The church must quit being neutral party and exhibit a pro-people bias
By Edward Buri
| July 17th 2021
Identity crisis has been one of the effects of Covid on the church. No single congregation has been pandemic-proof. Critical pandemic-related questions have been on the mind of every pastor and conversations in every church board: Who are we? What do we exist for? How do we ensure effectiveness and impact?
A further critical question has been, “How do we continue to exist?” This question of continuity is worthy of focus. Looking at it positively, the identity crossroad is a grand opportunity for the church to slither out of the old skin. The pre-pandemic church has many signs of tiredness. But now, like the old river that meets a sudden, sharp and long fall that rejuvenates it, the reflective church stands a refreshing chance.
Innovation is not foreign to Biblical characters. Even more, the biblical message targets to make over persons and communities. As the church ponders on its existence beyond the pandemic, here are some pillars to consider.
Innovate effective models: The pandemic has ambushed the church, thrusting it into a forced re-imagination. The needs of members have drastically changed. The spaces of worship have evolved, with many now preferring the once mocked “bedside Baptist” since worship at home is now officially legitimate.
Many pastors intend to grow online while many members are not in a hurry to return to in-person worship and fellowships. Since one characteristic of technology is continuous change, a techno-reliant church accepts to be continually changing as well. The pandemic then opens the Bible’s innovation-friendly chapter, freeing it from attitudes propagated by freezing forces that confuse its unchangeability with inadaptability.
Inject technology: Going forward, church effectiveness and reach will largely be a factor of technology. Technology makes possible numerous new ways of doing church. The pandemic has baptised many otherwise reluctant churches into the online ministry.
They should go beyond streaming services to being generators of unique content. Even rural congregations should not be left behind. Connected to this, with the increased use of technology, the church gets a chance to be an agent of techno-literacy as it trains its senior members on how to operate gadgets and access platforms so that none is left behind.
Intervene in the moral scene: During this pandemic, teenage sex and resultant pregnancies have escalated. This points to a national moral challenge. With this challenge comes a window for the church to package and propagate biblical values as a solution to this moral crisis.
While there are other moral agents in the community, the church stands out because it exists for that very purpose–creating safe relationships and positive behaviour. The pandemic swings an open door for the church to create healing spaces for people who have been broken by the immorality of the present.
Intensify ecumenism: Many denominations are products of conflict. They thus carry “feelings” that make it difficult for them to love one another. The downside of this denominational format is that it sets up inter-denominational jealousy and competition. Competition contradicts the law of love.
This chokes the possibilities present in a united church. In the pandemic, the church can achieve much more together than apart. Denominationalism splits and thins the strength of the church. Going forward, it is imperative that the church moves closer together if it is to win over the unity of darkness.
Interdisciplinary practice: Pope Francis described scientists as “the prophets of the present” for their commitment to use their capacities and abilities to preserve lives in a season of death. The value of science cannot be disputed. The temptation for the church to exalt itself as supreme above others is always high.
But God’s hand does not only move through religious spaces. It moves through laboratories, factories, classrooms, hospitals and other channels. This season makes it clear that for further impact, church ministry should effect an interdisciplinary approach.
Some praying pastors use the phrase, “It does not matter what the doctor says…” even when there are doctors in the congregation. The church should not isolate itself just as it must not elevate itself.
Intensify prophetic interruption: Cartels are shameless. The evil that drives them starves them of any sensitivity. They do not even respect a pandemic, hence Covid billionaires. When the hunter learns to shoot without missing, the bird must learn how to fly without perching. The church may have been speaking out lately but there’s a need to upgrade the prophetic voice from opinion-like statements to intense declarations.
The church cannot warm itself around a scandal fire. It must put it out, and the cartels and rogue leaders made uncomfortable. Individual Christians must be commissioned as scandal-extinguishers in their various corners. Acute darkness needs acute light–opacity will not do.
Involvement in the community: The church in recent times–especially going by the voices of representative bodies - has leaned towards political neutrality. This middle-stance is more out of the fear of being wrong and the possibility of falling out of favour with the State. But the boldness of the church is best inspired by assessing what is good for the people–the flock for which she is appointed shepherd.
The pandemic has hit the people; this is a great opportunity for the church to exhibit its pro-people bias. Neutrality may be safe, but it is not always right.
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