As we slowly transition out of the many life-preserving safety protocols necessary in a world-wide pandemic, I’m seeing a lot of self-help, check-list styled techniques to assist our transition. And I’m not even talking about non-church sources but among publications intended for clergy and church leadership. “7 ‘must haves’ before you reopen church”. “5 necessary steps and pitfalls to avoid before reopening”. “10 ways to ensure your congregation will reengage”.
And as I scan them looking for something useful, I hear Jesus saying, “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.” (Matthew 7:13, The Message)
I’m speaking to clergy, church leaders, and congregation members when I say don’t get so caught up in finding the right magic formula that who we are as the people of God and Body of Christ is overshadowed by doing or worse yet a projected image of anything other than God’s Love for all. People aren’t a checklist. Human beings are not cogs in a worship machine. I say often that God’s kingdom is made of people not bricks and mortar but never ever take that to mean that it’s ok to use human beings as tools and equipment to some end or goal.
Our relationships, with God and each other, are both the means and the end for the purpose of living in God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, in other words, being The Church. The must-haves for resuming in-person worship is the love of God and the desire to serve and worship our Creator. The necessary step to being the people of God is to respond to Jesus’ invitation “follow me.” People will engage with a community that is grounded in the self-giving love of God.
How we each do these things depends on each locale and culture and the people who make up our communities. Each person has skills and talents that are necessary and needed in the Kingdom of God. Each culture has a unique way of expressing their love of God and neighbor. None of what we do as The Church will be authentic unless is grows from who we are as God’s beloved. Instead of looking for the perfect checklist, have a conversation and pray with others in your community about living authentically as God’ people going forward into God’s kingdom.
All of us together need to reconnect and reengage in our expression of corporate and public worship. It is a necessary part of who and whose we are but it is not the purpose of our calling. Our worship of God together is one of the ways the Holy Spirit enables us to participate with God in healing this broken world with restorative Love. Worship helps us become whole and holy so that we can follow Jesus out through the worship space doors to love and serve God in the world.
There isn’t a magic checklist. There is God and us, living into who God calls us to be, living from the image of God in us, following Jesus every moment of every day. There are no instantaneous results or shortcuts; it’s a lifelong journey of doing from the core of our being.