My kids were playing with cardboard boxes and pretending they were boats. I wasn’t really paying attention, but afterwards, I saw that my six-year-old had written an intriguing statement on the side of one of the boxes.
“We need to make a ship before the storm!”
It struck me for two reasons. One, because it was an amazingly deep metaphorical statement for one so young. Two, I realised it was true.
As I mentioned in my last blog, An angel appeared at my door last night, I left my teaching career at beginning of the year to create an online church.
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the church’s adoption of online platforms. Extended periods of lockdown made it impossible for churches to meet in person and online the only option.
This has brought about some interesting side-effects.
What is church?
First, churches have been compelled to return to the foundational question of what it means to be the church.
Churches discovered that replicating the format of their in-person service did not have the same impact when viewed on a screen. At the same time, they began to explore the range of new opportunities online platforms offer.
The world has moved on
Second, churches are realising how much society has moved on around them and that it’s no longer an option to continue as they have been.
The question then becomes- what does it mean to be the church today?
A storm approaches
Which brings me back to what my six-year-old wrote on the side of the box. What I realised as I read his crayoned quote, was that a time is coming for our country, when it is going to very difficult to be the church.
More difficult than it already is.
I don’t pretend to know the details, but I imagine it will involve new restrictions, ageing congregations and divided opinions.
What I feel though, is that God has provided the church with a season of preparation for this coming storm.
We can’t afford to sit back and do nothing. We cannot scoff at efforts to innovate. A storm is coming and we need a ship.
An uncertain path
I have spoken to a number of pastors from all sorts of churches around the world, and there is a striking similarity in the problems they’re grabbling with.
No one, not even those considered to be the largest and leading churches have got it figured out. How should the church look today? How can we have church online? How do we reach people?
These are questions everyone is exploring.
My pastor put it well during a meeting we had this week. He said that he saw us trudging through long grass swinging a machete, with no clear path marked out ahead. But, that we were walking in the footsteps of the One who knows where all this was going.
We can no longer look to tried and tested programs to get us through. These are times for daily reliance on God and close fellowship with him.
Maybe that’s where we should have been all along.
Psalm 23 reminds us that when we go through the valley, it is there that we need to know God near. In these uncertain times we’re facing, let’s make our number one goal simply to draw nearer to God.
As we cling to God and each other, I suspect that we’ll not only see the storm out, but emerge as a church more united and more clearing reflecting the tantalising good news we’re called to share.
Tom Anderson is pioneering www.haventogether.com, an online church plant supported by his in-person church, Catalyst, Ipswich. He has a young, growing family and enjoys playing backyard sport. Tom is a keen long-distance runner, averaging 21km each day last year. He has worked as a teacher for eleven years and enjoys perfecting a flat white on his home espresso machine. Tom would welcome a visit for a coffee some time… or an online catch-up via Zoom. See the Haven Together website to get in touch.