What assumptions might the COVID-19 pandemic be challenging us to rethink as we seek to be the church participating more fully in God’s mission?
I can think of a few.
- The assumption that all we need is the right program implemented well. We’re discovering that God is at work outside of our services, programs, and strategies and that being present with our neighbors might be more missionally churchy than we thought.
- The assumption that more is better. Many have measured church “success” in terms of having more and more people attending Sunday worship and participating in church educational opportunities, service projects, or other programs, but if God is to be found “out there” (as we’re discovering now that we can’t be in our facilities), then perhaps being missional is about following—and equipping others to follow—the Incarnate One who lived among and loved others unconditionally right where we live. Success would then be more about being faithful than about counting the people in our pews.
- The assumption that it’s all up to the professionals. As God’s people are discovering that God is at work in their neighbors and neighborhoods, they are also discovering that God is at work in them! Being missional means recognizing the Spirit at work, gifting, empowering, and using the priesthood of all believers. We know this! Now we have an opportunity to live it.
- The assumption that it’s about me. How often has church been all about me—meeting my needs, providing me with the religious goods and services I like and want (otherwise I’ll just go to the church down the street). Yet on so many levels, COVID-19 is revealing that we’re an interdependent species, made to be in community, in this together! And we’re experiencing a deeper community among our actual neighbors in smaller, more intimate gatherings. What if it’s not about us and we’re made and sent to be in community, practicing vulnerability, mutuality, reciprocity, and authentic relationship with those around us?
Other assumptions? How about assuming that it’s all about right beliefs or that the church can exist in some abstract way without being rooted in a place? If these and other assumptions are bubbling up for you, perhaps your assumption about being missional is being challenged, too!