2020 is looking to be a year where we cry out, “How long?” How long? is a theme that returns again and again throughout scripture. This iteration has two components: physical and political. The components operate separately, but together are wreaking havoc on the US (and the world). “One nation, under God, indivisible” has morphed into multiple cultures without God, increasingly divided.
Believers around the US want to be able to attend church together, they way they did before mid-March. They want to know “how long until things get back to normal?” But there is an element missing in that question. Catastrophes are often catalysts of permanent change for everyone involved. Think about ancient history: a catastrophic meteor took out the dinosaurs, the great flood took the earth’s population to eight, massive wars continually changed national borders, and natural disasters altered physical land masses. According to an article in Science, 536 was the worst year in history to be alive when devastating volcanic eruptions blotted out the sun for 19 months.
Recovering from disaster, both natural and man-made, requires a whole new setting for normal. Major changes in economies, philosophies, and societies mean that the post-disaster realities are not “normal.” New patterns of living, working, and socializing have to be established following any cataclysm that changes land, borders, and population. No one is immune from having to adjust to a “new” normal.
We who are believers should be the first to recognize that changing how we do things in response to the changing world. We have an unshakeable foundation upon which to rebuild, but we must recognize that church life must adapt to spread the gospel to the lost in this new reality. We don’t know what the new reality looks like yet; we are still in the middle of the crisis. But we must prepare our heart and minds for something different, something that crosses the lines of race and social culture into the singular Body of Christ.
So, should we even be longing for church services as they were five months ago? I am beginning to think we need to be thinking forward to a new kind of gathering as believers. Church as social club or sanctified activity needs to end. It needed to end well before the pandemic, which may be one reason God allowed it. I can’t predict what the “new normal” will be, but this psalm reflects a need for us to know the sure commandments of God and focus on His precepts in order to live out His testimonies through the madness that seems to be enveloping our world.
We have an opportunity to unite with believers across culture and ethnicities; COVID19 and the cry out to end racism are both catastrophe and a chance to return to our first love (Greenway, 2014; Revelation 2:1-7). We need to seek a new relationship with the Lord, one wrapped in His Word and one that trusts His steadfast love.
Church services must change so that we who are the Church can fully participate in living a life fully committed to living out the law of the Lord. When we keep His testimonies, we can know that, no matter how the world changes during catastrophes, we are secure in His love for us.
Maybe the Church needs to become geographically smaller in order to have a global influence for the gospel. Maybe each of us as believers needs to take on the mantle of evangelism and discipleship rather than waiting for church staff to do the work while we just attend services. God is calling for believers in the US to seek His face as we navigate what society may look like on the other side of this pandemic, along with every other crazy event of 2020.
We need to BE the Church, not just GO to church. We know His commandments; we now need to embody them for His glory.