Matthew 16:30 – But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
So much has changed in our society the last 18+ months. While we are finding more moments of near “normal” life, it we are honest, there are parts of life that still feel disjointed. Challenging. Unsure.
There is a continuum of comfortableness with where people remain with our current situation. This is just how things will be for now. While if often feels like we are becoming increasing inflexible with our personal feelings and positions about these things, I pray we can respect other people’s opinion. Often, I need to remind myself that my opinion will be different from others, and I need to respect their position if I hope they will respect mine.
In the last few weeks, many times people have commented how participation at churches is struggling. I’m confident there are a variety of reasons why this is happening. When I hear this, I am reminded that ministry is really a lot more than what happens inside a physical building. Ministry can happen in so many ways. I pray that we are taking advantage of these opportunities; especially right now.
Whether you are worshipping in person, online or not sure how to worship these days, the need for ministry within in our communities and world remains in strong demand. Ministry needs have not stopped or been completely put on hold. In fact, there maybe additional needs right now. Yet, those willing and who feel comfortable in serving has declined as well. We may soon find ourselves with huge, gapping holes of unmet needs because of not enough peoplepower and resources to accomplish these things.
This current window in time also provides us a unique and special opportunity to rethink what the church’s role is in our society right now. For decades, many churches have been stuck in a ministry model that yielded declining results. Yes, there are exceptions. But overall, fewer people are affiliating with a church or church family. Yet, people are still looking and searching for something beyond themselves. They just aren’t sure what it is.
We’re in a great and unique spot in history to think about potential ministry changes. People continue to need God, faith and the church; even if they aren’t always sure themselves. If they feel a need for something beyond themselves, they do not know where or how to start. They feel challenged in knowing how to begin learning about faith and where to do it.
Yet, I see the needs people have as only increasing. COVID has stretched us; sometimes for the good and sometimes in not such a positive way. Needs are up and the available population to help with these needs is often down.
It doesn’t look very positive for faith and the church right now.
But we can change the course. We have the opportunity to be a bright, shining light into someone’s day who only sees gloom and darkness. The way we serve those in need might look quite different than a couple years ago. I think it’s OK for Christians and the church to think of creative and new and unusual ways to be the hands and feet of God. As we do this, I pray we see 2021 ministry from a new perspective.
Here’s how ministry in 2021 might look:
- It’s dropping off a casserole or a food item picked up from the grocery store at a neighbor who is struggling right now.
- It’s offering to pick up and deliver home someone else’s kids so the parents can have a little break.
- It’s putting flowers in a canning jar and brightening up someone’s day.
- It’s calling someone different every day … just because.
- It’s paying for the kid in front of you at the checkout line … because you can.
- It’s sending a Culver’s (or another eating place) gift card to a family that is barely hanging on.
- It’s helping your neighbor with some big or little project or need they have.
- It’s greeting those you see with a big smile and a positive attitude.
- It’s filling in the gaps for someone who is feeling too stretched these days.
- It’s visiting your elderly neighbor simply because.
- It’s mowing someone’s lawn because you can.
I’m sure you can come up with a bunch of other ways that ministry can and should look like in 2021. Yes, we still should participate in worship and grab opportunities to safely be with other sisters and brothers in Christ. If we each did one random act of kindness today, imagine what a difference this would make. The person we helped just might feel encouraged to do this for someone else. This might be the only way someone else sees God today … and I pray we grasp each of those opportunities and make the most of them.
Too often, we think of ministry as repeating something that has been done “this way” for decades. But maybe it’s time for something new. Different. A shift in how we think about ministry. For when we do these things with humbleness, God sees this. Jesus said a desire to be “behind the scenes” is spot-on. It’s the ones who aren’t looking for recognition or acknowledgement that will be first; not the ones who tried to get all the recognition and honor.
We’re still in unchartered waters right now. The church is trying to figure out how to be relevant in today’s society. Some churches will figure this out. Some will not. BUT we all can do something that models and represents God to someone around us. And this may make all the difference in the world to that person.
How might you represent God to your neighbor today?
Now, go do it.
For the ability to represent God to someone else today, I am grateful.
Holy God – While things are somewhat more normal, there are many things that still feel very disjointed. Meanwhile, people still need the opportunity learn and discover who You are. May I find an opportunity to be Your hands and feet to someone else today. Amen.