When Church Is Canceled

Today at lunch, my wife asked me a question across the table: “What are you going to do this week?”

 

“I have no idea,” I said. “I need to think about it.”

 

I literally lost sleep over the decision, but last Friday I sent out a message to my congregation: all church events canceled until March 28. We’ll do what we can online.

 

This morning was our first 100% online Sunday morning worship service. I felt it went well. There were some glitches and some improvements need to be made, but overall, I was happy with the experience.

 

Then came my wife’s question. What will I do this week? I need to think about it.

 

What does a pastor do when church is canceled?

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Well, here’s the thing: Church is not canceled.

 

Church ministry is not canceled.

 

Only church events are canceled.

 

Committee meetings are canceled. District meetings are canceled. Deadlines are canceled. Weekly administrative tasks are canceled.

 

Yes, some of our ministry get-togethers are canceled. We will not be gathering in the garden or sewing circles, we will not be sitting down with kids to tutor them, we will not worship together in person or study scripture together in person. Those things will be missed. But still, those are events that we use to organize and carry out the ministry of Church. They are in and of themselves not the ministry, and they are not the Church.

 

Church is the people of Jesus Christ, gathered in his name and by his Spirit.

 

The ministry of the Church is to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ, make disciples of all people, and care for the least and the lost.

 

Those things are not and will not be canceled. Ever.

 

Honestly, I’m very excited about the next couple of weeks. I’ve been pastoring since 2012, and the everyday business-as-usual parts of church have been dragging me down. My weeks have focused on deadlines and to-do lists. I have been frantically running from one place to another, one event to another, one responsibility to another, for months now, and I have had no joy in it.

 

Full disclosure, there have been more Sunday mornings than I’d care to admit when I’ve walked into the church building before everyone gets there and thought, “Great. Here we go again.”

 

I believe God has been trying to teach me a lesson for some time now, and it is taking a global pandemic for me to learn it.

 

An overly full schedule is deadly, and church is not about events.

 

The challenge of the next two weeks is to discern how to be Church without all of our events. We’re going to have to get creative, to be sure. We are going to have to try new things and, when those new things fail, try something else.

 

We’re also going to have to try old things, like worshipping in our homes as a family, praying together, making phone calls, and studying scripture.

 

The ministry of the Church is desperately needed amidst the fear and panic of COVID-19… and also the fear and panic of everyday, non-pandemic life.

 

Ultimately, whether you’re a clergyperson or a lay person, the responsibility for ministry is every Christian’s, and the call of Jesus Christ is on every believer’s life.

 

So, folks, Church ain’t canceled.

 

It’s just been moved to your place.

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