The Door is Open... Are You Ready to Step Out?

COVID has freed the church to BE again

by Scott Wellard

[4 minute read]

 

If you’re a Christian there’s a good chance you’ve experienced the “look”.  You know what I’m talking about. You’ve met someone new, perhaps at the school gates, your workplace or a new neighbour. You’ve started to connect, there’s a rush of excitement that comes with a new connection and the infinite possibilities, the excitement that comes from discovering commonality, but then it happens…

Some way or another it’s crept into the conversation, the fact you’re a “Christian” and despite the excitement felt moments earlier it's now replaced with a vacuum as all the oxygen is sucked from the space, and there it is…the look. Despite all the things you were just connecting on, they’ve now discovered you’re one of "them”.

 “Them,” those who have come before you, those who speak for you, those in the media or on social platforms, those who are very loud about what it is God “said” or is saying and what God stands for or doesn't…

I have spent much of my ministry helping churches to engage more effectively with their communities and one of the key elements is understanding the “Trust Deficit.” It’s simple, when we meet new people, we have to be prepared to pay the “trust deficit” for those who have come before us.

In the last few months it’s been my experience that “the look,” people’s apprehension and nervousness to be talking to a Christian, have become casualties of COVID.

As I write this, I’m in Liverpool UK and we’re still easing out of lockdown,* we are not yet back to normal but what I’m experiencing in the neighbourhood is an opportunity and I hope that you can recognise it too.

For months the people of the UK (and many other places in the world) were in a strict lockdown, stuck with themselves, confronted with their life choices and the situations they have created for themselves. Roles were blurred, people were now CEO’s and Parents in the same physical environment, the oxygen space in relationships created was now gone, proximity was creating an acceptance of reality, difficult things could not be avoided or escaped.

However, as lockdown dragged on, it became manageable, safe, reliable. People were on furlough (paid to stay at home), there wasn’t any uncertainty, it may have felt like ‘Groundhog Day’ but at least it was predictable. The world seemed to be going crazy but, in the safety of your house, you felt in control. Lockdown began to feel like a swaddle feels for a newborn baby, snug and secure.

But then lockdown ended or to be clearer “EASED” and let’s be honest what the heck does that actually mean? Nobody knows, it's changing every day, who can keep track?

Now the swaddle is gone, there’s no certainty, the support packages are ending, the redundancies are starting, the battle for employment has begun and the months of self-reflection have left us raw and unsettled and standing in an environment of great uncertainty. This looks to be the new normal for months to come. Uncertainty in an ever-changing environment.

But what of the revelations? What of the lockdown self-reflection or the clashing of relationships and roles? Lockdown ripped the band-aid away and wounds were opened, revelations of deep unsatisfaction with life and situation were reached. In this ever-changing environment of uncertainty what do people do with all of that? Do they cling to bad situations because they’re predictable? Do they bury things and move on? Is COVID the real danger or is the identity crisis amidst uncertainty the real pandemic?

In Liverpool the front door has been opened, we are venturing beyond the park and Tesco, where the excitement of new relationships and connections is returning, and the commonality has never been easier - we are all survivors. And now when the secret comes out that I’m a Christian and a Pastor, there’s been no “look” or “step back.” Instead we’ve experienced all new responses like, “I really need to talk to someone like you” (and these are not throwaway responses). Conversations have happened and they’re deep - deeper than they’ve been before. People are confused and lost and looking for something real, something life-giving. People are looking to wrestle with belief and something bigger because they are looking for HOPE.

There has never been a greater opportunity in my life than now. We may not be gathered but as we’re scattered we are still the church, and with the weight of large elaborate gatherings taken from us we can again BE THE CHURCH.

Our greatest role as the Church is to go into the world and allow people to be KNOWN, SEEN, HEARD and LOVED!

We have an opportunity to fill the vacuum created by COVID with the Prince of Peace – Don’t miss that opportunity!


* Editorial note: Accurate at time of drafting.