By Phil Young
Director of Missions, Knox County Association of Baptists
Last month I shared with you a quote from Tod Bolsinger regarding the rapidly changing culture we live in. Bolsinger writes, “The world in front of you is nothing like the world behind you.” Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world we live in. We have all made adjustments in our lives – some we like, some we don’t, and some we never dreamed possible.
As the time period extends, our thoughts and efforts are beginning to shift from “how do we get through this” to “how do we emerge out of this better and stronger.”
When we think of moving forward, consider the image of driving your car. Cars are equipped with both a rearview mirror and a windshield. Both serve a vital purpose. The rearview mirror is helpful for backing up, and also for seeing what is behind you (and possibly monitoring the behavior of your children in the back seat!) The windshield is what you look through to see where you are going. One is helpful for backing up, the other for going forward.
I want to encourage you to keep your focus on moving forward. What are we learning during this pandemic period that will enable us to be more intentional in living out God’s mission? As the cultural landscape continues to change, we can look back at where we were and long for the “good ‘ol days,” or we can take some important lessons with us to more effectively navigate the road ahead.
Consider some important lessons we are learning during this pandemic:
We can accomplish a lot together when we cooperate with one another. One thing I hope we carry forward with us is a spirit of cooperation, and not a spirit of competition. So much more can be done if we work together in a spirit of unity.
Find ways to meet the needs of others. The spirit of serving others in need has been strong. The church must continue to look beyond its walls and reach out to meet the needs of people in their communities. Moving forward, let’s “consider others more highly than we do ourselves.”
Stay in a constant learning curve. We have all learned new skills and techniques during this time – from live-streaming services, to video meetings, to online giving and shopping. While learning curves can be challenging, they are necessary to moving forward. Don’t wait for something like a pandemic to force you to learn new things — stay in a constant learning curve.
Relationships matter. During this pandemic, people all over the world have found new ways to connect — and for most of us, ways to “re-connect.” We have spent more time with our family and our neighbors (with proper social distancing of course!). We have been creative in finding ways to meet with our small groups from church. We have rediscovered the value of staying connected. Let’s not lose this — relationships are key in building the community of faith, in living out the grace of the gospel, and for sharing the gospel of grace.
The church is so much more than a building. We have certainly learned this valuable truth. While many of our buildings are closed, we have not stopped being the church. We have continued to worship, to disciple, to minister to one another, and to find ways to engage people in our communities. The church of the future will need to stay focused on being the church beyond the walls of our buildings.
Start-stop-sustain-simplify. This period of “forced change” is helping us evaluate what we do, and most importantly “why” we do it. Keep the analysis alive as you move forward. Constantly evaluate what, how, and why you do what you do. Ask these questions often:
- What are we not doing that we need to start;
- What are we currently doing that we need to stop;
- What are we currently doing that we need to sustain;
- What are we currently doing that we need to simplify.
These are just a few things we are learning that I hope we carry with us moving forward.
I don’t know if you have ever tried driving your car by only looking through your rearview mirror. While it may be fun for a brief moment, it is both inefficient and ineffective – not to mention extremely dangerous! It’s okay to take a quick glance back, but keep your focus forward on where God desires you to be. Remember, “the world in front of you looks nothing like the world behind you.”