Toward a Post-COVID Church — Part 1

There is a deconstruction taking place among many in Adventism, a questioning of one’s religious experience in search of meaning, authenticity, and relevance more than truthfulness. While COVID-19 has been significant in disrupting almost every aspect of our lives, it has proven to us that many of the very things we thought were definitive to Adventism are inconsequential. The post-COVID church needs to recognize change and embrace the task of remaining relevant and responsive to a society whose priorities and attitudes toward religion are shifting.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11219
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This: “For many of us in Adventism who are over the age of 25, the world into which we were born no longer exists anymore. The problem is not in change itself but becoming comfortable in our ignorance of what’s going on around us. The danger with Adventism is being out of touch, continuing to operate under outdated assumptions, developing products that no one consumes, speaking a language that no one understands, and answering questions that no one is asking. More than ever, the local church finds itself pressured to reinvent or sink into irrelevance. Long held traditions are being questioned, beliefs reframed in a quest for relevance or else the church risks being repulsive. Sacred cows need to be barbequed as we explore some areas in which a local church can reinvent itself to speak to a changing world.”

And, this: “While traditional program-centric churches may offer some spiritual connection and community, the full cost of operating this machinery and the exhaustion and burn out among officers often outweighs the benefits. Despite the overdose of presentations, many of us have become addicted to this never-ending round of learning, lessons, and studies, many of which are no different from religious entertainment. As our churches increasingly rely on packaged materials in the name of uniformity, Bible studies are reduced to a regurgitation of the same, shifting the focus of our faith to our beliefs rather than to the basis of our beliefs.”

My husband and I are considering accepting the role of health ministries leaders at our church. Admiral Ncube pulls together trends that we can use to attempt to create a ministry for a new era. I liked cooking schools, lectures, and stop smoking clinics. But, I think now is the time for experiential encounters to stimulate healthy habits. Less reliance on didactic teaching. Using Zoom for small groups. Church group hikes on unknown nature trails. Potlucks that feature a healthy recipe find and time to share. Parenting support groups. Possibly, 12 step groups. Bare-bones-gratitude prayer journals. Outings to farms to pick fruit.

My mind races with possibilities. In what post- COVID church efforts are you involved? How will you change your strategy?

Thanks Admiral Ncube.

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Carmen, I have a difficult time to imagine post-Covid life, let alone post-Covid church. That’s why I have a difficult time thinking about me being involved in my local future post-Covid church.

It will probably be a smaller local church with exhausted people caused by pandemic stress as we can see now. That’s why I am now involved in calling people, like you going for walks, sending e-mails or meeting in our church garden. I long for barbecues and meeting in person as we had in the past, without censoring who we will invite or to whom we will go. I long for going to art exhibitions as a local church with our atheist friends and colleagues again. Just enjoying being together in person. Art online is just not the same. I long for being together at the Lord’s table again. We don’t have the Lord’s Supper online because too much of the meaning would be lost.

I think this is the only thing I can say about the unknown future: At my local level, I see people being too exhausted for any programmes or any kind of long-time commitment. That’s why I will help that members and non-members can recharge themselves and I will provide a safe place for them.

Thank you, Admiral, for another fascinating article.

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Kate, I think you summarized the feelings of many people in my community, and there also people who hold a measure of anger that things are not already back to the pace and programming of 2015.

So, with those two deep views, things cannot be the same. Thank you for tracking many online conversations on Spectrum. Your observations help us all.

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I don’t know if it’s anger, sadness, or frustration. But I have an uncomfortable mixture of emotions toward the churches here who insisted on continuing the pace and programming of 2015, pandemic or not.

In a way, it’s been fascinating to read how some SDA congregations elsewhere have responded, particularly by moving online. In another very real way, it’s like “aw man, why couldn’t I be a part of that.”

One community idea I tried to pitch was raising donations and supplies for the local public schools. In the rural South, they’re badly underfunded, and the teachers and kids know it. I hoped to sell it as “These kids can’t exactly appreciate Scripture if they can’t read and write well in the first place,” but it didn’t really fly.

I also wanted a Zoom group for serious study of Scripture. No half-hour of singing, no pat answers from the quarterly, and no using Ellen White to shut down discussion. That REALLY didn’t fly.

Hey, thank you for doing that. At some point I felt nudged to send out texts and emails to people I hadn’t seen. Not many, just 3 or 4 during lunch, enough to personalize them without taking all hour. I figured it was silly, but I was stunned at how many people genuinely appreciated it. I’m sure they appreciate it from you as well.

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Anger, sadness, or frustration. Yes. I have found some wonderful online study groups. The Spirit is alive, and things will change. Amazing times.

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Admiral and Carmen, your comments are very much appreciated. We need to learn from the trials and hardships we have endured during the crisis of Coronavirus…These are four areas where the pandemic of Coronavirus has had an impact n my spiritual life:
1*.Greater understanding of my vulnerability.* I need to face my obstacles,own the hard things,admit my defeats, and embrace the unfolding story of my life, and open up to others.(James :1:1-27, Cor.6:11-13)
2…Trust in God. Looking for the hand of God in hardship is hard,. The truth in the God’s Word and a strong supportive communityhave kelped to point me towards God, (Psalms 18:2, Phil. 4:6)
3. Perspective is learned behavior. How do I choose to see God in the middle of a pandemic?
An important element in my perspective is choice. (ICor. 10:13 Romans 8:1)
4.Humility. When things have gotten more difficult and complicated I am not my best self.I need others around me and I need to grow and mature in my jouney with God through the ups and downs of life.
(James 4L10, Luke 14:11)
These four ideas or lessons I am working on…with God’s help!
.

