)
STREAM LIKE A RIVER
It's never been easier to "go live". If you have a smartphone, you can do it. While your church can attempt to still "have services" and simply broadcast them into the world, it might be a good time to adapt.
Instead of preaching a 45-minute sermon, consider shortening it, and breaking it up into 5-7 chunks, delivering once each day via social media.
Need some help figuring out how? Here's some guides on how to Livestream your services (or from home!):
- How to Livestream Your Church Service: A Practical Guide
- How to Livestream Your Church Services for Free
- A Beginner's Guide to Church Live Streaming
Don't know anything about filming video? There's a couple of basics that will make your video look nice and professional, and help folks better focus on the content. Lighting, framing and audio. With a small smartphone tripod, an affordable microphone that plugs into your smartphone, and a well-positioned lamp or window, you can create really amazing content.
Here's a quick shooting guide on how to frame your video It works even for selfie-videos; the same principles apply.
BE A NON-ANXIOUS PRESENCE
We carry the peace of Christ with us. How can we best be a calming, reassuring presence to all those we come in contact with?
Can we pray with the grocer or banker who is still working during this time? Can lovingly check in with neighbors and family? How can we use this crisis to point to the anxiety-free lordship of Jesus Christ, who carries all our burdens and worries?
Please don't mistake non-anxious with carelessness. We must take prudent precautions against the spread of this disease. But we can do so without creating more panic and fear. We do not dismiss this very real concern as fake, or overblown, but rather calmly look for ways to usher in the peace of Christ in the midst of a world filled with fear.
CREATE RATHER THAN CONSUME
It's tempting right now to eat all of those quarantine snacks. It's also tempting to simply keep the TV on, stream those Disney+ movies, etc.
Consider ways that you can create in this time. What you can make? How can you serve? How can you reduce your consumption during this period?
What is COVID-19 teaching us about our habits, about how we comfort ourselves, about how we distract ourselves?
EMBRACE THE SLOW DOWN
Face it, folks, it's coming (in many ways, it already has). We are being forced to slow. it. down.
- Take a walk with each of your kids individually. Talk with them. Ask them about their feelings. About their dreams and hopes for the world.
- Sit in silence for 15 minutes and allow your mind to wander.
- Consider journaling your thoughts and prayers during this time.
- Make a phone call, like the ones we used to make before cell phones. Do you remember those? The calls where we'd pass the land-line telephone around the room so everyone in the family could talk to Grandma? Do that.
And for those of you in leadership in churches: Don't be the only place in town that tries to keep up appearances of normal. Cancel events. Work from home. Teach and model for your community what it means to have a sabbath, even when it's forced upon us.
Beyond the health implications of canceling gatherings (read: you should be canceled to protect from the spread of disease), the world is watching our witness. When we forgo our weekly meetings to take meals to school kids at home, to check in on the elderly, and to serve our community, it speaks volumes more than being open for an hour on Sunday morning and Wednesday night.
Interesting article with some helpful links for more information. But I question how we always seem to allow culture dictate style and deliver. (I'm thinking out loud here as I know I have done this very thing.) The Word of God was preached by Jesus and no, we don't know how long He taught at times but , length, does that so much matter as long as truth comes forth? Yes, "The mind can only absorb what the butt can withstand." As a Brethren Pastor, we are overwhelmed with ministry and how to effectively communicate the life giving Word to the church. Most of our churches in our Brethren Church denomination do not have the resources to do much of this multimedia thing. Yes, most have smartphones and yes, it is a platform to use. Live-streaming can also cause some to NOT come to church and be in fellowship during that time and "just stay home and watch on line." Yes, in the times we are in right now, we need to do what we can to "be the church." I just question how much a small church, bi-vocational can do when overwhelmed with work, family, and church. BTW I have only listened to one "Oh Yea of Middle Faith" podcast when in a car traveling one time. They are usually an hour or more long. Hmmmmmmm