What questions are you asking these days? There are some questions that are common or even universal. When will we get back to normal? When can we quit wearing masks? When can we stop with all the social distancing? When can we begin to travel freely? We all have questions like these and that can be expected.
There are other questions that are common with church leaders these days. How long will it take for folks to feel comfortable coming back to weekly worship services in person? Will everyone come back? What do we do with our online services once the pandemic and restrictions end?
There are other questions that are equally common, but probably expressed less often publicly. Can we continue to meet budget if folks don’t come back? Am I cut out to pastor or lead a post-COVID church? What are we going to do if people don’t come back? Will we survive?
Over the recent months I’ve heard many of these questions asked as I’ve talked with church leaders across the country. There all reasonable questions for the season we find ourselves in.
I’ve been thinking about the other questions I’ve been asked over the years as I’ve worked with local congregations. How can we get our church to grow? How can we get more young families to attend our church? How can we improve our Sunday school program? (That one comes up more than you might imagine). How do we reach the people of our community? How can we successfully blend diverse worship styles or tastes? What can we do to reach the next generation? How can we find a young, energetic pastor with a family and 20 years of experience?
All these questions reminded me of Matthew 20:20-23. It’s a passage that’s filled with questions. The mother of James and John came to Jesus with request. Jesus asked her “what do you want?” Her request was that her two sons would receive the highest honors in the kingdom: to sit at the right and left of Jesus. I love Jesus’ response to her: “you have no idea what you’re asking!” Then He directs a question to James and John: “can you drink the cup I’m going to drink?” Their response showed their naivete’: “sure, why not?”
Of course, this little discussion led to quite the blow up among the disciples about who was going to be the greatest and why.
Here’s the point: there were better questions that could have been asked at that time! I wonder if the same isn’t true for us right now.
In John 5:19-20, when Jesus was getting push back for the things He was doing, He offered this response: “Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does…” Jesus couldn’t do anything on His own – He watched for what the Father was doing and did the same!
I’d like to propose a better question to ask in the weeks and months ahead as we continue to navigate through these strange times in which we find ourselves: What is the Father doing in our midst? What is God doing in our community and how do we join Him in that? Where is God working here and how do we give ourselves to that?
Jesus says that the Father is always working. He’s always ahead of us. Do we know what He’s doing? Do we recognize what He’s up to in our communities, in our neighborhoods and the places where we live, work and play? One of the keys to finding our way forward is discovering what God is already doing and giving our very lives to those efforts. It may look very different from the questions that we want to ask, but I believe it’s the right question for this time.
CGGC eNews—Vol. 15, No. 11