This article is an excerpt from “A Time for Courage,” by Matt Merold, which will appear in the July/August print and digital issues of Christian Standard. Matt’s encouragement for churches and church leaders to “hit PLAY” is particularly timely as we head into summer.
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By Matt Merold
Every church with which I’m acquainted pushed PAUSE at the start of the pandemic in hopes of hitting PLAY after the pandemic. Sadly, many have yet to hit PLAY.
Perhaps you’re still at a standstill. Here are three ideas that can help you take a courageous step into the unpredictable future.
1. Pastor people. You can never go wrong pastoring people. When the pandemic hit, the first thing our ministry team did was call everyone we could to pray for and encourage them. Do that! It’s simple. I’m sure you still have folks who have yet to return to a worship service. Let them know they are not forgotten. Give them a call and spur them on. Reengage the disengaged.
2. Love your neighbor. Like, your actual neighbor! It might be difficult to mobilize the masses to do large outreach events in the community. Our congregation and community just aren’t ready for that (at least not at the time this was written). Yet, I can equip and empower the congregation to love their neighbors through acts of service. Unleashing every individual and family to help meet the needs of their neighbors is not a stretch. Find their hurt and help to heal it.
3. Build up the big Sundays. During the pandemic we taught offline people to do church online, and now the reasons to stay home are greater than the reasons to attend church services.
Here’s the truth: church isn’t something you watch or even something you attend. Church is something you are. Christianity isn’t an alone thing, it’s a community thing. And when Christians are in community, they are the church. If you don’t believe me, study the word ekklēsia. It’s difficult to assemble while staying home. It’s also incredibly difficult to engage in corporate worship at home. I know, because during the shutdown, I tried.
There is power when God’s people get together as his church. Each of us knows that because we were disconnected for several months, and it was awful!
There need to be big Sundays on the calendar that produce a “had to be there” kind of feel. Those Sundays need to have a special feel . . . something like an Easter or Christmas service evokes. Whether it’s a powerful way to celebrate and honor American independence or our war veterans, or a great sermon series, create big Sundays people don’t want to miss.
The first series I preached after we reopened our doors for in-person worship was called “Summer Blockbusters.” The series used movie clips as a method to apply biblical principles, and the clips couldn’t be shown online due to copyright laws. If you wanted the full experience, you had to be there.
Matt Merold serves as lead pastor of Bethany Christian Church, with campuses in Washington and Vincennes, Indiana.