Does the New Normal Offer a Hopeful Future?
Tim Day, National Director Waybase
“I don’t know who this is for today but you don’t need to order anything from Amazon.” I laughed when I read this social media post about six months ago.
For the last two years, we have been trying to figure out how to survive. I could have never guessed three years ago that virtually overnight Amazon and Skip the Dishes would become so indispensable to millions of Canadians.
To survive, people have known for a long time we need each other. This pandemic has forced us to embrace new approaches just to make it through.
But now what? Workplaces, shopping malls, sports leagues, movie theaters, vacation destinations, and yes, churches—are all trying to sort out, “where do we go from here?”
Is there a hopeful vision we can all gather around?
An expert in the Hebrew scriptures asked Jesus a very similar question. In Mark 12:28 we read,
“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’”
He could see people debating and disagreeing and he wanted to know God’s top priority. What better vision for people to gather around?
Maybe you are asking, “God, what vision can regather and re-energize the Church after a pandemic?”
WayBase, along with a team of researchers that included Flourishing Congregations Institute, just completed our 2022 national survey with 2,000+ Christian leaders from across the country participating. Check it out.
Not surprisingly, leaders right across the spectrum identified division and disunity as the number one challenge for the Church coming out of the pandemic. Health protocols and the decision regarding vaccination created debates and divisions in families, businesses, churches, and communities.
Surprisingly (at least to me), over 91% of leaders shared the same core value – they all wanted to protect people’s health. The division was not over the core value but about how to best practice that value. Do I support vaccinations and lockdowns to protect the health of people vulnerable to Covid? Or do I support staying open to help protect people’s mental, emotional, and economic wellbeing?
Jesus’ reply to the expert captures God’s timeless hopeful vision for the Church: to love God with our whole lives and love our neighbors as ourselves. No doubt, Christians all agree with Jesus’ commands but (and it is a big BUT) can we agree on how to practically live these commands?
I believe the experience of the pandemic has uncovered a vital truth. To truly live the commands of Jesus, we must sort out how we work together. This was Jesus' prayer in John 17:21, that his followers would be one. This is also Paul’s plea in Ephesians 4:1-6:
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Only as we work together as followers of Jesus can we sort out what his commands practically mean for us and our communities.
This spring, WayBase and a large number of ministries are rallying Christian pastors and leaders in cities to ask how we can now work together to serve our local communities. You can learn more and sign up at CityImpactTour.ca
As we gather, we have an opportunity to learn from these past two years. Can we refocus on Jesus’ core commands that unite us and then work to forge a new path together?
There are over 32,000 Christian churches and ministries in Canada. We have hundreds of thousands of volunteers. We steward $14 billion in total revenue.
Imagine if the new normal was the Church working together in new ways to demonstrate the love of God to our communities and world.
What We're Reading
Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices for a World Gone Mad
My reading recently has taken me more into the personal realm as opposed to the corporate, ecclesial dimension of flourishing. As leaders and influencers, if we are not flourishing in our personal journeys it is going to be very difficult for us to lead congregations toward a flourishing adventure. John Eldridge in his book Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices for a World Gone Mad (Thomas Nelson, 2020) recognizes flourishing on a personal level is being challenged by a madness that is “taking our lives hostage.” The combination of what he calls the “blistering pace of life,” and the deluge of media that consistently invades us with a “sort of mesmerizing digital spell” is in danger of wilting our souls and sucking our lives from us. Eldridge offers some simple, practical suggestions that are both accessible and sustainable for retrieving our lives from the tyranny of the digital age in which we live. By learning how to insert “pauses” (even one-minute pauses) into our day, by being kind to ourselves without feeling guilty, and by taking steps to “unplug” regularly, flourishing on a personal level becomes entirely feasible. Flourishing in any congregation or parish begins and is sustained at the personal level. For many of us, that may well begin by getting our lives back from a world gone mad.
Dr. Bill McAlpine is Professor Emeritus at Ambrose University
City Impact Tour
Together for greater impact.
Christian leaders across Canada are gathering this spring to catch a fresh vision for the Church and their city.
Join Christian leaders, networks, and ministries to see how you can make a greater impact for good in your city. Find out more
From the Trenches
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022 – 11 AM Central
Join us for our May From The Trenches event for Parish Leaders where we dive into topics around parish renewal with those leaders who are moving their parish from Maintenance to Mission. Register Here
Kingdom Coming: Pastor's Conference
May 5, 2022, 9:00 A.M. - 4:00 P.M. (MT)
Join other pastors, either in person or online, for this pastor’s conference.
The three sessions will look at:
considerations for the post-pandemic church
how servants of the King live and minister in these anxious, uncertain, complex times
the church’s gospel call to reconciliation