The recent pandemic has interrupted church life. Pastors and church leaders quickly learned how to use social platforms like Facebook and Zoom. When the pandemic is over, will leaders return to what has worked in the past? Should they?
Some should not.
One reason is globalization. Throughout most communities in the United States, diversity is a necessity for sustaining a church. Mega churches mostly in the Southwest navigate diversity by assimilating Evangelical and Pentecostal traditions.
However, some leaders have publicly expressed regret that members do not have a more meaningful faith. Other churches circle the wagons and reinforce the traditions that have sustained them in the past, but they do it at the expense of discipling new people as the diversity in their community increases. Not wrestling with the growing diversity in their communities, leaders will either have empty buildings or disgruntled members from the empty buildings of closed congregations. In the end they will die or build an enclave without disciple makers.
The way forward is through courageous leadership with a conviction to embrace all people and the courage to talk about what unites us and what divides us. The divide is always greater when left to the imagination. It is also about believing that the pain expressed is real whether it happened yesterday or part of generational memory. Unresolved pain impacts the whole church. It reinforces a divide between ethnicities and mars church credibility.
During this season of stay at home worship, I have been able to visit many more churches than in pre-pandemic times. In Oakland, California, Pastors Kyle and Bernard bring together Anglo and Black cultures. Catherine Evans-Smith, an associate pastor from the UK, brings an international flavor to the church leadership. The result is a diverse church of Anglo, Asian, Black, and Latino.
Besides the diversity in ethnicity, people come from all walks of life, so they not only have a passion for telling people about Christ, they also stand up for racial equity in public safety, education, and the local economy. It is an emerging congregation, yet they can connect to social justice because their people are being forced to live it. Leadership walks with them in their homes and in the political process.
Jesus said, I am the way and the truth and the life. The beauty of being a part of the Reformed faith community is that the practice of being Christian is always looking back to scripture and reforming the practice to scripture. These are exciting times to stand up to the Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism and Elitism that label people and shut down the much needed complex conversations on the sin of racism.
If we believe Jesus is the way, I encourage all of us to live it. Repent, rebuke and exhort. Repent from how we act toward the other. Rebuke racist remarks by people and injustice in communities. Teach children the way in word and deed. And exhort us all to love our neighbor as ourselves. Hallelujah!