I’ve been writing a few articles about churches and life after lockdown. In them, I’ve included some potentially provocative comments about traditional midweek church ministries. Please don’t get me wrong on this. I’m not saying that you must never run these activities. I simply have a twofold point. The first is that a lot of the activities we have traditionally run may not find are as popular or in demand in the coming months. This will vary from place to place but currently, as with relaxation of the first lockdown, we are seeing a lot of ongoing anxiety. The data we have points to an end to lockdown being safe and reasonable at this stage, cases are falling, the vulnerable are being vaccinated but still there are a lot of people worried about an uptick in cases and scare stories are circulating.
Secondly, I argued that the activities that we put a lot of effort into pre-COVID were not the evangelism silver bullet we expected them to be. It’s not that people didn’t become Christians directly or indirectly through such activities its that other means of contact actually had a higher impact. There are as I mentioned other good reasons for doing these things. It’s just that pragmatically, and scripturally there is no requirement for us to do them. Indeed, once we’ve covered the gathering of God’s people there isn’t really much that we are required to do corporately as a local church. Given how people talk about some events that might surprise us but there is no requirement in Scripture for clubs and cafes for Sunday evening second services, for coffee after the service, for prayer meetings, summer festivals or even home groups. Again, that does not mean that we shouldn’t do any of those things, some may be more effective discipleship methods and some may be more enjoyable but we are free to do them or not to do them
And that is really the main point here. One of the things I heard from so many believers after the first lockdown kicked in was that they felt like a burden had been taken off of them, they had been busy, they were exhausted and they were not sure why they had been busy. Where had the pressure come from? How often did we hear people say “we cannot go back to that.” Yet experience tells us that the pressure to go back to the previous normal will be oh so subtly there only this time that pressure will fall on an even smaller group of volunteers because just as some church attendees sadly will not return after the pandemic so too, some people will not return to volunteering. Whatever the church and ministry may decide, they will have made their own personal decision that they cannot go back to that. Furthermore, we will have lost at least 18 months worth of time for recruiting and training new volunteers. If we don’t want to crush these small groups of volunteers then fresh thinking is needed.
That’s why it is good news to know that there is no compulsion to do these things. If we enjoy doing them, have the time and energy and can see benefits then by all means, let’s go for it but let’s not put people under legalistic burdens (overt or covert) to do them.
This frees us up to approach each week freshly, hopefully refreshed and reinvigorated and to see each week as an adventure and an opportunity to serve God wherever we are, to allow him to do new and unexpected things. It frees us up to focus on relationships instead of programmes. It frees us up to ask questions rather than just continuing with the same methods. Let’s not miss that opportunity.