Everything is different now, and that's okay.
In the last few months, a phrase cropped up in our house: In the beforetimes. It's a way of talking about things prior to the COVID shutdown. It's come up because those weeks in early 2020 are a bright, sharp line in many areas of our lives. In the beforetimes, Patrick worked in an office downtown. In the beforetimes, I pastored a church with 200 physically in worship. In the beforetimes, we often traveled for work or family.
Now, Patrick works from home and may for a long time. Now, talking about church means negotiating an in-person campus and a digital campus. Now, travel is just resuming, but home is still where we spend most of our time.
2020 brought massive changes and change always comes with grief. It was difficult not to see friends and family face to face. It was tiring to constantly learn new skills. It was frustrating to spend so much time in front of screens; to not do the things we love; to miss out on expected moments. But even difficult change can bring unexpected grace.
More time together was good for our family. The church needed to seriously engage the digital community ten years ago, and now we're facing that challenge. Video chat is now an additional way to connect with people far away, opening new doors for relationships with friends and family. And, if we were paying attention, 2020 asked us to identify what is really most important.
Working as a consultant, I learned how many churches have been avoiding the question of what is most important. The church of the 1850s and the 1950s is gone. The church of the 1980s and the 1990s is gone. In every generation, fruitful disciples have learned to set aside the ways of "doing church" that no longer work. They've learned to read the world around them and take up new means to reach people. They have done it, not simply for the sake of change and novelty, but because the message of Jesus Christ is eternal and eternally necessary.
Hebrews chapter 13 reminds us of what is most important, and its climax is this: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Jesus never changes. But people and the challenges they face do change. So, the church changes not its message but the way it proclaims the message. Church, we need to spend these first days together discerning how we are called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ right now. The post-2020 Grace in The Heights will undoubtedly be different than anything before, but our core will not change.
I ask you, Church, to grieve the parts of change that are sad and frustrating. Let God comfort you in your grief. But also join me in this prayer. Pray that our eyes will be open to the new blessings God has in store.
This month if you have a story of an unexpected blessing or are grateful for a change that happened during 2020, please send me your story. You can email written or video stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
. I look forward to hearing and sharing your stories in the future.
Grace and peace,