International (MNN) — Different branches of the global Church have responded to the coronavirus pandemic in different ways. But almost every part of the Body of Christ has the same question; what happens now? How do we go from lockdown to fostering community? How do we enact Christ’s love during a pandemic?
To help the Church make the transition from pandemic to normalcy, Barna recently published “Three Questions for Church Leaders to Ask Before Reopening.” We reached out to Ed Weaver of Spoken Worldwide, an organization that focuses on providing discipleship resources for orality-based learning, and asked him those questions.
“What are the local and government regulations currently in place in my church’s area, and how should I lead my congregation in light of these?”
Every part of the world can answer the first part of this question differently, but Weaver points out that many Christians are responding to the same regulations. Weaver says 90% of Spoken Worldwide’s partners have interstate travel restrictions, 65% have restrictive local travel, and nearly 55% have restricted public transport.
Fortunately for Spoken Worldwide, most of their groups only have between 10-15 people, keeping them under most crowd limitations still in place. Still, it’s enough to keep them pursuing new solutions to pandemic and lockdown conditions.
But leading a congregation means more than simply knowing the rules. “At the core of all this has to be the question of, ‘Okay. How am I compassionate toward the members of my small discussion group?’” Weaver says. “‘How do I lead them? How do I meet their needs?’”
Every community presents its own unique challenges. Some families face severe economic downturn; others have little to no access to food. Ask your neighbors what they need. Listen to their response. Show them Christlike compassion.
Once believers have these answers, they need to consider what they can do to help.
“If you look at the first-century church and specifically in the first couple of chapters of Acts, you see people gathering together and sharing what they have,” Weaver says. “One of the things we can be encouraging any of our churches, whether they’re here in the US or whether they’re abroad, is to be able to say, ‘What are the needs of my people and how am I meeting the needs of my people? … am I helping them solve what their real core felt need is and then be able to minister to them spiritually as well?’”
“How can I intentionally connect with my people—and encourage them to connect with others—without putting them at risk?”
Connection requires intentionality. And when it comes to local churches, Weaver says church leaders need to step up to the plate. It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the strife Christians face as individuals, but what about others?
“This is a great discipleship opportunity for all of us, not just in the developing world, but here in the United States is to say, ‘I’m leading somebody,’ you know. I think we all have heard this, ‘Somebody’s watching you and somebody’s following you, whether you know it or not.’”
True, face-to-face discipleship is off the table for many believers. But Weaver urges leaders to pursue intentional options to fill that now-vacant gap. Consider texting congregation members or believers you sit next to in the pew. Reach out via social media or give people a call.
“Certainly take care of yourself, but also be aware that you’re connected to people that you’re responsible for shepherding.”
Everyone needs encouragement at this time. Maybe you can help provide some of that relief.
“What has the pandemic revealed about my formation as a church leader and what opportunities are before me because of this?”
On one hand, Weaver believes the pandemic has unfortunately revealed that much of the Church is anxious, fearful, and even selfish. They may have struggled to trust God in all of this, focusing instead on protecting themselves according to their own limited power and resources.
On the other hand, this is an opportunity.
“He’s the one that’s going to get glorified in the endgame,” Weaver says. “I think this is a perfect opportunity for us to point to Scripture and just say ‘Okay, let’s take a deep breath, and let’s recognize that God is going to do something through this that is going to be good. It’ll be for His good and His glory. And we will be strengthened in our walk with Him as a result of it.’”
What about you? What has the pandemic revealed about you and your relationships with Jesus and the Church?
Weaver finishes with an urge to prayer and a reminder that the Body of Christ is a united Church.
“We’ve gotten reports from our teams in the field,” he says. “They’ve been so worried about us here in the United States, and the sickness and the death from the virus that they’ve been on their knees fasting and praying for us.
“Let’s pray for this virus to just ignite that into something more visible for all of us to realize that we are not alone, that we are not separate, that we are truly united in the Body of Christ .”
Header photo courtesy of Unsplash.