Reflections on the post-pandemic church
A little more than a year ago, the world was confronted with a global pandemic unlike any other in more than a century. There were many unknowns and uncertainties about how the virus would spread and affect people. It forced us to change the way we live, work, behave, and gather. We learned new terms such as “social distancing,” “herd immunity,” “super-spreader,” and “shelter-in-place.” We added practices to the life of the church such as quarantining, mask-wearing, disinfecting surfaces, sanitizing our hands, and learning to Zoom. Healthcare systems were strained, industries suffered, millions of jobs were terminated, and social unrest was heightened. Children were forced to attend classes online, families were isolated, and loved ones passed away.
Like so many others, the Church of the Nazarene has felt the impact of COVID-19 in significant ways. However, amid great challenges we are reminded again of the words of Jesus, “I will build my church” (Matt 16:18). Protestant reformer Theodore Beza once said, “It belongs to the church of God to receive blows rather than to inflict them—but, she is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.” Even as the Church received the blows of the virus, we have been reminded that God is faithful and the Church is resilient.
In light of these realities, the Board of General Superintendents has prayerfully reflected on the characteristics of a post-pandemic Church. While some things have clearly changed and will likely never be the same again, we also recognize things that were first perceived as obstacles, by God’s grace, have become opportunities and open doors for our mission to be refined and renewed. Whatever else may be true, this year has reaffirmed the eternal truth that the Church is not a building—the Church is a people. The Church is wherever the people of God are, individually and collectively.
The question has been raised regarding the Church’s “reengagement” in a post-pandemic world. We believe it is important to preface any discussion of reengagement by saying that while the pandemic may have restricted our gatherings, it has not “closed the Church.” We are not “reopening the Church” because the Church has not been closed in any sense. Indeed, the Church has creatively adapted in many ways to accomplish our mission of making Christlike disciples in the nations. The Holy Spirit has faithfully led our pastors, superintendents, mission leaders, and laity to innovation and adaption that have catapulted many Nazarene congregations to clarify their core values and ministries by looking beyond “traditional” ministries that are tied to physical buildings. What was first seen as disruptions have been turned into dispersions for the glory of God.
As COVID-19 restrictions are relaxing in various places, we believe the questions of reengagement pertain primarily to the koinonia of person-to-person worship, discipleship, and fellowship. The indicators for when to regather person-to-person activities should be based on a balance of the local church context, respective health department guidelines, and the directives of local legalities. When assessing how to regather in person-to-person worship, discipleship, and fellowship, the following considerations may serve as helpful guidelines rather than prescriptive approaches.
To view the rest of the letter from the Board of General Superintendents, click here.
For a video version of the message, click here.