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Returning to Normal

If one were to take a poll of the heartfelt desires of those who follow Jesus, then one could be fairly sure that his reappearing would get the highest count.
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In past times (only a matter of a few months ago), the next most popular desire would have been hard to predict but in current times the outcome is likely to be more certain. It would probably be a desire to “return to normal.” It’s a natural thing. Normal gives us structure, it gives us routine, it disciplines our lives, it gives us a reset point—a place to reboot to (and from) when we freeze or crash, it gives us security. But, it doesn’t look like returning to normal will be like flicking a switch, it’ll be more of a cross fade, a transition or rather a series of transitions through various phases of “new normal,” whatever that means!

For us and our community the shape of those phases will be governed by a loving consideration of the various needs of our friends and brothers and sisters. Based on the evidence of the past few months we will cope with that well—God willing. We have surprised ourselves with our adaptability and “can do” attitude—surely this is not solely our doing, it’s evidence of the Lord at work in us. But beyond that, what more does the Lord want from us? If He is at work, and we all believe that He is, what is He telling us, what have we learned so far and how can the experience to date influence things going forward?

Reflecting on what has happened so far:

  • We have adapted, laying aside some of our traditional practices and, within the spirit of Christ, have sought to create something to maintain our collective worship, that works for all.
  • Within a short space of time we have learned to navigate a whole new channel of communication technology has forced upon us.
  • We have become better listeners and in turn more conscious of each other’s needs.
  • Barriers have come down.
  • Attendance has gone up, albeit in a different form.
  • Some old fences have come down, leading us to wonder why they were there in the first place.

All this has happened because we haven’t been allowed to gather in our buildings. The church is not the chairs, the table, the platform, the lectern, the curtains, the carpet, the rows, the circles, the sound system, we’ve been liberated from all that. The church is us, connecting with each other. We are the temple and God is the Master Builder. We’ve always said this, but now we are really experiencing it.

Some have asked: “where is God in all of this?” We are diligent in exploring the answer. We examine the Scriptures and match our findings with the events of the day. We stand in awe of God’s ability to bring the affairs of man to an abrupt stop. All of this tells us that God has a plan and that He is in control.

But, is that it? Is there more for us in all of this and are there lessons staring us in the face? When we return to normal will we take any learning from the traumatic experience we’ve encountered? Will we revert back to the old order and cease to be so flexible or will we maintain our adaptability, to ensure our collective worship works for all? Will we put the brakes on our pace to embrace new things or will we retain our agility to embrace new things that deliver real benefit to our collective service?

All of this tells us that God has a plan and that He is in control.

Will there be a legacy of listening and a raised consciousness of each other’s needs? Will the barriers that disappeared in a moment reappear as quickly as they disappeared? Will we simply “turn off” Zoom or will we move forward with it and be prepared to keep it on to preserve our rekindled connections and surge in attendance? Will we re-erect the fences that came down or will we further develop the bridges we have discovered? Will we go back to our buildings and resume “normal service” as if nothing ever happened or will we develop and grow from this whole experience recognizing that we are the building and the Builder is still very much on-site?

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