As we head into 2021, let me share some thoughts about the future. When the ball dropped on 2020, none of us could have predicted that we would be wrapped up in a worldwide pandemic three months into the year. The thought of schools, airports, businesses, and churches closing was unfathomable. The economic, emotional, and physical toll taken on our country may never be fully known. Some business owners have had to lay off employees, modify business plans, scale back services, and unfortunately close their doors forever. Schools have struggled with creating online platforms for learning comparable to in-person learning while ensuring students don’t fall behind. Students also missed out on the food, counseling, and other social services provided by school districts. Church leaders found their congregations dwindle due to stay-at-home orders and safety concerns. They witnessed ministries paused or canceled, and pastoral care became difficult and distant. The most significant harm to the body of Christ rests in one word: disconnected. As we enter approach 2021, the pandemic is not over. Businesses are still closed in parts of our country. Schools are still providing instruction through brick and mortar and online platforms. With a vaccine becoming readily available to the general public over the next few months, prayerfully, we are on the road to some sense of normalcy. With that being said, it is time for First Baptist Church to reconnect.
To facilitate this reconnection, we will take two intentional steps. The first step is an adjustment to our Sunday evening schedule. Since March, we have not held evening services, and the easy thing would be to discontinue these services altogether. I don’t believe that is wise. Instead, beginning in February, we will move our evening service away from a single Bible study toward ministry-focused opportunities for reconnection through fellowship, service, prayer, family, and outreach. What will be the structure of these services?
- We will schedule some Sunday evenings as “off” – encouraging family time without the guilt of missing anything.
- We will schedule corporate prayer meetings on some Sunday evenings.
- We will organize fellowship events on some Sunday evenings to allow our people to gather and invite their unchurched friends and family.
- We will dedicate some Sunday afternoons to serving our membership and neighbors who have needs.
- Some Sunday evenings will be given to outreach and witness training.
There are two goals in making this move. First, we want to take better advantage of Sundays- a day already carved out for “church.” Second, we want to include more of our congregation in ministries and opportunities that strengthen the body and promote individual growth. I understand that not everyone will agree with this move. I have been in the ministry long enough to know any change to an established schedule can be difficult and problematic. As I shared with our leadership team, I believe this is the necessary adjustment for this season of our church life. It may not be forever. My prayer is that our people will at least give it a chance.
The second step is an increased focus from the pulpit on the importance of the body of Christ and the gospel community it fosters. In January, I will share a sermon series entitled “Gospel Community,” focusing on the barriers that slow it and avenues that allow it to flourish. In February, I will begin a sermon series that walks through the book of Ephesians. Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Christians, highlighting the beautiful connection between Christ, Church, and Community, is one we all need entering the new year.
None of this will be easy. We have a long way to go. When the church’s work pauses for some time, there are significant challenges in its resumption. We will battle the urge to remain disconnected because we have grown accustomed to it over the past nine months. We will see some ministry volunteers not return right away due to health concerns. We will battle the pace at which we move forward, remembering we are still in a pandemic. Despite the challenges and uncertainty, I enter 2021 confident of the Lord’s presence among us and the work He wants to do through us.