How is God working through this caronavirus pandemic? 3 observations from a local church

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Don’t get me wrong- the coronavirus pandemic is awful. It is awful on so many levels but in this post I want to share 3 observations where I have seen good things recently in the local church. The image above typifies how we might communicate. today. Not face to face but face to screen yet still in community. Church has always been mainly face to face – we now have to think differently. How we communicate today is the basis of how we can authentically live out being church in the future.

  1. People are becoming more self resourced in learning, worship an prayer. The up-skilling to connect digitally is amazing. We have built an online facebook community from about 13 to 52. A place where genuine prayer requests, support, encouragement and resources are being shared. It has been hard, but with help most who want to, are connected digitally to join online worship.
  2. New leaders are being raised up. The sudden need for a technically savvy team to enable any ‘church’ to happen after lockdown tended to be the younger age group. Just as we are all made uniquely different- I have seen a technical team come together with different gifts – not there just for their technical capabilities but seeing the emerging of ministries behind the tech – leadership of pastoral work, prayer support, leading online services, managing a tech team and tech strategy, and bible teaching online. My focus now is mentoring and walking alongside these new leaders so the church is resourced in the next generation of church lay leadership.
  3. Evangelism: I saw a cartoon saying that God didn’t shut every church building He actually opened one in every home. Friends and family are getting a glimpse of worship and teaching in a very non threatening and accessible way. Networks and relationships are being made through facebook and interest groups meaning that we can meet people who are normally at work or with families and whom we never normally see in a church building on a Sunday. These relationships can be expanded and developed further after lockdown is lifted as well as keeping digital connections going.

The question now is how do we organise ourselves as church to reach out and share Jesus with our community to make the most of both the digital and the non digital world once lockdown is over?

Everything we do has to be considered both digitally and non digitally to be relevant to this generation and the next. Questions such as

How much of our budget is spent on digital communications?

How many of our staff are trained in digitally? Is it in our job descriptions?

How might we run half of our events online and half in real life?

Can we continue to livestream worship services after lockdown?

How can we embrace all that is good with online children’s and youth work?

Can parishes get used to the idea that their minister is “present but absent” as they spend half their time ministering through text, online, blogging, witnessing on facebook?

If we go back to the way we were – we have missed a serious and important opportunity in history to reshape church with a new vision for the future. We need to gather (online), we need to pray , and seek the Lord’s direction for people and skills. The aim after lockdown is to be present digitally and none digitally and proclaim who Jesus is for a world that more than ever is seeking meaning and is so badly bruised.

In the meantime we all learn about another 10 digital skills a day adding to how we are enabled – including how to write this blog!

Have mercy Lord. Show us your way.

Jane Mitchell

April 22nd 2020

If you ideas about online church – please leave your comments and explore this in a conversation online so others can share in it.

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WORSHIP- Speak? Sing? Dance? Listen? Silence? Other……?

Worship from the heart joins inner reality with outward expression.”

This is  quote from Thompson M J  in her book “Soul Feast”.  

The blessing of having travelled a little and experienced Christian worship in different cultures is the breadth and diversity of worship – it is glorious!  I have experienced the colour, music and movement of Africans worshipping our Lord in the open air in beautiful lush countryside to hiding my white face and blond hair as I scuttled to an underground Christian community for street children in the suburbs of Beijing, China.  There they studied the scriptures and worshipped in song  –  but not too loudly as they had the windows closed and were in fear of being found by the police at any moment.  I’ve enjoyed the stillness and quiet of  Iona Abbey feeling the prayer and expectation prayer can bring for the glory of God in the isolated beauty of the landscape and I’ve joined in with loud expressive ‘pop’ culture festival worship like at “Soul Survivor” in the UK with thousands of young people lost in transforming  worship that changes lives –  bringing healing, forgiveness and love in our broken world.

So the question for this blog is

Why do Christians hang on to traditions of worship with such tiresome tenacity? 

This is a question anyone involved with church will ask.  Why don’t we celebrate what has been in the past and morph into new forms of worship as God guides and embrace this wonderful change?  (Million dollar question!)  As the world is getting smaller and God is mixing up the nations in travel, families and culture – are we fruitlessly resisting what he is doing along us thinking we know better?   We must keep the pews the Victorians put in!   We must keep our music in Latin!   MY view would be let’s celebrate it, treasure it and then be bold and try something new.  I can however see that these words would put the fear into the lives of many!

It is interesting that I have found that is equally valid for the young as well as the old.  and it can be directed at the young with their ‘form’ of worship  as much as the older generations. Why do we get into a mind set where because we have always done worship in this way –  that is how we should always continue to do it?   If we believe in

 

What is your choice:

speak

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dance

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draw

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Stillness and silence

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Was Jesus ever ill?

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We feel rubbish sometimes – we catch diseases, have accidents  – thinking about Jesus being both fully human and fully divine my question is –  was he ever ill?
 I’ve often wondered if Jesus was ever ill-  we do not hear about any times in the bible when he struggled having caught flu or tripped and broke his leg.  Was he more divine then and therefore free of any disease or did he enter this world so fully human it was inevitable that he was ill at times and we it was not simply recorded?  The gospels are biographies and biographies at this time were written telling of achievements and competence forming history  – for example of Caesar and therefore recording details about getting flu wouldn’t be recorded. The gospels are short factual accounts.  They do tell us Jesus was hungry at times, he took himself off into the desert and fasted, he moved around a lot and healed others of diseases.  We never hear that he was too unwell to get up one day and the healing and miracles paused whilst he got better over a few days.
I have been challenged this week on a course entitled “Knowing God”  with the speaker Jane Williams.  We have faith that seeks understanding.  It is not unfaithful to explore the reality of God in fact it is our job to discern the character of God so we can act accordingly. So going back to the question about was Jesus ever ill?   I had thought about this before and concluded that no-  he was God so he would not have any diseases just as he has no sin but my thinking has changed if we accept that the reality of Jesus was fully human.  If God kept bits of humanity from Jesus (such as illness) then what other bits did he keep from him and does this make him more divine that human?  Jesus accepted the sign of baptism –  the sign of the fall and renewal so it makes sense to me that Jesus the  Emmanuel  “God with us” caught flu and had down days too.  Sin is different. Jesus was without sin so he definitely was not fully human in that respect but living amongst us, getting his hands dirty and catching diseases is another question.
How does that affect anything?  Well, somehow it delves into the character of God –  of Jesus sharing  life with us humans in the depths of our illness and struggles knowing that in him new and restored life is created.  It throws out the challenge to celebrate being human in every way and at the same time being children of God and not hanker after being more of one than the other.   Mmmmm what do you think?
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Apologetics – what? What is the best apologetics course to run in a local church?

What is the best course to run in a local church context to equip Christians to be good apologists?

pexels-photo-273936.jpegI always thought apologetics was apologising for something until I got some way down the line in my Christian journey and discovered it meant:

presenting historical, reasoned and evidential bases for Christianity defending it against objections. 

 

It sill seems an odd name to me particularly as my wrong understanding that it means apologise is the exact opposite of what it actually means…  We don’t apologise for our faith –  we stand to defend it as truth!

It is a branch of Christian theology that offers a huge resource to help in the mission of the church today (and always has done) All Christians need to be heard loud and clear in a society that is blurring the edges of spiritual experience, and  in an “I’ll believe a mix of whatever I want to believe thank you very much”  mind set.

So my question for this blog is

What is the best course to run in a local church context to equip Christians to be good apologists?  

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Is there an apologetics course –  just like there is an explore Christianity course or a listening course?