I don’t know how many folks reading this have ever listened to Jeff Foxworthy and his friend’s comedy routine. They have a talent for making the most normal parts of our life sound funny. Often when they shared some story, I could close my eyes and remember someone in my past saying or doing something similar. This of course makes their routine all the more palatable. In one instance, I can’t recall if it was Jeff Foxworthy or Bill Engvall, who spoke of older friends sitting around when a young pretty girl walked by. One of the men said, “if I was younger, I would so get together with her.” The speaker’s response was “No you wouldn’t, even when you were younger, a girl like her would not give you the time of day.” Sometimes our memory plays tricks on us and we end up with an inaccurate picture of how things really were.
It is along those lines that an article about looking forward to getting things back to normal in the church got my attention. Such thoughts are based on some suppositions. Among those suppositions are the thoughts, “normal was working before”; and “normal as we remember it, is an attainable goal.” Does “normal” still exist? I ask because a premise I read was: “it’s hard to go back to normal when normal no longer exists.”
There are things that make us yearn for what we refer to as the old normal. These in turn force us to face some uncomfortable questions.
(1) Our skill set was designed for the old normal. If that normal is no longer around, do we sit around pinning for it, or do we make adjustments for what lays ahead in the future?
(2) The past doesn’t make us panic like the future does. We seem to have inaccurate memories of the past which contribute to this. We minimize the negative moments and accentuate the positive. The past has nostalgia; the future has uncertainty. The future is unknown and out of our control. How we best cope with this is to learn from our past, not try to live in it.
(3) Our successes in the past make us motivated to preserve it. People thought trains would ruin business. Some thought cars were a fad not worth investing in. Taxi drivers sued cities for allowing Uber and Lyft to operate. The more successful we were in the past, the more motivated we are to believe the future will be the same.
We need to face something. COVID is something that can be categorized as a crisis. We have no way of knowing what the new “normal” will look like. Crisis is an accelerator. Things that may have taken years to become part of our normal may come on much faster. A difficult question I faced was “What if our current church attendance isn’t medical, but cultural?” Here is how this question plays out. COVID forced us to start streaming our services. We would have likely ended up streaming worship services in the future, but COVID moved our timetable forward. Is the attendance we are seeing now what might have happened once we started streaming services; it just got here faster? In speaking with other pastors, it is evident that some folks stay home and watch the streamed service because of COVID concerns. However, we also know some stay home now because they prefer watching a streamed service over attending church like in the past.
We can fight about this, cling to what was, or adjust to what is. One final question we can all ask ourselves is whether all we see in a COVID world is restrictions and hindrances that have us waiting to return to something we may never have again; or do we look for opportunities to continue to minister but in different ways? Are we using COVID as an excuse to do nothing or are we looking for alternative ways to continue to carry out God’s design for His church?
In the Great Commission, Jesus told us to teach others to follow all that He commanded us. Among those commands we are to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8); to love each other as He loved us (John 13:34); be devoted to one another (Romans 12:19); and encourage each other (1 Thessalonians 5:11); that is naming only a few. He didn’t tell us we could stop that because our sense of normal no longer exists. Jesus did not say, “Go make disciples, unless there is a pandemic”. Through history, there have been plagues, wars, pestilence. and persecution. The church continued to adapt to each new reality and moved ever forward. Let that be our normal.
Have a blessed month,
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Is now planned for the 5th Sunday in October, the 31st. We missed it last year, so you have had plenty of time to brush up on your favorite winning recipe!
Men's Breakfast Saturday