Hello GCI. It is hard to believe that 2020 is actually coming to a close. You are probably aware of how in a dog’s life 1 year is equivalent to 7 human years. One of my good friends equated the COVID year to that of a dog year, and in many ways, it seemed to be much longer than normal.
In this State of the Church address, we will reflect on how the theme of “Hope” was set for 2020.
Hope is one of the three key elements of our ministry focus as we seek to join Jesus in his ongoing ministry. The Hope Avenue centers around the church gathering in worship, and how the support teams work in alignment to point people to Jesus and make the gathering transformative and memorable.
Think of the three “I’s” when you think of the Hope Avenue.
- Intentional preparation
- Inclusive gathering
- Inspirational Sunday Service
The Worship Leader and Team, the Audio Visual Leader and Team, the Host Leader and Team, and the Pastor all are considering what they are doing days and even weeks ahead of time. They are addressing questions like “What season of the worship calendar are we in?” “How do we decorate the hall?” “What songs will be meaningful to the season?” “Will my sermon be timely and fix the spotlight on Jesus?”
- Intentionality – on purpose, with a purpose!
The Hope Avenue Teams mentioned before are considering how all peoples and age groups are being included. “Can people with physical limitations negotiate our meeting space with ease?” “Do we have nursery facilities?” “Is there a quality children’s church being offered?” “Can the senior members readily be served the communion elements?”
- Inclusive – no one left out or behind
The Worship Team and Pastor are especially thinking about inspiration. “Does the music help usher the worshippers to the throne room?” “Are we singing not only about the Triune God but to the Triune God?” “Does the scripture reading wash over the worshippers with awe and wonder?” “Does the sermon move the congregation closer to Jesus, and call to greater participation?”
- Inspiration – being mentally and spiritually stimulated to more fully join Jesus
You may be thinking that’s all exciting Mr. President, but do you forget that this was a COVID year? I do realize. “It was a year for Hope to be re-imagined.”
We had to become technologically savvy if we wanted to gather our people. Pastors had to figure out what setting they would broadcast from, and what platform to use. For those who used Facebook Live there had to be “online greeters” who managed the ongoing comments. Thank God we already had “Text to Give” in place. In 2019 there was hesitation to give offerings through texting, but 2020 sped up that process.
I wonder what special ways the Lord worked among our people as they prepared their own communion elements to then be shared as the church gathered online? There are probably scores of COVID stories yet to be told.
What truly amazed me was how that by physically closing the doors to our church buildings we now opened the virtual doors to our church through media platforms. Many of our churches have connected to old friends and new contacts. We are faced with the challenge of continuing to serve our online audience and going deeper with new contacts.
One church analyst said this: Growing churches in the future will become digital organizations with physical expressions, not physical organizations with a digital presence – let that sink in.
The New Year will bring new challenges. I encourage you to view the challenges as opportunities. Opportunities to adapt, create, and grow as the Spirit guides you.
The Hope Avenue wasn’t shut down in 2020 as some suggested, it was simply challenged and expanded in new ways. Isn’t that just like our mysterious God? The one who had the strange notion to save humanity meant becoming human. The one who was and is king would be born in an animal stall and not a palace. The one who is Head of the Church is Head of the Gathered and the Scattered, the in-person and online.
So, whether you are gathered with others or still in place at home this Christmas, may you intentionally, inclusively, and inspirationally welcome Jesus our Savior!
Merry Christmas from Susan and me, and all of the staff from the Home Office.