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Sam, Your thoughts are very practical. Philosophizing only gets us so far. Three trees fell on my driveway this week. I’ve had other “obstacles” suddenly appear, as well. So, vulnerability, humility, trust in God, yes. " Perspective is a learned behavior." What do you mean by that? I’m intrigued.

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Carmen, Perspective for me means being in the realm of inate and learned, based on our context and values. Perspective is how I choose to see God, love Him, thank Him,and praise Him , without ceasing.
a powerful positive perspective – the ability to see the good in any circumstance.

Finding the good in every circumstance, looking for good instead of searching for the bad.

There are people who, no matter the circumstances, no matter what’s going on around them, see the world through a positive lens. We call them many things – dreamers, optimists, romantics, idealists, star-gazers. But no matter what we call them, most of us like being around them. They bring hope. They bring energy. They bring a sense of possibility that helps ignite our own sense of belief. We may give positive-perspective-holders a hard time, but when push comes to shove, we want them on our team.

Because we know what the people with powerful negative perspectives bring. Those people have never met an opportunity that they liked. They see all the cracks, the blemishes, the reasons why something can’t be done. People with a powerful negative perspective may tell you that they actually understand the weight of the situation, but oftentimes they ARE the weight in the situation!

In our current culture, negativity has somehow become synonymous with clear thinking and wisdom. Meanwhile, people with a positive outlook are considered naïve or willfully ignorant. And so folks that want to get ahead embrace the darkly cynical outlook that others have adopted, and then wonder why everyone has problems but so few people have ideas!

My friend, I assure you, you don’t want to have a powerful perspective that’s negative. You don’t want to be the person who dwells on what’s gone wrong, what is wrong, and what’s likely to go wrong. You don’t need those kind of thoughts in your head on a regular basis, and I’ll tell you why:

Because life provides enough challenges as it is. You don’t need to add to them.

Instead, you need to focus your energy and thinking on becoming a person with a powerful positive perspective. Look for the good. Believe the good. Find others who believe as you do and partner with them to make a difference. Because this much is true: the only people who get things done are the people who believe something can be done.

You said “My husband and I are considering accepting the role of health ministries leaders at our church. Admiral Ncube pulls together trends that we can use to attempt to create a ministry for a new era”
I hope that you accept this position and that both you and your husband will be able to create a dynamic and creative health ministries that meets persons at the point of their needs. If you go into this task with a positive perspective you will be following the advice that Apostle Paul gave to some of the leaders he trained in the city of Philippi:

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” (Phil. 4:8-9, MSG)

May God grant you the blessings you need.

I don’t know that it’s necessarily true, given that Church criticism, even constructive kind, can be associated with negativity.

If you are positive, I don’t think you would view criticism as necessarily negative. You may view it as viable feedback of something going wrong that needs to be fixed, or you can ignore it as invalid. But, association of criticism with negativity doesn’t help, especially if organization happens to clearly struggle with receiving, discussing, responding to, and appropriately accommodating criticism and feedback.

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Ardkey, your wise reponse is helpful to me. Going with our my gut instinct to defend myself from criticism can keep me from being able to gain valuable insight into possible flaws. If I can learn to accept and appreciate the constructive criticism I receive,I am given the opportunity to improve.
Thank you! …

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Ile, have you tried Ron Graybill’s e-mail list for online meetings? In this global age, I don’t want you to starve for lack of spiritual input. (@Carmen: Maybe you can help with the list?) Online capable brothers and sisters should not be left behind just because they belong to a non-spiritual local church.

In addition to that, maybe you find others in one of the online communities who start raising donations or supplies for local schools with you. People are church; wherever you go church goes. Your idea is not welcome at your local church, but maybe at other places. Spread your vision and follow the longings of your heart, even if it just starts with you and your small influence. Spirit promptings. Glad you listened.

edit: Isn’t it astonishing what influence a little post can have? Thank you so much for sending out your texts and e-mails to your people! Maybe you will never know how you influenced other people by what you wrote here. Or maybe someone will tell you that even the longings of your heart and your vision made them think or change.

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Relaying on membership counts is ineffective. Our local church has over 250 members on their books, with about 50 attending. If membership consisted of a true accounting, it would not look good on the annual report card. Numbers look good, but that is all it is.

Another area that should receive attention is the heavy reliance on senior members in attendance and in positions of leadership. Some churches have over 60% of their members over 65 years of age. Many of these soon to die small churches are still playing the organ, singing from the hymnal.

One post-Covid church of 500 member, now 40 attending, was given hour sermon on the 1844 and Mark of Beast. Afterward the pastor told me that this is the Advent message and if one does not like it, they should leave the church. I have not been back since to that church. By the way, office hours were 1 hour a week during Covid, with no local church outreach.

Kate, I got the address for the list. Thank you for that suggestion so much.

If I could hang up a sign with that reminder on every church building, I would. (And a box of donuts beneath each one, to make sure everyone came over and read it.)

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